Inside USA Publishing...Connie Hsu, Commissioning Editor, Roaring Brook USA


Roving Reporter: Sandy Fussell

Exposing the present publishing situation in the USA ... Connie Hsu, Comissioning Editor of Roaring Brook USA

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Connie Hsu is the Senior Commissioning Editor of the Roaring Book imprint of Pan Macmillan USA and prior to that was Senior Editor at Little, Brown and Company. Connie presented an overview of US publishing today, what she looks for and what the future might hold.

What’s going on

In 2013 (in order of sales), the best-selling categories were Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Murder/Mystery and Series. Movies are a key sales driver. A recent Bowker study revealed the strongest selling US publishing market is children’s books

Key sellers are Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Barnes and Noble has seen losses in recent years with the failure of the Nook and the rise of Amazon. However it may partner with Samsung in the future. Amazons eBook share is 30% of all books.

Emerging retailers are the Mass Stores such as Target and Wal-Mart. While they are not investing in new books but taking those which have established sales or have movie tie-ins, it is resulting in more space given to books.

Independent bookstores belong to the American Booksellers Association. The number of bookstores has declined significantly but the past year saw membership grow 6% and sales up 8%. Less than 10%of books are sold by independents but they have a measurable influence and can still create a bestseller. For more information on Independent bookstores in the USA visit the Indie Bound website.

James Patterson holds 1% of the book market and has introduced a personal program of grants to independent bookstores.

34% Young Adult readers are aged 18-29 years. There is a strong crossover market. Teenagers still prefer print books. Ebook sales are up 30% but this is believed to be due to the impact of adult readers.

The industry is walking away from the term “New Adult” as it has come to mean YA with steamy scenes.

What’s Selling

Young Adult – dystopian, high fantasy emerging

Middle Grade – illustrated series (although the market is currently “flooded”), graphic novels emerging.

Picture Books - mashups of two commercial ideas eg crayons and friendship

What We Look for

In a book/author, the key factors are high concept, movie drivers, series potential, sales comparisons, social media presence, broad appeal/accessibility and literary/award-winning. Selling points are quotes, reviews, 15 word keynote, author bio, active on social media, timely issues, and illustrations encouraging reluctant readers.

A third book is often the best seller as it capitalises on word of mouth.

What’s in the future

Picture Books – non-fiction/educational, information picture books e.g. a boy who solves the mystery of the missing pizza with fractions and charts or Hello Ruby where Ruby meets characters who are computer programs like the Linus penguin

Middle Grade – realistic literary eg Wonder

Young Adult – Realistic, romance, issue-driven eg Eleanor and Park, Zac and Mia

Connie mentioned the website Swoon Reads for the submission of contemporary romance.

During Question Time Connie discussed:

·        The financial challenge working with overseas authors. While she does have overseas authors such as R. A. Spratt, it is difficult in relation to publicity where the school market needs a personal presence.

·        Illustration in books for 8-12 years and that she saw room for appropriate illustration in YA (including comic books, graphic novels)- “the wise use of art for older readers”.

·        Historical fiction as a niche market benefiting from a genre twist.