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Sourcebooks NEXT.

Sourcebooks Next Blog

We’re at a historic point in the transformation the book.

Ebooks, reading devices, retailers and e-tailers, software and apps, and all the cool things we haven’t even imagined yet are changing the face of reading, entertainment and learning. Sourcebooks Next is our blog looking not from the perspective of pundit or prognosticator, but from the perspective of a publisher deeply engaged in the workings of the transformation. Please feel free to join us.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

At BEA 2016 a group of children’s publishing industry experts gathered to talk about current and upcoming trends in picture books and middle grade. Editorial Director Steve Geck of Sourcebooks moderated the panel and David Kleeman (Dubit), Andrew Medlar (Chicago Public Library), Betsy Bird (Evanston Public Library), with surprise guest Jamie Thomas (Women & Children First) provided the expert knowledge.

Trends in Picture Books and Middle Grade Panel

From left to right, Steve Geck, David Kleeman, Betsy Bird, Jamie Thomas, and Andrew Medlar.

Technology: How Kids Are Reading

Kleeman kicked off the panel with trend information from quarterly research among 1000 families in the UK and the US on the reading habits and preferences of children. His results show that 70% of children prefer to read printed books over digital, and that when children are sharing their favorite books with friends the easiest way to do that is with a printed book.

Kleeman identified five major trends they are seeing:

  1.      Smartphone + tablet + TV = foundation of kid’s technology
  2.      YouTube is a kid’s Google
  3.      Connected worlds – examples include Google Cardboard, Magic Leap and virtual reality
  4.      Personalization
  5.      Gen Z communicates in emojis

Bird shared that they have seen a big increase in people obtaining library cards and many of those people are joining the library in order to have access to ebooks, but ebook sales on picture books are flat to down. Medlar pointed out that children’s behavior patterns are often picked up from their parents, so when they see a parent constantly on their phone texting or playing games, they want to do the same. There is a book out there for every person, but the reader has to find it, which is what librarians help facilitate.

Picture Books

For decades picture books have been a very backlist-driven business. Yearly sales have historically been roughly 75 – 80% backlist and 20 – 25% frontlist, but in recent years there has been a big shift in people purchasing new, frontlist titles. Bird felt that new printing technology has allowed for brighter, more colorful books. Geck pointed out that there has also been a tremendous shift in the way the art for picture books is put together. Most artists now work with some sort of digital art, as opposed to sticking solely with more traditional techniques like watercolor and gouache, which also allows for brighter colors and a wider variety of styles.

Middle Grade

Medlar pointed out three trends that he sees represented by the 2016 Newbery Medalists. First, Last Stop on Market Street was an example of a picture book tackling a deeper and more complex issue. This is something that more picture books are taking on. Second, Roller Girl is a graphic novel, an area where demand continues to increase. And third, The War That Saved My Life is very much in the category of classic literature that has always had strong readership.

Trends In Picture Books and Middle Grade Book Examples

Thomas is also seeing a lot of stand-alone mystery titles that are expanded into series when the initial book is successful in stores.


Diversity of reading materials and characters continues to be a trend. Thomas said there has been a significant increase in the number of teachers and librarians shopping in the store looking for books that feature diversity. Bird also noted that there has been growth in nonfiction featuring obscure and unknown stories, far more than what has traditionally been published in the past.

Thomas would love to see more authors who are Muslim or biracial writing about biracial children and Muslim children, and Bird would like to see more international books translated to English.

Social Media

When it comes to social media, Medlar noted that the influence really depends on “the height of the patron.” YouTube is most effective for the youngest readers, Snapchat is where many school-aged children are, and Pinterest is a great platform for reaching adults. Geck told how he saw this play out for the picture book The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes. [cover image to be included] Published in the fall of 2011, sales increased dramatically over the summer of 2012 when parents and educators began recommending it on Pinterest for children feeling pressured to succeed in school. The book has enjoyed a similar sales bump every summer. Thomas said that many authors have great success with engagement when posting on Instagram.

These five major trends give both booksellers and publishers some insight not only into what kind of books young readers will be looking for, but also the ways that those readers are discovering, sharing and learning.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

At BEA, a group of ABA booksellers got together with National Sales Manager Heidi Weiland of Sourcebooks to talk about creating amazing store events. These expert booksellers provided insight into creating great events around authors, themes, holidays, or other special occasions targeting young readers.

