For most children’s publishers, 2000 was tough going with the considerable drop in educational spending after the boomtime of the Year of Reading. The demise of some of the US popular fiction series has exacerbated the problem as publishers seek to find viable replacements. The focus for 2001 will no doubt increasingly be on frontlist publishing related to current trends or on licensed titles of the Pokémon or Disney kind.
For literary fiction this sounds like very bad news. However, the J. K. Rowling rollercoaster reminds us that individual authors are also commanding considerable attention. The Bookseller reports that at the end of December Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold more than 18,000 copies in one week. Joining Ms Rowling at the top of the children’s bestseller lists were Jacqueline Wilson with Vicky Angel, Girls Out Late and The Illustrated Mum and Philip Pullman with The Amber Spyglass. This is very good news for fiction.
2000 was also the year when regional awards for children’s fiction continued to proliferate – to the extent that BfK does not always have space to report on their winning titles. Organised in the main by schools and libraries, such awards (eg the Angus Book Award, the South Lanarkshire Book Award, the Lancashire County Library Children’s Book of the Year Award, the Sheffield Children’s Book Award, the Wirral Paperback of the Year etc), invariably involve young readers in the judging process and are a clear sign that enthusiasm for reading continues to be fostered throughout the country. That children love reading and sharing their recommendations is also attested to by our own Good Reads column – a slot that always has a lengthy waiting list.
But if Rowling, Wilson and Pullman are in the best seller lists, there are many other fine writers of fiction who are not and for whom marketing budgets have little to offer. In future issues of BfK we will be focusing on some of these writers and their recent titles which are also deserving of attention.