Is Kidlit struggling?

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RMarie

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Hello fellow kidlit authors. I have a question prompted by something I read from someone in the business end of publishing on Twitter. It's been a few days, so I'm afraid I don't have a link to it. Before I go into my question though, I'll give a bit of the background that the twitter poster gave for why she specifically feels kidlit is struggling. According to her in 2019 there was a mass exodus of authors, editors, and agents from kidlit genres because of being low balled on advances for so long. Publishing houses were giving their greatest advances to the adult literature authors they were signing. Then the pandemic came along, causing yet more people to leave, orphaning projects and leaving authors scrambling to find others to take them on after they themselves were orphaned. So, my question is this: Is kidlit actually struggling? Does anyone have anything to say to this? I'd be interested to get anyone's take, since I really enjoy writing for this age range. Thank you!
 
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Unimportant

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RMarie, is this global, or is there a particular geographical sales region you have in mind? (US publishers/sales figures may differ to, say, the UK, or India, or Australasia.)
 

Davy The First

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I'm also interesting in some details re this OP.

Last I did some research Children's sales were up, and equaling pre-2008 numbers. Still, I'm very open to new info.
 

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As far as I know, this is regional, specifically for the United States. I've been unable to find any additional information to back this poster's claims, so I was wondering if anyone here had any information to add to it. I don't know the individual who posted, so I can't say for certain whether or not she was truly speaking from experience. My hope is that she's wrong, as I really highly enjoy writing kidlit stories. But with the pandemic still going strongly, I wouldn't be surprised if publishing in the USA was disrupted at least marginally.
 

RMarie

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Finally found the twitter poster. It's @Maria_Tureaud. On Dec. 10, she had a post that she left several comments in making almost a full article. If you have Twitter, it's an interesting read.
 
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Davy The First

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Finally found the twitter poster. It's @Maria_Tureaud. On Dec. 10, she had a post that she left several comments in making almost a full article. If you have Twitter, it's an interesting read.
Thanks RMarie. Read through it. Yeah, probably a few issues at the moment, but I don't get a sense of that Maria offers any particularly special insight or / insider info. Certainly not enough to cause me concern. However, maybe more info will come out over time, who knows?
But for now, I'd say..."carry on, carrying on."
 
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Seakat

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So, my question is this: Is kidlit actually struggling? Does anyone have anything to say to this? I'd be interested to get anyone's take, since I really enjoy writing for this age range.

Interesting question, and I can't comment of the publishing/agent side of things, however kid's lit is way down the list in terms of profitability and volume of sales (in the US anyway). If so, then presumably its more difficult for authors to get advances for lower selling genres.

Found his list of genres that make the most. It from 2019 US sales:
  • Romance and Erotica ($1.44 billion)
  • Crime and Mystery ($728.2 million)
  • Religious/Inspirational ($720 million)
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy books ($590.2 million)
  • Children and Young Adult ($160 million)
  • Horror ($79.6 million)
A word of caution though about these stats as there can be an overlap between fantasy and Kids/YA...think Harry Potter; still contentious about which genre it fits, but its audience appeal is very wide.

There is also country variation as the UK was seeing a boom in Kid's lit in 2018 according to Forbes magazine: 100 bestsellers in the UK for 2018 that places kid's lit (8-12 yr olds) 3rd best selling genre.

Hope this post helps shed some light on your question @RMarie.

Just an aside personal comment - with covid and school lockdowns, tv and computer games all well and good, but for 8 -12 yr olds I would have thought there might be an increase in demand for kid's lit to help keep the little monsters entertained. Its seems book sales in general have grown over the last 2 years, certainly according to Amazon.

Found this little nugget about best selling US kid's lit in 2021:

"In the first half of 2021, the best-selling frontlist children's book in the United States was 'Mothering Heights (Dog Man #10)' by Dav Pilkey, with 867.4 thousand copies sold. Also in the top ten were two books by Dr. Seuss, 'Oh, the Places You'll Go!' and 'Green Eggs and Ham', which sold 584.47 and 334.63 thousand copies respectively." statista.com

Corollary: perhaps take the opinions of one twitter poster with a grain of salt. I think this comment sums it up nicely:
Thanks RMarie. Read through it. Yeah, probably a few issues at the moment, but I don't get a sense of that Maria offers any particularly special insight or / insider info. Certainly not enough to cause me concern. However, maybe more info will come out over time, who knows?
But for now, I'd say..."carry on, carrying on."
 
