Children’s Books: What’s Selling and What’s Not

Are sexy vampires still hot in the market? Are pictures books dead in the water? PR guru, Susan Raab, shares her opinions of the market based on her experience as he owner of  Raab Associates,  the first PR firm for children’s books. She spoke at the 2010 SCBWI New York conference back in January. Here’s how the market is holing up after the 2009 recession:

Good news, overall children’s books have held up very well during the recession, according to Rabb. Booksellers have seen an 11% increase in hardcover sales in 2009 over 2008. However, some changes and developments have brought about new challenges including:

  • School and library budgets are getting slashed.
  • Digital book sales are increasing.
  • Books are being sold in new arenas such as Amazon.com, Walmart and Target.
  • Pop up books and Die cut books are not being produced as often because they are expensive.

In terms of trends, it looks like Edward Cullen and his vampire brethren are here to stay. But they may be headed out of town soon. Current trends in genre include:

  • Vampires are still big, but probably on their way out.
  • The fantasy book market is softening, however this is with the exception of certain knockouts such as Harry Potter and Hunger Games.
  • Mysteries and ghost stories are becoming more and more popular.
  • Inspirational books are growing (not religious but spiritual and hopeful books).

Bring on the funny! Book fair and book clubs are great markets for children’s literature. Current  trends in the book fair market include:

  • Girl books are popular (like Gossip Girl) but the choice of series will change quickly. One series is popular and then replaced by the next one. They have a short life span, but are popular during that life span.
  • Book Fairs want interesting non-fiction story-based books. Not institutional non-fiction.
  • Transitional readers are an underserved market (those learning to read).
  • Want more fantasy books!
  • Want more funny books!
  • Book Clubs only have one square-inch of space (image and text) to sell a book in the magazine  kids take home from school. So they need to be able to pitch the book quickly.
  • Lots of paperback books are being sold because they are affordable.
  • Book fairs don’t sell board books because they are too expensive.
  • Organizers try and fill each reader/genre with something so there is a wide variety. Not too much overlap.
  • Book Fairs are popular with school related topics such as: women awareness, environment, holidays, poetry month, etc.
  • What is selling well includes: infant, toddler, picture books, and YA.

Who purchases books from book clubs and fairs? What are they interested in reading? The breakdown of market age and material children read is as follows:

  • Pre-school kids: concept books.
  • Kindergarten and first grade kids: holiday books, emotional stories they can relate too, such as a kid dealing with a bully, etc.
  • Second and third grade readers: Series are popular, this is the age when kids get to pick what they want.
  • Fourth and fifth grade readers: Begin to identify with and author and buy more of their books.
  • Tween – Teen readers: They want what is trendy.
  • The fun think about book clubs and fairs is that the child gets to pick the book, there are no parents there to decide for them. Shelf appeal is therefore very important. Children often impulse buy.

What is happening in the life of the struggling independent book store?

  • Independent’s have been working a lot with their community and other businesses to create cross pollination and patronage. An example is a cupcake bakery/book store event. Bi-local interaction and collaboration.
  • Readers are very empowered by info they can find online, they can buy books online for cheaper, so cost is very important to an indie book store.
  • As an author it is important to have a relationship with bookstores, this way you can create events. Buyers are very influenced by the experience of being in an author’s presence at a reading and are more included to buy during that experience. This can also be done with libraries and schools as well.
  • Blogging for independents is important as well as social outreach.
  • One on one relationship’s are critical for indie book stores. It can be very hard to get on people’s radar and so you need to interact.  Hand selling is the basis for many sales at an Indie book store.

In this difficult market how should you promote your own book:

  • You will need a website to interact with your market and to market your book.
  • When you plan an event it is important that you help generate traffic for that event.
  • Susan Patrone (author of The Higher Power of Lucky) has on-going signed copies of her book for sale at her local book store.
  • Advocate for yourself!
  • Reach out to audience directly! You can also hire someone to help you do this.
  • Create a strategy for the future. What are your strengths? Blogging? Workshops? Library Events? Etc.
  • Focus on a specific aspect of the market.
  • What is your voice in the marketplace?
  • Do media out reach.
  • Don’t be afraid if it takes time for your series to catch on.

Other tid-bits:

  • Trends help us to identify what might be coming in the future.
  • Look at news and pop culture as way to see what markets are undeserved and could become a future trend.
  • Publishers are streamlining the number of books they publish. They are looking to new hybrid media, electronic galleys for example.
  • Big big concern in all business is that they don’t know what is coming. Everything is moving so fast, that publishers don’t know what way to go. They don’t have a straight answer of where the market is headed. But we should still push forward!
  • Persist! Write from the heart! It has always been what pushes the market forward.

Susan Raab is the owner of Raab Associates a Children’s Book PR Firm. Rabb Associates works with publishers, authors, specialty toy and audio companies and others to bring books and products to the attention of consumers most likely to purchase and recommend items for children. Learn More about Raab Associates at: Raab Assoc. Website

2 thoughts on “Children’s Books: What’s Selling and What’s Not

  1. Great blog, great style (illustrations & cakes, too). I’m working on finding my niche and will definitely be coming back to your site for the information you share. Thank you!

  2. Interesting summary. Thanks for the info on what’s selling and the marketing tips. As for the Indie bookstores? I am finding in my area they are VERY hostile to self-published, even if they are local authors. My books and characters have a great story and I’m garnering lots of good press, but not from the indies!

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