Friday, March 26, 2010

Children’s Books

I thought about titling this post “Bringing Children’s Books into the Twenty-First Century,” but it seemed too long.

There’s been a lot going on this week, including L. Diane Wolfe’s fabulous post yesterday. Thank you, Diane for stopping by! So, this is the first chance I’ve had to write about a Washington Post article I read from last Sunday. The title of that article was “The Future of Children’s Book Publishing.” (Except without the capitalization - has anybody else noticed that article titles online no longer capitalize except for the first word? I’m probably the only person this bugs.)

The article covered some things we already know, like:
Publishers are trying to entice kids to read books by offering companion Web sites that are graphic-rich and able to plunge young readers into the story. Along with the tale on the page, kids can dip into online videos and games, win prizes, create Internet identities and get into social networking.
You may wonder why publishers would put so much money into the online presence when what they want to do is sell the print book. Michael Norris, an analyst for the media research firm Simba Information, said:
"If you think about the long-term future of the industry, the people who are reading 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' today will hopefully be reading a thick piece of literature in a few years."
Publishers are aware of the attraction of the Internet and know that “entertaining the kids with the printed page seems to grow more difficult by the year.” Kids, even young kids, are turning to computers, games, television and even cell phones for entertainment.
In January, a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that the time spent on all entertainment by kids from 8 to 18 rose from 6.5 hours a day five years ago to 7.5 hours a day. But only 25 minutes were typically spent reading a book.
So publishers are going where the kids go. Online. With online games that include giveaways like collectible cards or fun gadgets like Disney’s Digital Book site where kids can turn pages with a “magic pen.” HarperCollins published a missing-girl mystery, "The Amanda Project," with a major online social networking component. And they’re, of course, releasing e-books.

Jeff Kinney, author of the best-selling series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, summed it all up:
"At the heart, you still have to have good storytelling," Kinney said. "You can't resort to gimmickry and hope to retain an audience."
We all know that authors have to have an online presence in today’s world. Whether you write for the adult, teen, ‘tween or children’s market, what things do you add to your site to help with promotion?
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  1. Having a children's book published it getting more and more difficult. I can see how having a story that has potential for a good online presence (eg: a mystery story that can become an online game) is a big plus.

    For the record, I'm also bugged by the lack of capitalization in titles.

  2. Some of it is gimmicky. I wonder at what point we will become so saturated with all the bells, whistles, and gadgets that we no longer respond to any of it?

  3. I agree with Alex. It seems that every season publishing and authors have to jump through more and more innovative hoops to catch their readers. So as a writer, I wonder how many hoops are too many? When does the art of writing get lost in all of it?

  4. Liked your post. Someday I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away.

  5. I'm relting this year on hosting other bloggers and authors. I know so many people who have so much to offer that I am only beginning to understand. I want these people who have been around for many years sharing their experiences and wisdom.

    Stephen Tremp

  6. I think it's a great idea. If there's some way to draw people from online to a book and vice versa, both sides benefit.

  7. Seams like capitalization in titles varies from one publisher to the other. The journal "Geophysics" (by SEG in Tulsa OK), where I have published most of the science crap I write, has never used capitalized titles.

  8. I guess I'm so old, I used to read actual paper news articles where words in titles were capitalized.

    Alex and Joanne, I think when people get so used to these bells and whistles that they don't pay any attention to them, publishers and writers will come up with new add-ons for their books.

  9. Nikki, when I click on your name it takes me to a cryo freezer place, did you know that?

  10. I think it's great. Anything that gets kids more involved in books is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

  11. Publishers are moving in the right direction. My three year old jumps on the computer everyday to the play at

  12. I'm glad to see publishers trying to stay ahead of the curve so they don't get left behind.

  13. Funny, I've been drawn to this topic of late. Just got a book on writing children's books to read up on it. Picture books seem to be especially tricky for a writer to learn the ropes.

  14. I just wonder when all the on-line games will take the place of reading completely. Step back several years and think about how many kids saw the Harry Potter movies without reading all the glorious details in the books. Yet, they still all jumped on the HP bandwagon, even though they missed a great deal of the fun. I have to say this idea of companion games worries me unless they are structured such that they have to go hand and hand with the book.

  15. I know I'm not answering your question here, Helen, but just a couple other thoughts:

    When I was on the newspaper staff in college, we learned that there were two ways, in print journalism, to "do" titles: Capitalize the first letter of the first word and none of the other letters, or Capitalize every first letter of every word. I think the Capitalizing-every-first-letter thing was considered old fashioned. *wink* No offense, Helen! :)

    I was just thinking the other day that I wish there were MORE children's books out there. We have our whole public library system at our disposal and I'm still having trouble finding enough books for my 8-year-old to read because she's voracious. I can barely buy her a book any more because she finishes it in ten minutes! Good problem, I know! So please editors ... more, more, more! I'm sure my daughter isn't the only one who still spends much more time with her nose in a book than online!

    Thanks for the post, Helen.


  16. I can't believe I didn't find this blog sooner! Where on earth have I been?! Well, oversight corrected. Phew! :-)

  17. I don't have a lot of bells and whistles on my Web site. My daughter, who designed the site and studied Web commerce as part of her Web certification said that sites filled with lots of graphics, etc, are not recommended. Of course, I don't think the professor was considering sites specifically aimed at kids, who do like all kinds of bells and whistles.

    On another note, I, too, hate that headlines are no longer headlines. Just another sentence. That is popular now in press releases, too.

  18. Writtenwyrdd, I've heard that, too, about picture books.

    It seems to me, Liza, unless the online companion stuff makes money, it would have to be trying to get people to buy the books. Otherwise, why have it?

    Amy, you're right, both my kids were big readers. They quickly advanced to books beyond their age. Also, you're right about the title caps. I am old school. Sometimes, I use the new way when I'm attributing to an article. Guess I need to just go new school all the way.

    Welcome, Shannon. You're here now! We've been waiting.

    I'm with you, Maryann. Usually if I go to a site, I just want to find what I need and get out. I don't want to be trapped there.

  19. The kids in my class still love to read. None of them have gotten into the book with online sites, but I've heard they're out there.

  20. Amy, I know nothing about the publishing end or about your situation, but a library's book budget also influences the size of the collection. I heard a children's librarian (public) say that when budget cuts come, her collection development funds are slashed so People magazine can stay on the shelf.

    I used to capitalize my blog titles but then decided to rebel. But I expect other people to capitalize theirs. My areas of concern are the demise of the serial comma (I have to read those sentences twice) and the migration of quotation marks from outside to inside the end punctuation marks. "But you have strayed from the topic", she said.

  21. Ooh, Kathy, I'm editing a book for a client right now where I have to migrate the quotation mark back where it belongs. I'm okay with not capitalizing the title, but I'm not yet ready to migrate the punctuation mark.

  22. I think online presence is about making readers feel involved. Maybe one day books can be more integrated, and make people feel more involved without a special site.

    What ever happened to that future of publishing series you were covering?


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