Here are live recaps of the three sessions I attended today. Please return tomorrow, when I plan to focus on graphic novels.
The Future of Children’s Books: Ebooks, Apps, and New Models That Will Revolutionize Lives (3:00, Rm. 1E14/1E15)
A big room and a packed room…
The publisher of Sourcebooks is moderator: “The future of children’s books is the future of books…”
Deborah Forte, EVP at Scholastic Media. Expert at kids’ branding. “This is a particularly exciting moment for kids’ books…” Reminds editors in attendance that technology can be key at advancing storytelling. Critical to this is overcoming parents’ perception that enhanced ebooks can be “distracting” for kids (per the recent Cooney Center report). “Digital allows us to more personally meet the needs of our customers and readers.” …which at Scholastic has meant getting parents more involved so that they don’t say, “I have no idea what my child is really doing when they use technology to read…” **Interesting point: “Publishing has never been really research-centered, but now is the time…” That is, learn how tech can really make a difference in reading/learning/etc.
Betsy Loredo of Muppets/Sesame Workshop publishing; wide experience with magazine publishing. As a nice follow-up to Forte’s concluding remarks, Loredo mentions that Sesame Street’s in-house research-oriented experts are vital to determining product and services development directly. And she references the Cooney Center, too, of course, given the Sesame connection. As a publisher Sesame currently has 50+ stand-alone ebooks; they reach 16.5 million kids and parents across digital platforms every quarter. Only 60% of kids who engage with Sesame do so via TV. Wow… She does point out that Sesame does intend to remain print-centric, however. And she seems to be winding down by citing some general (and jaw-dropping) stats on downloads, app usage, etc. Oh, and she’s citing Pew research as well on reading and efficacy of platforms vs. context (sharing, bedtime reading, travel, etc.) — and it’s this reading in different situations that makes ebooks so pervasive/attractive. But no hard data to suggest the learning benefits of ereader-delivered texts… yet a minute later she refs research that shows parents believe that ebooks helps their children “learn to read.”
[Editorial comment by me at 27 minutes into session: lots of inspiring cheerleading about ebooks and tech but very little info on the "revolution" mentioned in the program title.]
In closing, Loredo running through a bunch of very interesting findings about literacy, including the role of device weight, etc. But it’s way too fast and rushed. She could have spoken for an hour and been fascinating… but that’s my bias because the literacy learning stuff is kind of my thing. “Write for the device,” she says — just like Dickens did by creating an eventual novel out of serialized sections; “remember that it is not a betrayal” of your love of reading (or content creation). Finally, I love how she points out to publishers that Sesame enjoys robust partnership because it’s a non-profit… something I was waiting for her to say. Overall, an excellent, insightful speaker who deserves more time at BEA. It’s the kind of scenario where her slides have a ton of great points, but she only covers one on each slide before having to move on. BUT… for a PDF of this content, email her at email@example.com
Claudia Mazzuco of Atlantyca Entertainment “has been associated with some very significant brands.” Back in ’07 and ’08 she called today’s kids “multimedia children”… although now she says she made a mistake — that these are really “transmedia children.” She even cites Henry Jenkins and intertextuality. After defining key ideas for audience she points changing nature of authorship and copyright in light of the rise of transmedia — there must be a type of shared authorship across media/platforms, with “bibles” to describe the “brand essence” of a given property. She also cites Jeff Gomez, of course, but does so in an interesting way, as someone who has “brought theory into practice.”
Wow… and now she’s getting into fan-created content. This, too, could have been its own session — and she’s rushing a bit because there’s technically only six minutes left in the session… okay, so now she’s providing examples with Atlantyca’s international property, Geronimo Stilton. She cites that the bible created by the company allowed 35 different script writers to work on the property at the same time, which in turn resulted in a successful TV series that could be sold all around the world. A month ago Atlantyca launched a fan fiction site (one young reader even wrote a story based on The Divine Comedy) — this is key for kids, she believes. Very forward-thinking, it seems to me.
Kevin O’Connor, kids’ media veteran, now B&N honcho for kids’ content for nook. Titles and trends for middle grade and teen readers are the same whether e- or physical books. But for kids’ books, content is more “low brow” — parents see ebooks as babysitters or as a “sexy” way (i.e., tech) to appeal to reluctant boy readers. The most popular ebooks in picture book category are licensed or public domain characters. Funny: both holiday- and shark-themed books are always popular.
His advice to publishers: always include audio with kids’ ebooks. Nice anecdote with a Big Bird toy that had a billion bells-and-whistles, including a CD-ROM… and it never saw the light of day… yet Tickle Me Elmo only did one thing. So that lesson should not be lost on publishers: make sure your app or product does one thing well — after all, it will not be the last digital content your customers ever buy.
Beyond The Hunger Games: Young Adult Book Marketing and Public Relations Strategies (11:00 am; Rm 1E09)
“This is a Golden Age of Young Adult book publishing.” This session’s goal is to answer the question, “What are some successful tactics to reach this demographic?” Susannah Greenburg of BookBuzz.Com is the moderator.
Going to opinion-makers early on in marketing is cited… but the small publisher on panel isn’t sharing much of value—she seems to be plugging her current and upcoming titles rather than the strategies that the session promised.