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neandermagnon

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From a buyer's point of view, it's not going anywhere. My 11 year old has asked for 4 different books for Christmas - 3x fiction, 1x non-fiction. Two of the fiction books are part of a long series (the latest Wimpy Kid book* and the latest 13n storey treehouse book which is a secret ploy to teach kids the 13 times table) - these comedy series for children seem to be doing very well. But the 3rd book is one that's not comedy at all (I read the blurb it looks like it will be really sad) by an author I've never heard of before so that suggests new authors are still able to get a foot in the door. Also, school libraries are constantly buying books. So I don't think the market for kid lit is going anywhere.

*I am getting Wimpy Kid in Latin. Yes it exists. (Commentarii de Inepto Puero :ROFLMAO: ) Yes I am crazy enough to learn Latin for fun. Yes I have ensured that this is being bought for me for Christmas. Yes I am most especially eager to learn how to say "cheese touch" in Latin.
 
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Nether

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  • Children and Young Adult ($160 million)
  • Horror ($79.6 million)

So instead of focusing on one less profitable genre (or demo?), I'm focusing on two :x Maybe I should just try to focus on fantasy.

Then again, the market as a whole doesn't necessarily have any bearing on an individual's odds of success within that market (especially compared to other factors). I guess if YA is struggling, that's a concern because I'm interested in commercial success, but... there are a lot of things I want to do in that space that I can't necessarily do in adult fiction (just like some of my other ideas wouldn't work in YA).
 
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lizmonster

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So instead of focusing on one less profitable genre (or demo?), I'm focusing on two :x Maybe I should just try to focus on fantasy.

Then again, the market as a whole doesn't necessarily have any bearing on an individual's odds of success within that market (especially compared to other factors). I guess if YA is struggling, that's a concern because I'm interested in commercial success, but... there are a lot of things I want to do in that space that I can't necessarily do in adult fiction (just like some of my other ideas wouldn't work in YA).

Yeah, numbers like this are of limited utility. Lumping science fiction and fantasy together, for example, isn't especially useful; IME the science fiction market is puny next to the fantasy market. And YA may be low on the list, but last year when Twitter folx were sharing advance amounts, it was the YA advances that were eye-popping.

Romance, though, has always been the top of the heap, a fact that occasionally makes publishers do odd things to try to hook into those numbers.

My genre chose me, so I don't think much about market - no point. :) Commercial success is based mostly on luck anyway, and isn't a thing that you get and sustain.
 
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Fuchsia Groan

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I read that Twitter thread. I got the impression it was more about YA than other kidlit, but I could be wrong. I’ve heard positive things about the MG market in the past few years; I know some YA authors who have switched to MG and made good sales.

YA (in the US) is a special case, I think. My impressions, backed up by no numbers: It used to be a pretty quiet category with steady but not stunning sales, mainly to schools and libraries. Then came Twilight and THG and all the movie adaptations, and YA became big business, with many adult readers buying it for themselves. Advances soared. What we’re seeing now could well be the bust that follows a boom. For nearly a decade, folks have been lamenting that there’s no new author/series as popular as those groundbreaking ones were.

I can’t compare adult and YA advances because I only have a few anecdotal examples of the former, and I’m sure it depends heavily on genre. But over three YA sales, from 2014 to 2020, I haven’t seen a steep drop. Maybe it’s harder to get a six-figure deal now—I wouldn’t be surprised—but it was always hard to get a six-figure deal. It’s always hard to earn a living as a writer (I don’t!).
 
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SCEDIT

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I think Ms. Tureaud makes some good points--as one of the children's/YA editors who left the corporate publishing world in 2020 for a variety of reasons and just started working for myself, I agree with a lot of what she wrote. But remember that sales of children's/YA books are always cyclical; they depend on demographics and other factors. When I first got into the business in the early 1990s, there were panels at library conferences asking, IS YA DEAD? Then came Harry Potter, Twilight etc. and there was a YA explosion to the point that adult editors and agents and Hollywood started taking notice. Many adult authors started writing YA. Now the opposite is happening; YA authors are writing adult.

