Monday, June 09, 2008

Are Series Books Ruling the Shelves?

A discussion organised by the Children’s Book Circle
On the 7th May, I attended the CBC Event about series books. There was a panel of speakers, debating whether series books were a good or bad thing. There was no conclusion to this debate but, what was apparent is the amount of series books that are dominating the shelves. So the answer to the question is, YES, for children's fiction, series books are ruling the shelves.

Helen Stables - 2Heads

2heads produce specific children’s fiction. Helen showed us the Nielsen children’s fiction chart 2007.
20,373,836 books sold in 2007 with a value of £113,320,892.09
2% of titles account of 38% of sales
There were only 18 ‘non-series’ books in top 100 titles. Most of these were brand names like Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pullman.

There were only three single titles by new authors in the top 100 titles. These were:

Children are drawn to series books and authors they know. This is why series are so popular. Helen recommended we read Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Steve Cole – Author

He is 1/75th of Lucy Daniels

Steve has written lots of children’s books including Astrosaurs series and the Cows in Action series, He has also written for the Dr Who series of books.

Steve said you can’t just have a big idea, you can’t just have a big marketing plan you need to be a good writer. Just because it’s commercial it doesn’t make it bad. Just because it is part of a series does not make it bad. Series books encourage children to read. If children are enjoying something it has to be a good thing.

There was some debate whether if they are written under a pseudonym is it deceiving the child. But, is this necessarily bad if the books are getting the children to read?

Chris Snowden – Working Partners

Series books have got a bad name so much that at one point he called them multiple books to avoid the dissonance. A series is a sequence of books like the Rainbow Magic series. A trilogy is a series of books with familiar characters. Markets work with pendulum swings.

Working Partners works by having a team of creators who create stories and hire wonderful writers to put flesh on the bones. Once you have engaged children as readers you can develop the message. If a child has enjoyed a particular book in the series you have succeeded in something. Series books benefit the book sellers. Stand alone books tend to start at an older age. Series books make more sense for the younger age group.

Fiction is blooming in the world of children’s books.

Anne Cassidy – Author

Anne has been writing for twenty years. She started as a crime writer and wrote for the series East End Murders. She also wrote some of the Point series books before she started writing stand-alone novels. But, she always wrote this series fiction under her own name.

It is a good devise for re-visiting characters and developing story. Series fiction gives a sense of comfort, like meeting an old friend and draws them into a familiar world but gives a few surprises as well. Anne feels such series books should be developed by a writer and not by a company. Stand alone books has more kudos because it is written by an author because they enjoy it. Stand alone books are a work of art. There are no prizes for series fiction. Richard and Judy champion stand alone books.

Anne believes we need to make stand alone more appealing. You never know when a series fiction is going to take off it could be the first book it could be the eighth do publishers give enough time for a series to take off?

To release six titles in a series at once is part of the hype. They are called breeders because they breed readers. They are trying to buy instant loyalty. Word of mouth is the best way to get a series off the ground. Promotion does the work. You’ve got to promote. This is tough as it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. You need someone to champion the cause and this is when you need a good agent.

Book sellers drive the sale of books. Websites tend to focus on new publications.


Anonymous said...

i'm so glad you posted this. missed the evening and i really wanted to go.

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

I hope you find the information useful.

Mickmouse said...

Interesting discussion on the series issue. My son adores the Astrosaur books and is beginning to try to read them for himself a bit (he is 6). My next door neighbour's daughter is reading the Daisy Meadows Fairy books for herself at night (also 6 years old). I agree with Steve Cole, if they are written well it encourages reading and a passion for books in some children as they are eager for more of what theya re enjoying.
It does pose a question for aspiring authors such as myself when one embarks on writing for children as to whether the expectation is that you write with the potential for a series in mind.
Thank you for the informative and useful post

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

Hi Michelle,
I think authors do need to consider whether they are writing a stand alone book or a series. Shoo Rayner explained at the SCBWI retreat, when he writes a series he plots all the books out beforehand. This helps him with continutity and the humour, etc.