Raising the profile of children’s non-fiction – that was the challenge discussed at the Society of Authors on 3 November.
Its Childrens’s Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) held a meeting entitled ‘Nonfiction: A World of Opportunities’. It was addressed by Caroline Royds and Dan Pattinson (Walker Books – http://www.walker.co.uk/) and Debbie Foy (Wayland: https://www.hachettechildrens.co.uk/), and chaired by Nibweb member Nicola Morgan. The blurb from the meeting said: ‘All four are loud advocates for well-written non-fiction and hope to inspire you with possibilities, while also facing the real challenges of today’s markets.’
This proved true, and among a great many interesting points made were that:
- Wayland (part of Hachette, and hitherto very much a school-library type of publisher) is making a serious move into trade non-fiction (with one-off titles featuring as well as series), and
- (this especially from Walker) non-fiction titles really have to be US-friendly. That’s because the genre has a much higher profile here than there. (See other articles on this page.)
This difference between the US and UK markets has been raised before by Lionel Bender (see this page) who runs a regular non-fiction conference in the US. The big challenge must be to make non-fiction something that works in the UK, too.
How can this be done – when reviews of children’s non-fiction are as rare as the proverbial hens’ teeth, bookshops rarely stock it and – it appears – children in schools are not encouraged to read non-fiction? There’s a long way to go.
But Walker do seem to be able to publish successfully in this area, and Wayland are taking the plunge. Let’s wish them luck.
PS The difference between the US and UK’s attitudes to non-fiction is emphasised by Stewart Ross, who draws our attention to the US ‘common core’ curriculum. Especially, he says, ‘point 3.’ See: http://www.corestandards.org/other-resources/key-shifts-in-english-language-arts/