Sunday, February 12, 2017
Panel: The Current Landscape for Children's Books - Ken Geist
Ken tells us about his amazing career since 1987 at a WHOLE BUNCH of houses. After a stint working for an adult publisher, he realized it was the first time he didn't love his job, What he does love is picture books and novelty, Ken is happiest when he is working for ages baby through age 7.
His take on the current landscape:
Ken says as of 2016, 89% of kids ages 6 -12 say their favorite books are the one they pick. Strong characters is most important, humor second.
"I think it's better than it's ever been, I think it's back on an upswing." Ken mentions the upswing is probably due to all of the different outlets books are now available: B&N, Amazon, indie stores. mass market stores like Target, school book fairs, regional bookseller shows. Books won't always find success in all groupings, but one particular group can really set a book's sales soaring and provide longevity in the marketplace.
"Authors and illustrators when you are working with your editor, be open to hearing feedback, be sure you are reading aloud, over and over again..."And Ken wants you to make sure it is appropriate for children, not just something you think is 'fun' enough.
He shares Dragons Love Tacos, The Day the Crayons Quit, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Interrupting Chicken as examples of amazing sustainability on bestseller/sales lists
He also loves the new wave of picture book nonfiction, books like Me... Jane, and Swap!
Lin asks the panel how they would characterize 2016 and what will 2017 be like for the children's book industry?
Ken sees an even greater increase in attention to diversity. "Authentic manuscripts, finding new talent, is continuing to be more and more important... The ALA awards committee choices for the last few years has been amazing."
What can authors/illustrators do to help their books be discovered?
Self promotion is really important, says Ken. Also look and see what is out there right now that you can be passionate about that could make your book stand out better in the marketplace. Benjamin Franklin for example. You love him, he's studied in schools, in first grade, why not write a book you know has a place in the market, and perhaps your second book is a quieter or more personal book.
*Do you READ how many imprints he oversees? You'd need a wizardly Hermoine-y Time-Turner to get all that done.