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Friday, May 6, 2016

Children’s Books Are the Hardest Genre to Crack



When it comes to “children’s books” – which includes YA – only 188 books sold at least 100,000 copies in 2015.

47 titles were new and 141 were backlist titles.  Many older books outsold the best-selling new ones.  For instance, five hardcover children’s backlist books surpassed 400,000 copies each but just one new hardcover exceeded such a total.

Some franchise authors just dominate the list, such as Dr. Seuss, Jeff Kinney, Veronica Roth, John Green, J.K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan.  I can’t believe that with a zillion titles out there, only 188 sold 100,000 or more copies.  Popular book series like The Hunger Games & Divergent hit the list, but you’d expect more to follow them.

Or maybe when it comes to books for kids and our youth we shouldn’t be surprised that just a few hundred books lead the market.  After all, it’s not dictated so much by what kids want or like but what parents and teachers think kids will want.  I chose to buy Dr. Seuss, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Curious George books for my kids.  I based it either on personal experience, library lists, school reading lists, best seller lists, book reviews, or awards.

But how does the new author of children’s or YA books breakthrough and get the review space, the award acknowledgments, and their place on teacher-recommended reading lists?

Breaking barriers in book publishing can be challenging at any level but I imagine the children’s arena is the hardest segment to establish yourself in.  The backlist for children’s books dominates sales and once an author makes a list, he or she franchises a huge series of books where each one gets gobbled up by fans and by those who see it on a list.

Adult books are different.  There’s a lot of self-discovery and word-of mouth that moves books. But with children’s titles it seems like things move slower.  Whole generations get raised on books.  A parent in 2026 may buy many of the books he or she read 30 years earlier – or will honor a library reading list that’s slow to expand and welcome new members to its club of titles.

Children’s books are the building stages for new readers, so it’s important we give them a great head start by not only reading the perceived classics and list honorees, but to experiment and be exposed to unknown authors from small presses.  Society will grow as a result – and book sales will be spread out rather than clustered.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016



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