2014 set to be the best year on record for UK children’s books | Blog | Kids Industries


2014 set to be the best year on record for UK children’s books

Posted October 8, 2014, By Lucy Mann, Director of Social

  The Bookseller's children's conference

At their recent children’s publishing conference, The Bookseller announced that UK children’s books have made £187.9 million in the first eight months of 2014, with 37 million children’s books sold. If this continues through to the end of the year, it will be the best year ever for children’s books in the UK! 

The Bookseller’s conference was packed full of fantastic speakers and presentations. I've done my best to include as many highlights and tid-bits from the day as I could fit into one blog post!

  It’s all about the story

Ann-Janine Murtagh from HarperCollins Children’s Books set the tone for the day with an inspirational keynote. Murtagh said that even though stories are being used more than ever before, it is the Children’s book industry that is at the forefront of the ‘story’ game. She joked that you couldn’t even buy a pack of bacon without reading the story of the local farmer.

This reminded me of when I was flat hunting a while back and I noticed that estate agents were including the ‘story’ of the current owners in their adverts –detailing why they loved the property and (of course) why they were gutted to be leaving it. It felt like a cheap tactic, but I have to admit it worked. Suddenly the properties were hooking me in emotionally. And all because they told a story.

  Technology and the story

Michael Acton-Smith from Mind Candy (creators of Moshi Monsters) mentioned that 90% of apps make their revenue from in-app purchases, which is an issue for the children’s app space. Just creating the content isn’t the only challenge though – it’s actually being able to find it. Smith identified that a challenge for children’s content creators was the incredibly crowded app space. Bev Humphrey, a literacy and technology consultant, aptly said that what most app stores need is a librarian.

A discussion also took place on how technology can impact a story. Author and book critic Nicolette Jones spoke about how technology can interfere with the story in most apps. Kate Wilson, MD of Nosy Crow, later published a blog post defending story apps.

  Trends in children’s publishing

One of the biggest trends spoken about was the rise of Young Adult (YA) books. They excitingly are up 24% this year alone, and that’s without including The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which was not classified as a YA book in the UK.

Some other trends that were identified were:

  • Books that were based on children’s games and activities were also en trend in 2014, with Minecraft and Loombands predictably leading the pack.
  • Nostalgic brands and books are making a comeback, with five out of ten of the top children’s books in the charts being from a publisher’s backlist.
  • Georgina Atwell from toppsta.com referenced the huge importance of metadata in children’s publishing. Especially with current consumer purchasing trends, it was imperative that publishers understood what keywords people were using to search for authors, what the retailers were indexing, and ensuring correct links and URLs were being used.

  What are the challenges?

Ask most people what the biggest challenge in children’s publishing has been over the last few years and they’ll most likely say it’s digital. Digital has changed how children consume content and stories. And with all the digital noise that surrounds children at the moment, how does the publishing world continue to cut through?

Ann-Janine Murtagh commented that ‘children will always want to explore the world in narrative form’ and I couldn’t agree more. Children crave experiences that match their level of development, be it through a screen or through something tangible. It’s the publisher’s role to continue to understand their audience and to ensure brilliant stories reach them.

Other challenges that were identified throughout the day included:

  • Stickers books struggling in 2014, down 22% this year.
  • With 10,000 children’s books published in the UK last year, it’s difficult for publishers to devote the time needed for each book and get the cut through that they’re after.
  • Budget cuts mean that authors need to spend more time doing self-promotion and publicity, but this raises concerns that authors are having to take on too much and will they have enough time to devote to writing?
  • YouTube is fantastic for children’s books, with a spate of creative book trailers being produced. However many schools ban YouTube from being accessed internally.

  Social media

Hot Key Books digital coordinator, Sanne Vliegenthart, gave the audience insight into the world of book reviewers on YouTube, called Booktubers. Her own channel, Books and Quills, has over 111,000 subscribers and the Hot Key Books YouTube page is equally as fantastic with monthly book release round-ups, a book club, author interviews, advice on how to get a job in children’s publishing and lots more.

Social media isn’t just about speaking to your audience though; it’s also about listening to what they are saying. Publishers can learn a lot by listening to what their fans are saying in social, and it might not always be what they expect.

Finally, author Matt Haig summed it up by saying that he thought social media was the best thing to happen to ever happen to writers (and as part of #teamsocial here at Kids Industries I can’t help but agree!).

  The power of the story

By the end of the day we’d heard from authors, publishers, librarians, booksellers, agents, publicists, research directors, and that’s just to name a few! My brain was full to the brim with fantastic new information and lots of ideas on how we can help the publishing world connect with their young audiences.

​As I was leaving something that Ann-Janine Murtagh said in her keynote stuck with me. She’d said that the power of the story in the world we live in has never been so valuable, and I couldn’t agree more.

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