3 Key Takeaways from the Nielsen Children’s Book Summit

In English Language by Hannah Johnson

Nielsen childrens book summit 2015

Children’s books are boosting the global publishing industry. Here’s what you need to know to capitalize on this opportunity.

By Hannah Johnson

Despite modest growth or even decline in adult book sales in many countries, children’s books are selling well around the world. Why is this and what can publishers do to maximize this opportunity? At the second Nielsen Children’s Book Summit in New York on Wednesday, these (and many other) questions fueled the day-long discussion.

As expected from an event organized by a leading research company, many sessions were packed with data and statistics, but the conclusions that Nielsen speakers provided based on their data had the audiences scribbling down notes and taking a closer look at the data charts projected onto the big screen.

Here are three conclusions presented at the Summit that struck a chord with attendees.

Media Tie-Ins are Huge … and Growing

frozen book
In a session on content trends in kid’s books, Kristen McLean, Director of New Business Development at Nielsen, told the audience that sales of media tie-ins in juvenile fiction are growing enormously. Over the last three years, sales of media tie-ins have shown a 183% compound growth, driven by Frozen. In 2014, Frozen commanded a 73% market share of media tie-in sales in the USA. As we continue into 2015, Frozen sales are beginning to slow, making room in this high-potential category for other media properties.

On the nonfiction side of media tie-ins, McLean said that Scholastic’s Minecraft series dominates with a 41% market share, and that the popularity of fiction licensing in books is carrying over into nonfiction. With 14% compound growth over there last three years, nonfiction media tie-ins on games, hobbies and activity books also show plenty of potential.

If You’re Not Thinking Multicultural, You’re Missing Out

Courtney Jones, in charge of Multicultural Growth and Strategy for Nielsen Entertainment, started her talk by saying that multicultural consumers (vs. non-Hispanic white consumers) in the U.S. will account for 86% of the total growth in consumer spending in coming years. She also pointed to U.S. census data which tells us that 51% of children under the age of 9 are multicultural.

How do these insights this align with your content creation and marketing strategies for the future?

As publishers consider which books to publish and how to market these books, multicultural consumers should be a top priority. Embracing multicultural readers isn’t about being politically correct, Jones said, but about recognizing who your consumers are, what they want, and where the growth potential lies.

McLean added that although multicultural consumers and content represent a huge growth opportunity, including those consumers and authors is something that the publishing industry has not been addressing well enough. Here’s proof.

YA is a Confusing Label

Around 80% of readers for young adult books are not teens, but adults, according to Nielsen’s estimate. Is YA really a juvenile category, or does it mean that we need to change the label to include adult readers in the target audience for these titles? And where does that leave teen readers who want to read great books they can relate to?

In two different panels, one consisting of adults who read YA books and the other of suburban teen readers, the panelists expressed frustration with the label “young adult.” The adults thought that YA books were just as relevant for them and didn’t want to feel any shame reading books meant for younger readers. The teen readers felt similarly that the YA label implied that teen readers weren’t able understand or read adult books.

Tweets about the panel discussions under the hashtag #kidsbooksummit sparked an online discussion among authors, readers, librarians and publishers about what exactly YA is, who it’s for, and how to market these titles. Some were upset that YA should be appropriated by adult readers, others claimed that adults shouldn’t feel ashamed of reading teen books. The conclusion of many authors and libraries was that YA should be preserved as a genre for teens, but that shouldn’t prevent adults from reading YA as well. Take a look at the tweets and this reaction from librarian Molly Wetta.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.