Monday, August 2, 2010

Justin Chanda: Simon & Schuster: The Not So Distant Past, and the Really Fast Approaching Future

Justin Chanda chillaxing by the hotel pool
This is Justin Chanda's first SCBWI conference. I'm not sure why. He's a force to be reckoned with at Simon & Schuster, and he's incredibly enthusiastic about children's books. He starts glowing and levitating when he talks about them. He's our kind of dude.

As the publisher of 3 flagship imprints at Simon & Schuster— Atheneum, BFYR, and McElderry— Justin helps bring about 200+ books into the world every year.

His session was all about mythbusting. Here are a few.

Myth #1: Commercial = Bad

He looks for a balance of of literary and commercial titles on his lists. Commercial doesn't mean non-literary, or not well-written, it means readers are reading.

Myth #4: We are no longer interested in publishing picture books.

Justin says picture books are the backbone of children's publishing. He believes they have a long life ahead of them, he love thems. He does admit they'll be publishing less of them, but that's a good thing. For all kid book genres, he says aspiring writers are competing with the shadow of a publisher's backlist, the long gone authors that still rank in the top 200 for sales numbers. Rather than have a hissy fit, he says there's much to be learned by studying these backlists.

"There is no Fancy Nancy without Eloise. There is no teen literature without The Outsiders."

"In the past, it was a 'cute' side genre for a publisher. Now, children's publishing is a 4 billion dollar a year industry that sometimes carries a publisher through a fiscal year."

It has been tough in the last few years with the economy and the many layoffs in publishing, but for Fall 2010 the industry is gearing up for a very big year, and Justin feels things are turning around.

Justin has a Love-O-Meter! When approached by editors who want to acquire a book he says to them, "If you're face is melting off to buy it, I will let you buy it." He calls these the passion projects. "It's lightning striking somewhere and I want to continue to foster that as a publisher."

He mentions trends and tribulations for middle grade and teen books. And what's working for promoting them and what's not.

"The rise of the internet, it's all about the actual online marketing that the authors are doing. A nut that hasn't been cracked for mg, you can't blog and tweet a middle grader, that's illegal... It might take a few years, but it is so much a part of what's working now, and networking and connecting with teens is how teen books are going like hotcakes."

Justin talks about books he likes. Lots of face melting comments.

And here's his stance on e-books:

"E-books are great. They are wonderful. Anyone who tells you different is wrong. It's just a new avenue to get great stories out to kids and adults. It's like the Wild West right now, and we are still trying to figure it out. I do not believe e-books are going to eradicate the hardcover books. I know it will be difficult for booksellers, but I'm embracing it. And the iPad is going to be a great way to develop picture books. Digital publishing in general is not replacing things, its just a way to get more people reading."

He mentions the recently launched LOSER/QUEEN by Jodi Lynn Anderson, a book only available online. A serialized novel! Readers get to choose the next stop in the story, Justin calls it a massive experiment, and at the end, they will publish a hard copy of the book.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with Chanda about e-books. I'm watching with cautious optimism as the market takes shape. I'm also excited to see what happens with picture books and the iPad/tablet computers. In the long run, I think they will be considered a compliment and not a threat. The important thing to remember is that people are reading.