Saturday, August 02, 2008

Saturday Morning Panel: Today in Children's Publishing...

Since I stayed up past two a.m. last night, I didn't make it to the first morning ballroom session on picture books with Arthur Levine, but I did end up having a serendipitious breakfast with illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg (who was sporting some great temporary tattoos of mermaids in support of her book Mermaids in Parade) and we talked about picture books, so I kept to the morning theme.

After some sub-par $8 oatmeal, I made it to the Today in Children's Publishing panel featuring Brenda Bowen of The Bowen Press and Walden Pond Press, Debra Dorfman of Scholastic, David Gale of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Dianne Hess of Blue Sky and Scholastic Press, Elizabeth Law of Egmont Books USA, and Allyn Johnston of S&S imprint Beach Lane Books. (Interesting to note the the majority of the panel have recently taken on their current positions and several--Bowen Press, Egmont and Beach Lane--are brand new imprints.)

Lin Oliver moderated the panel. One question she asked was What's different now in the industry--what defines children's publishing today?

Here's a little from each panelist:

David Gale: He said publishing now is more complicated and kind of schizophrenic, without rules. The picture book market is still soft. The cost of producing a book is more challenging--tighter P/Ls--it's more difficult to make books earn money on paper when they are trying to get them approved. There's a lot of contradiction, and publishing a book is more of a gamble than ever.

Elizabeth Law: She discussed the fact that a company is always looking for more growth and more cash. And with higher numbers come more pressure.

Dianne Hess: She said marketing is at the forefront of publishing now.

Debra Dorfman: She talked about mass market accounts (Toys'R'Us, Wal-Mart) trying to dictate to them what they should be publishing as well as designs for products and price points.

Brenda Bowen: She said everyone can get their material out there now--as opposed to 10 years ago--via the Internet.

Allyn Johnston: She said, during her days at Harcourt, everything was lumped together in terms of sales. Now, at her new imprint, she feels like there's a spotlight on the outstanding expenses and the pressures on e to sell when their debut list materializes.

Lin Oliver asked if publishers track what's going on online--and they definitely do. They all talked about ways their companies are trying to attract kids to books online, create book projects with interactive elements, finding readers on MySpace, etc. Social networking sites are definitely on publishers' radar it seems.


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