Best Bets for Childrens Events Panelists

Panelists Becky Anderson (Anderson’s Bookshop), Cynthia Compton (4 Kids Books and Toys), Meghan Dietsche Goel (BookPeople), and Valerie Koehler (Blue Willow Bookshop) have been running children’s events for years and shared the benefit of their knowledge with the bookseller audience:

  • The stores that have many successful events today started out with no success stories and had to build up their event program. It can take years, but you have to keep doing the work.
  • Local connections are key with PTA and PTO organizations, service groups, mom’s groups, or whatever is in your community. The key is to connect with these organizations and partner with them to create all types of successful events.
  • Working with local authors is crucial. This can be done through launch parties, school events, and community outreach and can grow to a national presence for the author. The local indie bookseller can then provide books for those events.
  • All bookstores start from a place of fear that they will do everything right for an event but no one will show up. Everyone has had this experience—you just have to keep moving forward.

Ultimately, there are no silver bullets to creating a great event, but lots of local connections really help. Events are a lot of work, but as you continue to create amazing experiences for your customers, you will see your reputation, your knowledge, and the success of your events continue to grow.

 Publishers Weekly also did a great writeup of the panel, which you can check out here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The romance community is often stigmatized, and with the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas last week, we took the opportunity to launch the #ireadromance social media campaign, which highlights all of the wonderful reasons why people read romance. A Twitter follower of ours may have said it best: 

 Tweet from @KetoBrat: These are awesome

The conference is organized by RT Book Reviews and this year more than 2,500 attendees—composed of readers, bloggers, librarians, booksellers, and published/aspiring romance, YA, and fiction authors—gathered at the Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel & Casino to celebrate all things romance!

We armed our authors with dry-erase boards and #ireadromance buttons and asked them to connect with readers and fellow authors. We wanted them to ask attendees to share just one of the reasons why they love reading romance. What we received was a wonderful mix of powerful pictures that showcase all of the diverse reasons why people love to read romance novels.

Enjoy these photos, check out more on Twitter @SourcebooksCasa, and tell us why you read romance on social media by using the hashtag #ireadromance. 

 ireadromance collage

Friday, April 15, 2016


More than one hundred friends, loved ones, and neighbors celebrated the release of Cards for Brianna: A Mom’s Messages of Living, Laughing, and Loving as Time Is Running Out at A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jeff and Brianna at A Room Of Ones Own with Brianna's purple cake

(Jeff and Brianna McManamy)

Heather McManamy, a Wisconsin mom diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, wrote the book for her young daughter as an extension of the dozens of greeting cards she had written for all of the future milestones and moments she would miss. Heather died on December 15, 2015 just one day after she turned in the manuscript. Heather’s story resonated with many people. When her husband, Jeff, posted this on her Facebook page in December 2015, over 100,000 people reacted to it, sharing their own love, tears, and support.

Jeff and their daughter, Brianna, signed copies of the book for everyone who came out to remember Heather with laughs, tears, and hugs.

Brianna signing books at A Room of Ones Own

In a post on Heather’s Facebook page, Jeff wrote:

I post about it in the hopes that it touches more lives and maybe even changes a couple along the way

“I have been asked a lot this week what this book means to me and should mean to others. I finally realized today exactly what this book is. It's a guide that Heather left us. A guide to teach us how to live more, laugh harder and love without boundaries, even when faced with the harshest realities. I don't post about Cards for Brianna to sell more books, I post about it in hopes that it touches more lives and maybe even changes a couple along the way.”

NBC15-TV, WISC-TV and WKOW-TV all covered the event, as everyone who attended enjoyed a giant cake with lots of purple frosting—Brianna’s favorite!

Brianna and dad Jeff with co-author William Croyle and editor Anna Michels

(Editor Anna Michels, Jeff McManamy, coauthor William Croyle, and Brianna McManamy)

Heather’s coauthor, William Croyle, attended the signing and said of his experience in working with Heather in the last week of her life:

“I think Heather initially saw Cards for Brianna as simply something fun to do, but the more we got into it, the more she was able to understand what an awesome impact it could have on the world. Everything glorious about her—the love, energy, compassion, honesty, resiliency, humor, humbleness—shines through this book.”

Heather shared her enthusiasm about the book on Facebook in December. ”Seriously, thank you to everyone who convinced me that this was one of those YOLO! opportunities I simply had to go for. The timing couldn’t have been crazier, but talk about an amazing alignment of the stars to have something so positive and fun to focus on.”

A portion of the proceeds from print book sales of Cards for Brianna in the first month of publication will benefit METAvivor, a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that funds research for metastatic cancer.

Jeff talks with guests and Brianna signs books and sips milk

A crowd of friends and family fill the bookstore for the event


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