Charlotte Eyre is Children’s Editor at The Bookseller, covering the UK children’s and YA book market. She is also chair of the @YABookPrize, and programmes the annual Bookseller Children’s Conference. Here Norah Myers interviews her.
1) What are the current trends in children’s publishing and how do you see them evolving through the rest of 2016?
Publishers are more and more looking to publish books that will become brands, as they want the film, TV and merchandise opportunities, rather than publish stories for their own sake.
Celebrity and YouTube publishing is also hugely popular, as a YouTuber with a massive following has an instant audience to buy a book.
Also, there’s been a lot of really great middle-grade fiction recently and it seems like many publishers are focusing on fiction for this younger age group rather than YA, although they haven’t forgotten their teen audience.
In terms of these trends going forward, the bigger publishers will focus more and more on licensing and brands, leaving room for the smaller independents to focus on author-led publishing. I can’t see the trend for celebrity and YouTube publishing going away until one of these books massively fails, in which case publishers will start to tread more carefully, but it’s hard to say when and if that will happen. Finally, publishers will continue to look for fantastic middle-grade fiction although I know they are also keeping their eye out for the next YA hit. The industry is definitely hungry for the next Hunger Games or Divergent.
2) How have the recent sales of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child affected the children’s and YA market?
The success of J K Rowling several years ago helped create one of the biggest growth surges children’s publishing has ever seen, which is partly why the industry is booming at the moment. However, ‘J K Rowling’s Wizarding World’ is now such a well-oiled media machine I think most people think of Harry Potter as being a category of its own. If you’re a publisher with a Harry Potter licensing deal, the success of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is great for you. If not, it’s probably not going to affect you either way.
3) What are the strongest diversity-based themes you see in children’s literature, and what do you hope to see more of?
The lack of diversity in children’s publishing is still an issue and no-one has seemingly solved the problem yet. There have been a few YA novels where the authors have determinedly included a range of diverse characters but these kinds of books sometimes feel like the writer is just ticking off a checklist.
I’d like to read books from a more diverse range of authors because then the stories would be more authentic, in my opinion. I’d also really like to read an adventure story where a BAME character is the lead rather than a side-kick.
I’d also like to see more northern stories.
4) How has digital publishing affected the children’s and YA market?
The ebook revolution has had little or no effect on the children’s and YA market. Children don’t read ebooks, as their parents generally want them to stick to print, and teens don’t seem that bothered either. The big change in publishing is social media and the impact of Facebook, twitter and instagram. Kids are constantly using these platforms and publishers have to think about how to market to children there, as well as how to lure readers off their devices. It’s both an opportunity and a challenge.
5) What advice do you have for anyone who aspires to work in children’s publishing?
First, network. Introduce yourself to local event or festival organisers and ask if you can volunteer. If you can, get yourself to a city and attend some of the big events like YALC in London or DeptCon in Dublin, where you can get to know book people.
Secondly, engage with children’s book chats on social media. If you talk about books you love on twitter you will soon find hundreds of people who want to do the same. It’s a great way to meet like-minded book fans and hear about opportunities in the publishing world.
Thirdly, if you can get a Saturday job at a local bookshop, do. You may decide to start a career in bookselling or it will give you a launchpad to work in other areas of the business.