Earlier this week, I had the very wonderful opportunity to panel (which may not be a real verb) with industry titans Cindy Loh of Bloomsbury, Phoebe Yeh of Crown, and Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks—moderated by no less than Lisa Holton, a publishing legend and one of my longtime role models. The topic, in all caps, was Building the Children’s Publisher of the Future. My initial response was “Yikes!” so I’ll be operating under the assumption that this was your initial response, as well.
Here’s what I learned:
• Reading for pleasure is down 20% among 12-17 year-olds. Now admittedly, this feels like the kind of data that supports pursuing an alternative career in, say, videogames. (Playing them on a mortgage-free commune, not creating or selling them.) On the other hand, the data also supports what everyone already knows: There is more competition than ever for a teen’s time. Which brings us to the good news:
• Reader engagement among the same demographic continues to skyrocket. And that’s only one of the reasons why it’s silly to be frightened about the future of teen reading. If you’re a teen and you discover a book or an author you love, you have more tools than ever to sound off about it, connect with friends according to it, and even get school credit for it. The last of which brought me to a very happy Soho-Teen-specific affirmation:
• Our efforts to engage teachers and librarians via our Educators Guides are resonating. Teachers and librarians will always be our most valued allies and tastemakers—because their efforts will always lead to more readers, both for pleasure and for credit.
• Should I ever have the privilege of paneling again at Digital Book World, I’ll look into bringing my own clip-on mic. This will allow to gesture wildly at my Power Point slides, break into a celebratory jig, clap my hands, or pace in feigned reflection to mask stage fright.