Saturday 20 January 2018

YA fiction: A booming market

David Walliams has proven a bestseller with his tales for children
David Walliams has proven a bestseller with his tales for children

The children's books industry is booming, with sales accounting for about 30pc of the total market value and growing 10pc each year. YA (young adult) titles in particular regularly appear on bestseller lists. According to writer Sarah Webb, YA sales have exploded because adults are increasingly buying novels that are primarily pitched at teenagers. Sometimes publishers explicitly acknowledge a novel's crossover appeal by putting out two editions. In the UK, Brian Conaghan's 2014 novel When Mr Dog Bites was released with an adult as well as a children's cover.

In the UK and Ireland, 14pc of the children's books market comes from sales of just three authors: JK Rowling, Julia Donaldson, who wrote the Gruffalo, and comedian, actor and TV personality David Walliams. Walliams' books such as The Boy in the Dress, Gangsta Granny and Billionaire Boy are frequently compared to Roald Dahl. Jeff Kinney, who writes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, is also one of the biggest sellers in the industry.

But when it comes to format, the children's books market is clearly focused on actual books, as that seems to be what children prefer reading.

"Children are not interested in reading on Kindle or on their phones," says Webb who is curating the children's programme of the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival which runs until tomorrow.

"Nintendo put a lot of money into making little books that you could plug into your Game Boy, but what they found was that children did not want to read books on their Game Boy, they wanted to play games on their Game Boy... Children are happy to read - and they want to read - on paper."

Irish leaders

Irish writers impact strongly on the children's book market. Some of the notable and up-and-coming names include:

Eoin Colfer

The Artemis Fowl series by the Wexford ex-teacher has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Illegal, Colfer's graphic novel written with Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano, is due out this autumn. The book explores the idea of asylum through the story of two brothers travelling from Africa to Europe.

Roddy Doyle

Doyle has written several books for children. His latest children's book is Rover and the Big Fat Baby.

Dave Rudden

Rudden's three-book fantasy series was the subject of a bidding war in 2014 before being bought by Puffin in the UK. Knights of the Borrowed Dark, the first novel in the series, is Dublin UNESCO City of Literature's Citywide Read for 2017.

Oliver Jeffers

Raised in the North, writer and illustrator Jeffers has won numerous awards including, on three occasions, the Specsavers Children's Book of the Year. His picture book The Day the Crayons Quit was number one on the New York Times bestseller list.

Eílis Barrett

From Galway, Barrett was just 16 when she released her debut YA novel last March. The dystopian science-fiction story Oasis garnered much critical acclaim and its sequel, Genesis, is out later this spring.

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