Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 5/29-6/2

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

James Patterson is giving more money to his Holiday Bookseller Bonus Program this year.

Audible created a $5 million fund to commission new work from playwrights.

Amazon will begin working directly with publishers.

An ebook lending program from the Digital Public Library of America launches this fall.

DC’s Busboys and Poets has ended their bookselling partnership with Politics and Prose.

Spotlight on Middle Grade

This article was originally published on our parent site for the book publishing industry, Publishing Trends

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Young adult literature has been a huge catalyst and money-maker for publishing over the past few years. Beyond the books, the category’s given birth to several multimillion dollar franchises and new Hollywood stars. With all of the glamour and glitz that can come out of the YA world, it’s easy to forget about the rest of children’s literature. No, not board books or picture books: I’m talking about middle grade. According to Nielsen, it’s not the highest-selling segment of the children’s book market, but it’s still pulling big numbers. Middle grade titles contend with the YA stars like John Green and their sales can rival the standard baby-shower gift titles like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Green Eggs and Ham – so it’s time for them to share in the spotlight.

WHO’S READING MIDDLE GRADE?

While middle grade is a commonly-used industry term, there doesn’t seem to be one hard and fast definition. Searching for “middle grade” on the Book Industry Study Group yields no direct results. There aren’t any BISAC codes identifying a book as middle grade. (It’s worth noting that YA BISAC codes were only just added in early 2016.) There are BISAC codes for juvenile fiction (ages 0-11, preschool to grade 6) and of course, YA fiction, (ages 12-18, grade 7-12). Given this, one could assume middle grade presumably falls into the juvenile fiction section with perhaps some overlap into the early years of what BISAC considers YA. I asked around for some answers.

Author Alison Cherry, who has written both YA (most recently Look Both Ways) and middle grade (Willows vs. Wolverines) offered some definitions: “The answer I give people who don’t know anything about publishing is ’Appropriate for kids ages 8-12,’ but of course that’s not relevant to a lot of kids—there are ten-year-olds who read tons of YA, and there are six-year-olds who can handle middle grade with no problem.” Going beyond age ranges, she suggested that “one explanation I really like is that MG is often more internally focused—about figuring out who you are and how you relate to your family and friends—and YA is more broadly focused—about figuring out where you fit into the context of the wider world.”

Book Scout for Maria B. Campbell Associates, Rachel Horowitz had a subtly different answer from Cherry’s: “It often seems to be a bit younger, for ages 7-10 rather than 8-12, which is the traditional age group…I just looked at the latest New York Times Bestseller’s List, and for the middle grade bestsellers, there’s a real age range – but I think the sweet spot is really 7-10.”

IMPRESSIVE SALES

Whatever their age, middle grade readers are big readers. Nielsen’s 2016 Children’s Book Market Report’s top selling authors of the year were loaded with author names you’d expect to see – Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, and John Green. And yet, in the year’s top 5 bestselling authors alone, three are middle grade: Jeff Kinney, author of the Wimpy Kid series; author of beloved Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne; and the “Disney Book Group,” with their Descendants series. This isn’t an anomaly, either. Nielsen’s 2015 Children’s Book Market Report had Jeff Kinney and Mary Pope Osborne on that top 20 list, joined by Rachel Renee Russell, author of the Dork Diaries series. The 2014 report shows Kinney & Osborne again, as well as James Patterson with his Middle School Worst Years series. Through 2014-2016 middle grade authors were up against huge media properties like Minecraft, Star Wars and Frozen, as well as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner series, and middle grade maintained a firm hold in children’s book sales.

TRENDING TOPICS

Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid books are a good example of one of middle grade’s most surprising successes, according to Elise Howard, Editor and Publisher at Algonquin Books for Young Readers. “Humor is the most idiosyncratic and hardest thing to sell,” she said. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which had been serialized online and viewed for free by millions of readers before it appeared in book form, taught everyone in publishing a thing or three about the effect of the internet and ‘free’ on the market for paid work.” Despite humor being tough to nail, there is a definite hunger for it abroad, according to book scout Rachel Horowitz: “Everyone is looking for humor! There were a lot of stories with magical animals this year, an evergreen theme, but people would also like to read something funny.” Interestingly, humor is what author Alison Cherry enjoys so much about the category: “I can get away with writing much goofier situations for middle grade….it’s my favorite part about writing for that age group.”