Sometimes authors follow the money, and that's understandable. We all gotta eat. The thing to remember, though, is that if you genuinely want to write for the children's or teen audience, if you're passionate about it, keep doing it. Don't be discouraged, because it's ALWAYS going to be hard and competitive. But your book can change a child's life or make a teen feel less alone. Keep going.
 
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Stardreamer

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Hello fellow kidlit authors. I have a question prompted by something I read from someone in the business end of publishing on Twitter. It's been a few days, so I'm afraid I don't have a link to it. Before I go into my question though, I'll give a bit of the background that the twitter poster gave for why she specifically feels kidlit is struggling. According to her in 2019 there was a mass exodus of authors, editors, and agents from kidlit genres because of being low balled on advances for so long. Publishing houses were giving their greatest advances to the adult literature authors they were signing. Then the pandemic came along, causing yet more people to leave, orphaning projects and leaving authors scrambling to find others to take them on after they themselves were orphaned. So, my question is this: Is kidlit actually struggling? Does anyone have anything to say to this? I'd be interested to get anyone's take, since I really enjoy writing for this age range. Thank you!
I'm curious which age-range specifically you are referring to? Depending on the specific age ranges, I would say that kid-lit is not struggling all that much... at least not in sales. I worked through the pandemic as a Children's Lead at my Local Barnes and Noble, and currently work as a middle school librarian. During the pandemic, even when most stores were closed to the public, we definitely saw an uprising in children's books sales... probably because the schools were shut down and kids had to stay home and were bored.

Working now as a middle school librarian, I'd say that its not so much that kid-lit is struggling as it is that what most people consider to be classic style kid-lit is struggling... the rise in popularity of the MG graphic novel has caused most kids to overlook books that require more reading and provide less visual stimulation. Upper MG books - those stories by authors like Rick Riordan, J. K. Rowling, and Eoin Colfer - still have quite a strong audience and following, and surprisingly not all of these avid followers are children. It seems that with everything happening over the last couple years, a fair few adults have decided to get in on the whimsy pervading current MG titles.

If, however, the type of books you are referring to are aimed at children - say - 8 or younger (and depending on their personal reading level...)? Yes, it does seem that this type of kid-lit is taking a bit of a hit. In my opinion its definitely struggling to keep up with the much more colorful and visually evocative graphic novel versions of upper MG titles... which allow younger kids to "be like the big kids" and get a sense of the more mature story through pictures, even if they struggle to read the words on the page.

We still have our popular classic series, of course... Magic Tree House, Boxcar Children, The Bailey School Kids, and the Animorphs series which seems to have made a spectacular comeback in the last few years... but otherwise, I haven't seen too many new younger MG titles hit the shelves and seriously succeed in several years...

Those Graphic novels, though... kids can't get enough of them. Seriously... 😳
 

mccardey

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A long time ago children, back before most of you were born, in the mid 1990s, I was told by someone knowledgeable not to bother with my kids book because kidlit was on its last legs. At that stage I think it was because mergers were happening or it might have been that costs of paper had gone through the roof.

Anyway - I finished the book, my agent sold it within a fortnight, and it was on the shelves (and in pretty book-bins all of its own) before the end of that year. Funny old things, predictions.

I think the best take is that there are slow years and good years and they only happen in hindsight, so what can you do? Might as well keep writing.
 
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gorileeus

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A long time ago children, back before most of you were born, in the mid 1990s, I was told by someone knowledgeable not to bother with my kids book because kidlit was on its last legs. At that stage I think it was because mergers were happening or it might have been that costs of paper had gone through the roof.

Anyway - I finished the book, my agent sold it within a fortnight, and it was on the shelves (and in pretty book-bins all of its own) before the end of that year. Funny old things, predictions.

I think the best take is that there are slow years and good years and they only happen in hindsight, so what can you do? Might as well keep writing.
Inspiring story! I get the sense that kidlit is small enough that it works basically like traditional book genres. Sometimes they're in, and sometimes not.
 
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