Saturday, August 2, 2014

Justin Chanda: The State of the State of the Industry

Justin Chanda is vice president, publisher of three flagship children's imprints at Simon & Schuster: S&S Books for Young Readers, McElderry Books and Atheneum. He oversees the publication of two hundred and fifty titles per year ranging from the youngest picture book to the edgiest YA.

Justin feels he needs to begin by telling us: the e-book has not engulfed our universe; printed things on paper have not been eradicated; self publishing has not taken over; drones are not delivering our books--yet.

The good news is: children still need books.

Get ready! Justin tells us there's a new trend! It's going to change the face of publishing forever. It's contemporary YA. This has been the reaction lately, as if contemporary YA hasn't been done. Tell that to Judy Blume and Laurie Halse Anderson.

This business in cyclical.

Trends are undeniable and influenced by many factors. They are not predictable. You can't write to a trend. If you do, that trend will already be over by the time you're done writing  your book. You have to write the book that you are meant to write. "Your voice is the biggest capital you have in this business."

While there are still what is considered girl books and boy books, there's a great rise in gender-neutral books in middle grade. This is great.

Picture books continue their rise back to life. Yes! Successful picture books now tend to have an identifiable character, humor, adult and child appeal, and they are leaning younger (targeting about 5 too 6 year old).

Justin is a huge fan of e-books. They have done a lot help and sustain the reading growth.

There was a belief that ebooks would kill the picture book, but that is not true. The wonderful printed books that you read with a child in your lap are selling more and more.

The adoption of the Common Core standards across the country is now a key focus. People have said it will kill fiction in the classroom. Common Core is far from perfect and we don't even know if it will be around in a few years. Consider that Locomotion by Brian Floca has found great success and is being used in classrooms as part of the Common Core, but it was written well before Common Core was in place.

Our job as writers is to create good books, not to write toward a trend or the Common Core. Just like trends there will be different educational waves that will come and go.

On diversity: It's the responsibly of publishers and publishing houses to publish books that are as diverse as the world we live in. However, the responsibility is not solely in the hands of the publishers, it's also in the hands of those of us writing the books, the agents representing them, the store selling books. We are all in it together.

Our main focus as writers and illustrators should be story. Write books. Illustrate books.

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