Another trend in middle grade is serious topics. As Cherry mentioned earlier, middle grade characters are often looking inward, finding out who they are. Horowitz noted some examples of books dealing with these topics that have gone on to be successes: “There have been the pleasant surprises, like how well a book like Wonder, about a disfigured boy mainstreaming into school for the first time, has struck a chord; and George, about a boy who realizes he’s the wrong gender; or Lily and Dunkin’, a wonderful friendship story with a transgender character.” Howard pointed out some additional topics about identity that are growing in popularity: “Although there’s a long way to go to meet readers’ needs in this area, the burgeoning of imprints and auctions for Own Voices fiction suggests that it’s becoming something of a trend.” Howard continued. “It needs now to convert from trend to perennial.” Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 5/22-5/26

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

After the proposed Trump budget cuts, the National Endowment for the Humanities chair has resigned.

Author of Jesus’ Son and Tree of Smoke, Denis Johnson, died yesterday.

Scribd now offers newspaper articles to their subscribers. 

Pottermore partnered with Libro.fm to sell the Harry Potter audiobooks, making them available at indies for the first time.

Amazon’s newest bookstore opened in Midtown Manhattan this week.  

 

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 5/15-5/19

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Harlequin shut down five of its lines.

The American Writers Museum opened this week in Chicago.

In France, the new culture minister is a publisher and the new prime minister writes novels.

Amazon is introducing their own weekly bestseller lists.

Author Laura Kipnis‘s new book about campus sexual politics has drawn a lawsuit.

Trendsetter at the 2017 One Story Debutante Ball

The One Story Debutante Ball is one of the most eagerly-anticipated literary parties in New York. This year’s edition was held on the evening of May 12 at Brooklyn’s Roulette Intermedium, a space friendly to cultural events like this one – though there really isn’t anything else quite like this one.

True to its name, the literary journal One Story publishes one piece at a time, sent out to subscribers every few weeks in small, handsomely-printed booklets. A given writer can only ever appear once. The journal recently celebrated its fifteenth anniversary, and there are now over 225 One Story issues – and, therefore, over 225 One Story authors. Some were already well-known when they joined the roster, but quite a few were just beginning their lives as published writers. Thus the ball, which celebrates the year’s cohort of those who’ve published their first book. Tickets started at $100, though larger donations and corporate sponsorships were welcome: this is the journal’s largest fundraiser of the year.  The guests dressed up accordingly, wearing a striking array of dresses and suits.

I was attending as a volunteer on the rope brigade – more on that later – and arrived early, as the stage lights were being adjusted. The space at Roulette consisted of an open check-in area attached, via double doors, to a dance floor and stage. The dance floor’s decorations were designed and executed by One Story HQ: there were large posters of each book hung from the balconies, as well as banners strung with past issues. From the ceiling hung fairy lights done up to look like clouds and lightning, and along the walls were small tables piled high with the honorees’ books, free for the taking.

(“This is way better than prom,” a fellow volunteer said as we watched the attendees check in at the front table.)

As the evening got underway, it was occasionally difficult to tell who was being celebrated and who was simply celebrating. Trays of hors d’oeuvres circulated as a folk-style four-piece played covers of popular songs. At the bar just outside the dance floor, attendees could pick up a cocktail designed especially for the occasion: it was called “All Is Forgotten” in tribute to Mentor of the Year Lan Samantha Chang’s 2010 novel All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. A few attendees agreed that this was a good name for an alcoholic beverage, period, and it went quickly. The honored guests of the evening mingled with the crowd but were easy to spot, having been given knitted corsages at the door.

Streamers made of One Story issues hung over the dance floor.

Of course, a debutante ball wouldn’t be right without a presentation of the debutantes. About halfway through the party, the honorees were taken to the back of the hall and two lengths of rope were unfurled down the dance floor by volunteers (the aforementioned “rope brigade”), creating an impromptu aisle. The room hushed, though not all at once: “Quiet, debutantes in the back!” One Story co-founder Hannah Tinti ordered.

Once the room was settled, the journal’s other co-founder, Maribeth Batcha, took the microphone to give a few remarks. The ball, held now for eight years in a row, was originally meant to be a playful, bookish spin on an American tradition. However, Batcha said, “each year it becomes a little less cheeky and a little more sacred.”

Then it was time to introduce the debutantes: Sam Allingham, Angelica Baker, Clare Beams, Julie Buntin, Anne Corbitt, Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes, Lisa Ko, Emily Ruskovich, and Melissa Yancy. Each was accompanied down the aisle by a beloved mentor, beaming, while co-founder Hannah Tinti and editor-in-chief Patrick Ryan took turns reading the first sentences from their books. Once onstage, the nine writers and their “dates” were corralled together so the photographer could take a few shots – and most of the room seized the opportunity, too. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 5/8-5/12

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Pearson Education is planning more cuts, including the possible sale of its US K-12 group.

Milo Yiannopoulos will sue Simon & Schuster and self-publish his memoir.

