Thursday, August 23, 2012

SCBWI Summer Conference: Market Keynote Follow-Up with Deborah Halverson

One of the amazing benefits of membership in the SCBWI is getting the latest and greatest on what's going on in the marketplace for children's literature.

Award-Winning Author and Editor Deborah Halverson complied the "2012 SCBWI Market Survey: Publishers of Books For Young Readers" report, and gave a keynote at the recent #LA12SCBWI Summer Conference about what she learned from her survey - giving us the current market needs and trends.

Deborah presenting her keynote to over 1,200 attendees at #LA12SCBWI

While it's not about writing to a trend, Deborah advised that better understanding the market could potentially help writers and illustrators decide between creative projects, and could certainly help us in strategizing submissions.  The information is vital and fascinating.

Deborah was kind enough to share just a few of her insights with us here on SCBWI: The Blog!

What’s being submitted: Agents and editors are receiving lots of submissions with the theme of foster care, many gateway fantasies, and many graphic novels— but that’s not necessarily what they’re looking for. Topping many wish lists is realistic contemporary fiction that is light and funny.

MG/YA fiction: Agents and editors said that while they want to see more instances of literary narratives performing well, for now submissions with commercial appeal in addition to strong craft are faring better.  There was talk about sci-fi interest emerging from the paranormal boom, but that seems a more scattered interest than a real “trend.” It’s worth keeping our eye on that genre, but at this time sci-fi is not looking like a strong contender for the “next wave.”

Historical fiction: Editor/agent interest in historical fiction is not in “straight historical” but rather in stories about people in the past that have another layer, such as paranormal or mystery—like Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution. There was low agent/editor interest in straight historicals.

Library market: Sales potential in the library market is still fuzzy for physical books, since e-book and audiobook demands have libraries looking for funds from other areas, including physical book purchases.

Picture books:  The entire picture books category has emerged from its tough times leaner and better.  There is room for multicultural picture books that find a fresh way to present their topics and for narrative nonfiction that digs beyond the obvious and has a distinct point of view.  The most dominant trend in picture books remains the shorter, character-driven story, with fewer contracts going to stories featuring longer, more detailed narratives and plots.

2011 children’s book sales: The July 2012 BookStats report showed there was $3.3 Billion sales in the children's book market last year (up 9.4%)  For details, see Publisher’s Weekly’s coverage here.

Thanks, Deborah!

As you can see, SCBWI's Market Survey is an incredible resource.  And members can download a pdf of the report here.

Here's more about Deborah:

Deborah Halverson spent a decade editing books for Harcourt Children's Books before becoming the award-winning author of Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, two teen novels (Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth with Delacorte/Random House), a forthcoming picture book about Santa, and three books in an upcoming series for struggling readers. She has been working with authors—bestsellers, veterans, debut, and aspiring—for over fifteen years. The books she’s edited have garnered awards and rave reviews, and many of the aspiring writers she’s coached have landed agent representation and lucrative book deals. Deborah is now a freelance editor, author, writing instructor, and the founder of She speaks extensively at workshops and conferences for writers and edits adult fiction and nonfiction while specializing in teen fiction and picture books.

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