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Tell a Publisher

Psst! School librarians! Don’t look around but they are watching you. They are monitoring your listserv’s, your tweets, your facebook statuses, your webinars, and your conferences. They are listening, taking notes, and then acting. Who are they?

Publishers! Publishers read our blogs. They want to know what we really think about titles. They want to know what to publish and even more importantly what not to publish so they don’t lose money. They want to know the interests of your students. They want to know what things would sell. They even want to know how many titles in a series you’d consider purchasing and at what cost.

How are they going to find this out (besides cyber stalking)? How about telling them? You can post a comment here telling them what you want and I guarantee at least 5 major youth publishers will respond. (Because I will demand they react)

Today for example, I asked for books on wrestling (the sport not the entertainment show), math, biographies, and even books on controversial characters. When the publishers questioned whether they could get away with publishing a book on, oh, say, hunting, I dared them. Yes, I actually threw down the gauntlet and dared them to publish them.

Now, it’s your turn. Tell them what you really wish they’d produce and let’s see their reaction. Budgets are tight. Let’s tell them what we really want them to publish and what we would really purchase.


  1. What I want is for them NOT to publish more fantasy series. Nightshade is a great book, but it ends abruptly and doesn’t need to be a series. Ditto Fallen, Matched and countless others. My students are sick and tired of diluted plots and being forced to buy/read book after book to get to the end of the story. They’ve stopped reading the genre as a result, so I’m stopping purchasing.

    So what do we want? More good, solid stand-alone books (Fire/Graceling count as stand-alone, btw). Publishers, how about it?

  2. What do I want? Good, solid stand-alone fantasy instead of trilogies and series – my students and I are tired of thin, diluted plots that are stretched over 3+ books rather than tightly written one-offs. Fallen, Matched, Nightshade, Glimmerglass etc. got such lukewarm reviews from my ARC test group because of this.

    What about it, publishers? Can’t you stop forcing libraries to spend more $$ on series and instead focus on working with authors to tighten up their writing and creating a great stand-alone? “Series” like Fire/Graceling work, too.

  3. Lisa Von Drasek Diane Chen says:

    Members of LM_NET have been discussing the difficulty in purchasing series books when the beginning of the series is out of print yet the titles keep coming. Paperback series books wear out yet you cannot go back and buy the original titles before the series even ends. Frustration mounts for patron and librarian. I always want to own the first three books in a series. If a student asks for a series, one of the first things I do is see how many titles are out of print.

    As for numbers in a series, I still like 3. Now the model has gone to 5, 7, and more. How long does it take for an author to write and publisher to publish a typical series of 3 titles versus 5? Will you have those same students with you long enough to finish a new series? Weird way of looking at it, but the students ask.

  4. Male Librarian says:

    My female students want more nonfiction books tailored to them. More than boys read nonfiction. You seem to forget this.

  5. Oh, we would definitely buy books on hunting! It’s also hard to find books for the 4-H crowd – accurate, informative books for the younger crowd about raising different types of livestock, or small-scale farming. Yes, for all you publishers in your apartments in NYC, people do still farm and ranch.

    And back to my recurring soapbox of the need for picture books for kids who are adopted out of the foster care system. They know their mother didn’t willingly and selflessly give them up at birth so they could have a better life (which is the premise of most adoption picture books) – they were there when the police came to break up the meth lab in their kitchen. I’d love to see something along the lines of :You are the Best Medicine” by Julie Aigner-Clark, in that it presents a sad or scary subject in a very positive way.

  6. susan norwood says:

    I agree that more stand-alone books are needed–only because students have to wait for Volume I of any series to be available before they read the others. Realistic, urban fiction stays checked-out in my classroom library. Girls love the Drama High series. Bluford High is not only engaging, but affordable. With my own spending money, I will be looking into other urban lit. series. I just heard about Denim Diaries and Baby Girl. The guys need guy-drama, so I’ll be on the lookout for those titles too.

    Diane, since we work together, you know that Middle school readers want the edgy titles. Some of them think that library books are too tame (a.k.a “boring”)–even though you manage to disprove them.

    Here is what my reluctant reader guys have read this year: Wimpy Kid series, Child Called It, Smile (Raina Telgemeier), Go Ask Alice, Crank, Glass, After Tupac and D Foster, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Bone (Smith). They read a little bit of everything.

    Girls: Drama! Drama High and Pretty Little Liars, Gail Giles’s Whatever Happened to Cass McBride and Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters, The Boy Who Couldn’t Die (Sleator).

    I just need more money and less fear of censorship!

  7. Better bindings! I can’t tell you how many books come back with loose signatures after just a couple of circulations. Backpacks are very hard on books! My Wimpy Kids books fell apart after a couple of months and don’t get me started on Harry Potter.

  8. Yay! Thanks to all the commenters. Diane is right–we do watch your comments and try to respond. I’m pleased to say that Capstone is on track with some of your requests (and you can bet the other requests are being looked at carefully.)

    Here’s a quick update on what we have available/in the works that match your needs. I would love to discuss this topic further so feel free to email me at a dot cox at capstonepub dot com.