Michelle Renault of Harlequin Teen. Key priorities: building author brands and using integrated marketing campaigns. The importance of “consistent messaging” of NetGalley, building Facebook and Twitter followers, etc. – again, nothing really insightful or new. Using partnerships with non-profits (e.g., their upcoming bullying-themed book) is somewhat interesting from a media literacy angle – students might like to know how a marketing person sees this as a sales-oriented strategy
20 minutes into this 50-minute session and there’s no real sense of how reaching teen/young readers is really different than any other audience segment.
Sourcebooks rep also talks about bloggers, Twitter, cover-reveal tours, book-trailer-reveal tours, etc. Partnerships with GoodReads and Figment… the latter being maybe the first student/teen-specific strategy mentioned.
Overall, wondering how any of this is “Beyond The Hunger Games” – its marketing seemed pretty state-of-the-art. How are tactics mentioned here any newer or fresher? Most of the time the panelists seem concerned about pushing their specific titles to the booksellers and journalists in the audience.
Final panelist, a bookseller with a brick-and-mortar store (sorry, didn’t catch her name), is really the only one to talk about teens, and does so in context of the teen-author connection at events. “Kids still want to talk to their friends.” She says the store reps talk to educators “all the time” – and does this at conferences since many communities now lack actual bookstores. That physical face-to-face interaction can’t be overvalued. Similarly, the store holds “Children’s Author Breakfasts.” Interestingly, she mentions fostering critical literacy among school students via mock Newbery polls, supplying edgier titles than what’s actually up for the Newbery.
Generally, though, you wouldn’t learn much from this session about what engages teen readers and gets them talking about books. For example, what do authors need to know about their interactions with this age group?
–wait a second, in the last few minutes this is getting a bit more interesting (at least to me). Common Core Standards’ promotion of nonfiction reading should lead to an “explosion” of YA nonfic titles. This kind of analysis of outside forces on kids’ reading, even just a few more minutes of it, would have added a lot to this session. As a final example of an avenue unaddressed here: what is role of school librarians, parents, and English teachers in shaping/supporting (or not) young people’s reading habits and preferred topics?
What Librarians Wish Publishers Knew: We Build BUZZ (10:00 am; Rm 1E11)
Nora of EarlyWord (a nice site, if you don’t know it)) is the moderator. Yesterday’s session here was an analysis of summer reading lists, fyi. In her intro, Nora shows abandoned Borders storefronts: that’s why libraries are important than ever. 9K library systems and 16K individual buildings — that’s a lot of “brick and mortar.” Ann interesting point: despite array of media nowadays, libraries excel at displaying books. The library Web site now functions as a kind of “an online retailer.”
Michael Colford of Boston Public Library is first panelist introduced. Its Web site got 8 millions hits last year; home page is heavy with promotion of events — very engaging. Uses book trailers effectively. He’s discussing BiblioCommons and how it extends the audience of an single system to a national level. Implied: do publishers know this? Funny point: why hype bestsellers since patrons “won’t be able to get them”? This actually complements publishers’ goals since libraries are irrelevant to bestsellers per se.
Instead, librarian’s job is to recommend similar titles… and this in turn plants the seeds of a community, especially online. Publishers should know that the “buzz” that they want is also vital to communities of book lovers and library patrons — the goals are aligned. “We still want to support independent bookstores…”; therefore, if book not carried by system, there should be a button for where to find the title locally. The library “doesn’t get credit for this.” Big goal: rethink traditional “Reader’s Advisory” groups by aggregating all the blogs and added content that is generated by both readers and librarians… the neat outcome of this is the replication of the serendipity of finding neat, related books on actual shelves.
Sari [last name?] of Cuyahoga County in Ohio. Print book budget: $4.5 million, which is 40% of materials budget. $1.5 million just for ebooks and audio downloads. She wants patrons to have a book “shopping experience.” Describing the “Reconnect with Reading” program and voicing her concern about lack of reading and deep caring about books in the community (and, implicitly, in the culture.” The system’s goal was “to proactively connect customers to books.” Their key move? To get Nancy Pearl to make regular appearances and to help them with outreach initiatives. What distinguishes her observations from Colford is that she emphasizes making connections between readers and authors. …although now she is stressing the importance of the system’s Facebook page and the discussions that take place there, pretty much daily. That’s where people go for recommendations, post lists, etc. “It just has a different energy than the library’s home page.” –> in fact, they want to capture some of that feel for their own site.
Lynn Wheeler of Carroll County Public Library (MD). The system presented some 6300+ programs last year! (Most were for 0-5 age group.) Very neat project last year: to take a midlist title and transform it into a local bestseller via a community-wide read: A Titanic Event by Kate Alcott. So they bought 73 copies and are still holding reserves on it; Random House then brought the author in. Also cool: RH made the e-galleys available for the staff to read. In return, books were sold at events. Win-win all around. Crowing event: a Titanic-themed day of celebration with re-enactors, etc. Overall, this is a nicely assembled panel because each panelist is emphasizing a different “piece” of the partnership/promotional big picture. Now she’s discussing partnership with school librarians re the annual Battle of the Books competition — the public staff then built a huge competition around a book-bee-type event, with coaches, etc. (Unexpected: an all-boy team from middle school won.)
Virginia Stanley, Director of Library Marketing at HarperCollins. She’s talking about ALA and other events the publisher does to promote books into libraries… but so far there’s not much new that she’s saying/adding. For example, she’s talking about virtual author visits via Skype… but my impression was that school libraries, schools, and libraries generally have been doing this for years. ALA seminar in July on getting authors to “show up”: www.programminglibrarian.org with registration opening June 11.