Scholastic launched its summer reading challenge this week.

Bill Clinton is teaming up with James Patterson to write a novel, and Hillary Clinton will speak at this month’s BookExpo.

A new Chrome extension aims to improve book discoverability.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 5/1-5/5

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

The federal budget passed this week actually increases funding for both the NEA and NEH

Tor Books is launching an imprint dedicated to experimental fiction.

The owners of vanity press Tate Publishing have been charged with extortion and embezzlement

Amazon has come to an agreement with the EU over ebook contracts.

George Coe, new COO of Follett Corporation, has retired after just one month.

 

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 4/24-4/28

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Barnes & Noble named a new CEO at last.

Author of the Percy Jackson series Rick Riordan started his own imprint at Hyperion and announced its first titles.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt underwent a round of layoffs this week. 

Amazon launched a new feature, Subscribe with Amazon, for digital subscriptions.

Both the Edgar Awards and PEN Gala were this week. 

BONUS: Tomorrow, Saturday, May 29th, is Independent Bookstore Day! Find out if your local indie is participating here

Keeping It On Campus: University Presses in America

There’s life in publishing outside the Big Five – in fact, university presses have been leading the bookish charge for centuries. Unclear on what kind of work these presses do? Interested in getting involved? We’ve put together an overview to get you up to speed.

A Brief History

In Colonial and Early America, colleges retained their own printers in order to produce catalogs, scholarly publications, and ceremonial materials. The moniker “University Press” was first used at Harvard in 1802, but the university press as we now know it – a producer of journals, monographs, and popular work – didn’t begin to emerge until the end of the 19th century. Even then, it could be rough going: many institutions had to try several times to get their operations up and running successfully. The oldest continuously-operating university press in America, Johns Hopkins University Press, wasn’t founded until 1878, two years after JHU itself. The press at Johns Hopkins was, from the beginning, an integral part of the university’s mission to get scholarly research into the hands of the public.

Then as now, the competitive nature of commercial publishers made it difficult, if not impossible, to devote resources to books that might have a very niche audience. By contrast, many university presses were subsidized by their universities. This was a comparative advantage, since the obligation to gross profits was minimized, and less lucrative titles – monographs, collections of poetry, etc. – could be offered up for sale. And these books ran, as they still do, across nearly every genre, from fiction to scientific research to ethnographic studies. It may, in fact, “be easier to describe a university press by saying what it’s not.” A tour of press catalogs reveals listings in Jewish studies, rural sociology, and contemporary poetry, sometimes side-by-side.

The largest increase in press openings began with the Cold War. The space race spurred a national focus on education, which led to the founding of the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts (NEH and NEA) in 1965. Of course, no boom can last, and this one ended with the 1960s. From 1970 onward the rate at which new presses opened dropped dramatically: only five were opened between 1975 and 2000, down from a high of one a year between 1920 and 1970.

In recent years, uncertain funding and cost-cutting measures have placed a number of presses in jeopardy. Only a handful (including the University of Washington Press and Yale University Press) have endowments, and the rest depend on a variable combination of sales and subsidies. Decreased emphasis on higher education and changing technologies add challenges, too. But these presses aren’t in it alone.

Community

In the 1920s, about two dozen press managers began meeting informally at the end of each year’s meeting of the National Association of Book Publishers. They used these gatherings to share their thoughts and concerns about the business. As the years passed, the group became more and more permanent; in 1937, the group elected a chairman and these managers began to hold meetings of their own. By 1946, bylaws had been adopted and the formal organization process was complete.

Today, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) is the only organization of its kind and currently has over 140 members around the world. Most, though not all, are located in North America. (Exceptions include Wits University Press in South Africa, University of Tokyo Press, and Liverpool University Press.) The association provides its member presses with resources geared toward marketing, data collection and analysis, and professional development.  It also supports collaborative publishing projects and celebrates University Press Week every year with a digital conference. 2016’s events were livestreamed on YouTube. And there are quite a few parties who have reason to be interested: not just press managers anymore, but faculty members, authors, and librarians, too. AAUP supports them all.

There’s also AWP, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, which champions university presses alongside indie presses, graduate writing programs, and more. At its annual conference, press directors and employees get a chance to come together and compare notes at panels and social events. AWP is primarily writer-focused, and so are many of its resources, but it’s still highly useful for both those looking to break into the small-press world and those just looking to network. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 4/17-4/21

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News, but Henry Holt is standing by him.

Audible will no longer allow its users to gift credits.

Canute hopes to bring a multiple-line Braille ereader to market. 

All this week, Penguin Random House is running #ProjectReadathon in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Ivanka Trump’s tweet for National Library Week drew Twitter‘s ire.