Gen Z + Other Stories: What I Learned at the Children’s Con

On Monday I attended the Bookseller magazine Children’s Conference in the Barbicon, London and here is what I found out. I hope you find it interesting and/or useful.

1/ Underestimate Digital Brands at Your Peril

16% of book sales come from digital brands – Minecraft, Zoella etc

55% come from ‘traditional’ books – Harry Potter (before the movies), Jacqueline Wilson etc

14% come from tv brands

8% from film brands

7% from toy brands

(Stats from Egmont’s Cally Poplak based on Egmont’s extensive consumer research in the UK)

For many children books based on digital/tv/movies/toy brands are a way into books and reading. Most parents are happy that their children are reading at all.

All reading is to be encouraged I say!

2/ Children Have a Passion for Print

The Egmont research proves that 75% of children prefer print

I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear this. From talking to hundreds of children in schools all across Ireland I was convinced that this was the case and it was brilliant to hear that this is indeed the case in the UK.

3/ Heritage Brands are Big Business

Walker Books increased the sales of Guess How Much I Love You threefold in 2015, the 20th anniversary of Antrim man, Sam McBratney’s outstanding picture book, illustrated by Anita Jeram.

Last year they doubled sales of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

Irish publishers should be celebrating anniversaries too – 10 years of Alice and Megan, 10 years of Artemis Fowl etc.

 3/ All Brands are Big Business

24% of book sales come from the top 20 children’s brands – Minecraft, Lego, Peppa Pig, Frozen etc

Books give voice to a brand and bring characters to life.

 4/ Information Books are on the Rise

Wide-Eyed Editions and Nosy Crow both talked about their excitement about the non-fiction market.

Wide-Eyed are all about Wonder, Discovery and Innovation – and aim to produce books that capture all three.

a/ They talked about books being immersive, tactile reading devices.

b/ They said ‘books aid mental navigation and memory retention.’  Even the spine helps a child navigate through a book – they described them as ‘mini steps through a landscape’.

c/ They said books build concentration and encourage critical thinking.

d/ Reading print discourages children to do other things (unlike reading on a tablet).

e/ Books knit families together – with shared experiences.

As you can imagine, as a print lover, I adored all this positive print-ness.

tell me and i'll forget
tell me and i'll forget

They also talked about involving a child in a book – using the Chinese proverb here:

 6/ Children’s Sales are On the Up and Up

There was a 8.9% growth in children’s sales in 2015 in the UK.

Children’s books are a whopping 27.8% of the UK book market.

Julia Donaldson has sold 1.2 million books to date this year – she is a consistent bestseller and not to be underestimated.

David Walliams is the biggest author in the UK at the moment (after Julia Donaldson)

 7/ German Readers Love Fantasy and Horses

There was a most interesting talk on trends around the world from Rights Manager,  Clementine Gaisman. She said German publishers are very keen on:

a/ Middle Grade (age 8/9 to 12)

b/ Fantasy adventure – Derek Landy and Eoin Colfer were both mentioned

c/ Love stories

But they do not like steam punk apparently!

Brazil is an emerging market and they like:

a/ YA books –they love John Green (who doesn’t?)

geek girl
geek girl

Scout Helen Boyle said contemporary books (family/friendship dramas) are still strong but need a hook. Like Geek Girl.

She said ‘Good quality storytelling and distinctive voices are always of interest.’

According to Helen, publishers are also looking for:

a/ Magical realism – mermaids etc – middle grade

b/ Adventure with fantasy – Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy

c/ Books with horses in them (esp Germany)

 8/ Bookshops in Schools - Why Not?

Tamara MacFarlane from Tales on Moon Lane Bookshop talked about her new project – a bookshop in a school. I found this most interesting and a very exciting idea.

 9/ Snapchat is Growing Fast

Facebook is for ‘old people’ apparently, according to children and teens. (I love Facebook!)

You Tube is also growing fast and that’s where many readers go to look for book recommendations and information.

It was suggested that writers and people in the book trade should take their books where ‘teens are’ – ie You Tube.

 10/ Generation Z Loves Stories and Books

Generation Z were born between 1995 and 2000 and will drive change according to Emma Worello of Pineapple Lounge – a very savvy and well spoken young lady who has made it her business to talk to teens and young adults for years, finding out how they see the world.

She said ‘Stories are fundamental to Gen Z lifestyles’ and it’s how they engage with the world. They are fans, they follow things. And they love cool formats – collectable books – and the idea of family story hubs and family time with a home library. This is excellent news. When Gen Z become parents, they will definitely build wonderful libraries for their children, full of amazing books!

Lots of great, great news for writers, booksellers and publishers – books are here to stay and long live print!

Yours in books,

Sarah + songbird2
Sarah + songbird2

Sarah Webb XXX