Vying for Attention
An Uphill Economic Battle
The current economy has not been kind to anyone. And, publishers are definitely feeling the impact, especially as costs increase across the board. “Right now printing costs and distribution costs are the immediate concern. Where are they headed and what will the impact be for all of us—retailers and wholesalers included—if costs continue to rise?” asks Mary Ann Sabia, vice president and associate publisher of Watertown, Mass.-based Charlesbridge. “Increased transportation costs, in particular, make the existing practice of returning books seem more and more anachronistic.”
On top of the tight margins that publishers already face, fuel and paper prices are higher, but discretionary income is lower, says Norris. “Publishers need to walk a fine line to price their products in such a way [that] they still make money and still attract buyers,” he advises. “The economy is going to slap the trade book industry around in 2008; there’s no question about it. How quickly publishers and retailers get back on their feet and how much stronger they’re going to be when the economy comes back is up to them.”
Despite these challenges, some publishers are optimistic about the children’s book market. Several agree that even when financial times are tough, children’s books will continue to thrive. “The economy is, of course, of great concern,” says Katz. “Having said that, children’s books still sell in tough economic times because adults are willing to give up certain expenses before they cut back on books for children and teens.”
Amid Challenges, Publishers See Growth
Even in the face of today’s challenges, everyone that spoke with Book Business reported that his or her company’s sales are either holding steady or on the rise.
“In this [challenging publishing] environment, Charlesbridge sees opportunities for continuing growth through a sustained focus on quality and a gradual expansion of our list,” says Sabia. Charlesbridge is building on its picture-book success by expanding its reach to include early readers through a more diverse offering of titles, including chapter books, middle-grade novels and nonfiction. It has enjoyed much success this year with “Global Babies Hello,” “Bumblebee Bat” and “Lola at the Library.”