Children’s publishing has been one of the great success stories of the books world in the last few years. Sales of printed adult books have been steadily eroded by the rising popularity of ebooks, smartphones and tablets and the availability of so much free content online — but it has been a different story in the children’s market. Nielsen BookScan, the agency that monitors book sales in the UK, estimates that sales of printed kids’ books rose by five per cent in 2015. They have jumped again this year.
This rise in sales is because children and their parents still value the book as a physical product. Reading books on a screen might appeal to people who like the convenience and portability of a device like a Kindle, and who are on the move a lot, but children want more engagement with a book than that: to hold it in their hands, turn the pages with their fingers and keep it by their beds or on their shelves. Then there are all the sensual features of children’s books that just don’t function in the digital world. The wonderful illustrations of picture books lose something when they transfer to a screen—and no-one is ever likely to make pop-up books work on e-readers.
But life isn’t always easy for children’s publishers. For one thing, it is a crowded market. The number of new books published each year runs well into six figures, and although the majority of them are for adults, there are still many thousands of new titles for children and parents to choose from. They compete for attention on the shelves of a diminishing number of High Street bookshops, and for visibility at online retailers—and that’s why recommendations and endorsements, like those provided by Fundamentally Children, are so important in helping parents know what to buy for their budding readers.
Small independents also have to battle with much bigger rival publishers in the market. And in such a busy, fast-changing market, this is where the Independent Publishers Guild comes in. We are a membership organisation for the publishing industry and provide resources and events that help independents become even more professional businesses and publish even better books. Our membership is at a record high of more than 600 companies—which shows just how healthy independent publishing is at the moment. IPG members publish an incredible variety of engaging and exciting books, in both fiction and non-fiction, and plenty of material that educates and informs too.
The IPG also exists to provide members with some great networking opportunities. Children’s publishers are remarkably friendly and generous people, and although they are strictly speaking in competition with one another, they are free with their advice and expertise. They realise that they have the same broad aim: to produce and promote great books and encourage a lifelong love of reading in every child. It is a noble ambition, and it is the responsibility of organisations like the IPG and Fundamentally Children to do all we can to support them.