Sunday, June 10, 2007

Book Expo of America

My husband and I attended the BEA in New York last week. It was thrilling to see so many people in one place. As author and publishers, we paid close attention to the badges people were wearing. The blue badges were worn by booksellers and librarians. They are the ones we were most interested in talking to. It certainly seemed as if they were in the minority, however. I'd love to see the figures, but it appeared that publishers, distributors, and wholesalers outnumbered them. It reflects a trend we've been seeing: independent bookstores going out of business, distributors going bankrupt. Check out the article on the state of the book industry by Martin Foner of NPL consultants.

My question is, what can we as authors do to entice kids to read. We compete in an age of electronics. Today's children are adept with instant messaging, Ipods, mp3, etc. and are in habit of getting their information and entertainment electronically. But won't it be sad if they never know the joy of curling up in a warm, quiet place with a good book? Our schools still employ wonderful teachers who encourage reading. Perhaps we as authors can do more to help them put books in the hands and hearts of today's youth.


Irene said...

Hi! This is Irene, managing editor of Reader Views, and the new website Reader Views Kids. You want to know how to entice kids to read books. I believe I have the answer.

But....first, let me give you a little background. We are a review service and we had been reviewing kid's books. The reviewers were adults and most books got raving reviews. An author offered her book to a kid's reading group. I contacted a teacher, also a reviewer, to see if she would create a reading group in her school. She volunteered to do so therefore I had the author send books for each of the kids in the group. When the kids started reading the book, majority of them thought the book was "stupid." The reviewer herself thought the book was great. Other reviewers gave the book wonderful reviews too. Apparently it had values and morals.

From the comments the kids gave I realized something: adults write the books, adults decide what books should be published, adults review the books and decide the kids will like them. Something is wrong with this picture!! Very wrong. Where do the kids come in?

Yes, granted, some authors have kids read the manuscript and get good comments. But, then I question if these kids are family or friends. Usually family and freinds aren't honest. It is best to have kids that you don't know read the manuscript and give an honest opinion.

That's when I decided to separate the kid's reviews from Reader Views, create the kid's website site, and only have kids review kid's books. do you get kids to read book? Simple. Write books they want to read. I took a poll as well as personally interviewed kids. Most of them want to read fantasy/SciFi related books. They are adamant they don't want books the are "self-help" or anything too close to reality. The kids I talked to are ages 12 to 16. By the time they are 16 the "teen/young adult" books don't interest them - they want to read adult books.

I also talked with a manager at a local B & N. She confirmed my findings.

I have a stack of kid's books that need reviewing but getting kids interested in them is challenging. I send them the synopsis and they reject the book. Why? They want fantasy/SciFi. Those come in for review far and few inbetween.

So, the short of the long answer is to write books they want to read and that's how you can get kids to read.

Janet Muirhead Hill said...

Irene, you make a point that should have been obvious to all of us who want to write for children. Ask the kids what they like. The popularity of Harry Potter and even Eragon should give us a clue. Maybe it's time to come out with the first two novels I wrote. I've never had them published because I thought they were too scary for kids. Maybe not. They are about a girl who is being abused in real life, so she escapes to another "world" that she accesses through a hidden tunnel in a rocky cliff. This "other world" has it's own monsters.

I'm not quite ready to accept that fantasy and scifi are the only books a kid will read, however. My stories about a girl and a horse have found a devoted fan base and continue to sell. But I do agree that if a book for kids is to be hugely successful, it must be something that interests today's youth, not just what adults think SHOULD appeal them.