Children’s and young adult media – the full spectrum of challenges and opportunities
With Facebook, YouTube and their own social media channels, publishers now have new ways of contacting their readers directly in order to find out about their reading behaviour and to obtain firsthand feedback on their company’s products.
To profit from these opportunities many publishers are now changing their marketing approaches, and placing much greater emphasis on direct contacts with their young readers. At the same time, the new reading habits of the children and young people are also prompting changes to the printed book. Graphic novels, long treated as the poor relations, have now conquered the children’s book segment – most impressively with the success of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Following on from the bestselling Twilight novels, romantic novels and series have started selling well in the newly discovered “tween” consumer group.
Who doesn’t know them: Shaun the Sheep, Princess Lillifee, Donald Duck or, more recently, Geronimo Stilton? These are characters that have become stars of the publishing world through stories played out across all media channels, with 360-degree value addition: books, film, TV, audio books, games, music, educational products. Here, the merchandising segment is especially interesting as it offers publishers new sources of income.
To make the most of these new digital value chains for books, the publishing houses need new knowledge and processes, and publishing professionals require new skills. Meanwhile, new players have now entered the service sector, including app, web and games developers, and new service providers for the distribution of digital products.
But which came first, the character or the book? Does a bestselling book give us any indication of whether or not a TV series or film will also be a hit? How long can a character maintain itself as a brand in the marketplace? What will sell in the bookshops?
There are many questions to answer en route to business success in the world of children’s media – a world that is becoming increasingly important for publishers and booksellers alike.
Children’s and young adult media as a driver of social reading
The altered distribution channels call for new marketing strategies. The important thing is to be present in the place where the young customers do their reading – i.e. in the internet, in fan fiction forums, on Facebook, and in communities such as the USA’s goodreads.com and Lovely Books in Germany.
By targeting these virtual reading groups with campaigns and offers of free copies and reviews, publishers can use them as highly efficient catalysers and promotional channels for their content. Similarly, specialised websites and blogs exist which provide information to parents who want to keep abreast of the latest trends in the world of children’s books or who need recommendations for the next ‘birthday book’.
School book publishers, too, are using new learning platforms and teaching tools to prepare themselves for the digital learning environment of the future. These provide an entirely new way of presenting modern teaching materials, such as enhanced e-books.
A new development late in 2012 was the launch of the German website ‘Digitale Schulbücher’ (digital school books), which currently boasts 800 available titles. Other online channels include deutschpirat.de and mathepirat.de. Nowadays, print and e-book versions are issued more or less simultaneously.
Whether you’re a self-publisher, a fan fiction writer, or an author with a publisher, the important thing is to have your work handled – i.e. published and marketed – professionally. Today, self-publishers can use the internet very easily, exploiting all the opportunities it offers as a virtual network. Sometimes they achieve huge sales volumes through their own marketing strategies.
One example is Amanda Hocking, the US author of fantasy novels. Having sold well over a million e-books, she counts as the most successful self-publishing author in the world. She now has her own publishing company, and has sold the film rights to one of her trilogies
The high street booksellers must come up with some good ideas if they are to compete with the readily available ‘medium’ of books online. Meanwhile, everywhere in the world, the children’s and young adult books segment currently provides them with the largest part of their turnover; the diverse merchandising products with high profit margins make up a valuable sideline.
Increasingly important are customer retention measures, cooperation with local institutions such as nurseries, schools and libraries, and the role of the bookseller as an ‘event manager’ for local cultural happenings.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is THE international platform for face-to-face meetings. No other place brings together so many players who provide content and who, moreover, pursue the most varied forms of additional use for that content. There is growing understanding for other industries. This understanding – the willingness to learn from each other – is the cornerstone of future cooperation.
It is not possible to put new business models into effect if you are working alone.
Frankfurt is the launch pad for your international and crossmedial content projects in the children’s, young adult and education segments.
Where the industry is on the move
The Frankfurt Book Fair offers a plethora of locations and event formats that ensure you can touch-down here with confidence.