    Nonfiction for girls: Capstone Press has a brand called Snap devoted to high-interest nonfiction that will appeal to girls. There are great craft series (Green Crafts appears to be a particular favorite), fun bios, girls sports and more. In January, look for a great series on women in the armed forces.

    Hard topics for young kids: Available now in our Pebble brand for emergent readers is the “My Family” series that addresses Foster and Adoptive families. More “tough” subjects along the lines you describe are coming later in 2011.

    More hunting books: Our high-low brand Blazers just published Wild Outdoors this fall including Deer, Duck and Bowhunting. A nice review is coming from SLJ too!

    Math books: Math Fun and Real World Math are two Capstone examples…but more math titles are coming I promise!

    Thanks for this great topic. Keep the comments coming!

    Amy Cox
    Nonfiction Marketing Manager

  9. susan norwood says:

    I was chastised by Diane today for censoring a book. I admit I did it, and I’m not proud of it– but, hey, I had to!

    Other than Wimpy Kid, it’s hard to find humorous books for middle school kids, especially books that are easy to read in chunks. Yet, MS kids are at just the right goofy age to appreciate them. Based upon a recommendation from a juvie hall teacher in California, I brought Cake Wrecks into my classroom library.

    Within seconds, six or so kids were reading the book, talking and laughing. It’s hilarious. It’s also good for students who speak a language other than English at home. The word play and puns are fabulous. I had to remove a few pages– the cake with male organs on it and the cake that was below the naked statue of David. I did tell students that they weren’t seeing the complete version. The book disappeared the first day, though I later found it in the hall among a student’s pile of books.

    This made me think. Why not a young adult version? Similarly, Shop and Awe (People of Walmart) would be good in a younger, more school appropriate version. What do you think?

  10. Thanks Diane for getting this conversation started! We are always looking for insights from librarians on what they want to see! This is a great forum for it.

    “Male Librarian” who said that he needs more nonfiction tailored to girls– I was wondering if you could elaborate and tell me what topics you would like to see. You can email me at the address below.

    We do have many craft series that girls would love; “Easy Crafts in 5 Steps”, “Fun Adventure Crafts”, and “Paper Craft Fun for Holidays”. In the fall 2011 we are doing a great series on Fashions throughout the decades! We also have a new Cheerleading series out this fall that girls (and boys) will lfind really useful as well.

    As always, we have a ton of biographies for all ages and interests (from Oprah to Henry Hudson) and math books as well for all grades.

    We love this type of feedback so keep ’em coming! Publishers ARE listening!

    Thanks so much! And thank you, Diane!
    Lisa Corrado
    Enslow Publishers, Inc.
    lisac [at] enslow [dot] com

  11. Series books can be great for kids. In fact, lots of kids ask me for new series recommendations. Series books keep kids reading. And kids do love fantasy!

    What I need are more action/adventure/mystery books that both boys and girls will enjoy and that are appropriate for my grade level. More books with multi-ethnic, multi-racial kids on the cover. What I don’t need are any more books with pink and overly-girly covers.

    Boys (mine are 5th-6th grade) love non-fiction war books, but I need more books for them not adult books.

    Finally, most of all, I need more books for my kids who read below grade level (2-3 gr level) – but those books need to feature kids who are the same age – not 1st or 2nd graders. Series books are great for these kids as well. If they have success with one book they seek out another one in that series.

  12. Thanks to everyone for your comments, and to Diane for starting this thread! She’s right that publishers are paying attention, and we love hearing suggestions like these.

    Here are a few ideas from the Lerner Publishing Group list that popped into my head while I was reading your comments:

    Standalone fantasy/paranormal: Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish, due out Spring 2011. The title character is a teenage girl who discovers that she’s developing supernatural powers that will turn her into humanity’s best defense against an evil monster.

    Drama (for both guys and girls who love horror): Our Night Fall series contains six titles that are non-sequential, so kids can check them out in any order they want. Night Fall is a high-interest contemporary horror series that contains YA themes and a highly accessible reading level.

    More Drama (of the urban lit. variety): Out in Spring 2011, our Surviving Southside series strives for the same balance of YA themes/accessible reading level but features plots about issues ranging from abusive relationships to ethics among college sports recruiters.

    Nonfiction for girls: I’d love to hear more about the specific topics you’d like to see. We do have the Girl Crafts series by Kathy Ross, as well as a recently released single title by her called Earth-Friendly Crafts. We also have a variety of biographies across the spectrum of reading levels that feature contemporary and historical figures, both male and female.

    Farming: Our First Step Nonfiction – Farm Animals series offers titles on a variety of farm animals at a 1st grade reading level.

    Susan, for a nonfiction series that can easily be read in chunks, I’d like to suggest our Is That a Fact? series. Each book answers several puzzling questions. For example, does it really take seven years to digest swallowed gum?

    Please keep the insights coming! Feel free to contact me directly using the address below.

    Elizabeth Dingmann
    Lerner Publishing Group
    edingmann [at] lernerbooks [dot] com