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Children's books still strong

27 August 2012

 In an article in a recent Bookseller, Caroline Horn wrote cheeringly about the continued health of the children's books sector. At a time when publishing for adults is well down and there are many changes which make it difficult to see far ahead, the children's publishing sector remains robust.

Last year's Nielsen BookscanUK bibliographic organisation, describing itself as 'the definitive retail monitoring service for books', which shows UK bestseller lists on its website. figures for the UK, for instance, show that the market is doing well. The value of children's book sales grew 2% last year, whilst the value of adult book sales fell by a catastrophic 8%. Ann-Janine Murtagh, Harper-Collins Children's Books MD, said: 'Every publisher is trying to grow children's, which is seen as stable compared with the volatility of the rest of the market.'

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, since the beginning of the recession it has been a common reaction across the world for parents to prioritise buying children's books as they are, quite correctly, seen to be so closely linked to education. The link between developing an active child reader and overall educational progress is clearly understood and parents have often decided to cut back on other book purchases to make sure that they buy books for their children.

Secondly, the children's book market is extremely international, not just in the obvious areas of picture book co-editions which make highly-illustrated books, which are expensive to originate, work across a number of different territories, but also at the other end of the age spectrum with Young Adult series such as the Twilight books. This means that children's publishers have a very global view of the world and the opportunity to sell into new markets. Rapidly developing economies such as India and Brazil may offer all kinds of opportunities. In some countries there is a huge emphasis on education which creates many market opportunities for children's and educational publishers.

The third factor is that the children's book market is very stable as regards the big authors and series which dominate it. Backlist is of huge importance and, with new generations of children growing up all the time, there is always a strong demand for established names. Philippa Dickinson, MD of Random House Children's BooksClick for Random House Children's Books Publishers References listing, says: 'People prefer quality, tested brands when times are tough, and, to some extent, they are taking fewer risks.' Parents often favour books they remember form their own childhood.

Having emphasised the stability of the children's market, sudden big sales demand from major new authors is still likely in this area, as Suzanne Collins, David Walliams and Jeff Kinney have shown.

The children's book market has not yet been so affected by the growth of ebook sales as the adult market, and perhaps there will be a continuing preference for paper books, for younger children at least. However, ebook sales are growing fast, in the US children's digital sales jumped 233% just in the first quarter of 2012.

What this all suggest is that children's writers are in a good position and , although they may still find it's hard to get your work taken on by a publisher, it's worth persevering and getting it ready for submission if you think it's original and has a strong storyline.