Saturday, January 28, 2012

Barbara Marcus: Children's Books Today and Tomorrow

Barbara credits her first job in high school as a terrible library page, (why shelve a book like HALF MAGIC when you could hide in the 600s and reread it?) as the start of her adult love with children's books.

On her early career: "All of my adult publishing friends said I was committing professional suicide by going into children’s books [Barbara was considering moving to Scholastic] and I wanted to prove them wrong."

With Jean Fiewel and others, Barbara built or revitalized most of what Scholastic is famous for—the book fair, the book club, the series. Serieses?

And then Harry Potter. Barbara was one of the forces at Scholastic when Harry Potter was acquired. She helped shape the marketing and publicity for it, those blockbusting midnight release parties.

Life post-Hogwarts: "After Harry Potter, I thought I was done with publishing, was going to go sit on the mountain top, but it turns out I’m not done!"

Barbara’s back in the industry working with the people and books she loves. She's thrilled to be bringing back into print backlists of some of her favorite authors like Virginia Hamilton and Lois Lenski.

Lin: "Can you name a recent, significant change in children’s books?"

Barbara: "It used to be that hardcovers went to the libraries, and the retail children’s book [middle grade] market was paperbacks. Now it seems like a bestseller must be in hardcover."

Barbara’s ecstatic that a well-written, well-designed, well-marketed children’s book can outsell adult titles, she uses John Green’s new book as an example (and Barbara calls getting adults buying/reading MG/YA is the icing on the cake, but that it all begins with the cake, the core audience of kids and teachers/librarians).

Lin: "Tell us something about the current children's market."

Barbara: "I don’t think you’re going to see robust sales in digital children’s picture books because most etailers don’t have much of a clue about children's books."

Lin: "Are you worried about Amazon?"

Barbara: "I worry about the ability to merchandise and buy new children’s books, Lin’s word of the year: Discoverability."

Lin: "One sentence of advice?"

Barbara: "It's the person you never expect that gives you the best advice to get you to a really interesting place [in your story, your marketing plan, your trip to Little Italy]."

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