Children’s Book Publishers Think ‘Outside the Book’
Children’s books may be about finding the kid in all of us, but everyone in the children’s publishing business agrees that they have to grow up when it comes to taking advantage of profitable opportunities. The Internet is clearly not going away, yet with the need to protect children from cyberspace predators, publishers have to go through parents to get through to their young audiences.
Once you reach them, however, it can’t hurt to be as multidimensional as possible. Jason Wells, publicity and marketing director for New York-based Harry N. Abrams Inc., says kids are looking for books that are not just self-contained but also have supplementary aspects to them. “We publish three series that have interactive elements unique to that series,” he says. “We have books like ‘ttyl’ [Talk To You Later] about instant messages—how could you not have an Internet initiative to go along with it? It may seem counterintuitive to put an instant message into a novel, but it builds a new generation of reader. Look at ways kids express themselves these days. If you don’t include the Internet, you’re not relating to them.”
Book-Specific Web Sites
Wells also says this means having Web sites for the books and ways for readers to reach the authors, even though they produce 85 to 100 children’s titles a year. “Lauren Myracle wrote the ‘Sisters Grimm’ series, and we made a dedicated Web site. This allows Myracle to respond directly to children’s e-mails. We even have ‘Sisters Grimm’ games to let kids write their own fairy tales.”
Wells continues, “You have to get [the kids] involved. And if you don’t think kids care [about the Web], then how do you explain the e-mails that complain about a new character not having a Web site yet?”
Lisa Holton, president of Scholastic Book Fairs—which partners with schools around the country to host more than 120,000 book-sale events annually—says the J.K. Rowling site and the Scholastic Harry Potter site are popular because, “kids love the games, the additional material about the authors, videos, and all the different interactive elements online that extends their book experience. … In addition to sites for specific titles or authors, Scholastic has an online book club called Flashlight Readers … an entire community of readers engages with one particular book for a period of time through this site.”