Good news all round from The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference 2015

2015 was a record-breaking year in growth and turnover. Last year the numbers were the best since Neilson reports began. 

We stand strong together, agents, retailers, publishers, authors, illustrators, editors, art directors proving we are one of the most robust industries in the world. We weather dramatic financial and technological storms like an oak tree and still the day comes when the sun shines again and the printed book is sailing back on calm waters. Clive McFarlane 800

The Bookseller Children’s Conference took place on Tuesday 29th September; with Bright opening our first exhibition, ‘Where The Story Began’; an illustrated exhibition detailing the journeys of some of Bright’s greatest emerging new talent.

By Vicki Willden-Lebrecht – MD and Founder of The Bright Group.


It was an extremely informative day and I thought it would be really helpful for all creative folks to share some of the knowledge that I took away. I am not covering the entire event just the bits that shone out to me.

Bookseller Title Side 1


Growth numbers was a focal point for most speakers.

  • 75% of young people prefer print with only 16% preferring e-books
  • 16 million adults buy kids books and/or magazines
  • From age three and up, children want to read what’s familiar, so series publishing has an advantage
  • Passion for the physical book has not diminished

The Love and the Wonder

Throughout the day many speakers peppered their talks with the wonder, discovery, and innovation, alongside the general love and passion that is instilled into all of us, that make books.

Wide Eyed Slides

Rachel Williams and Jenny Brooms, Wide Eyed Editions explained that it is this love that allows us to create books that knit families together. They create a nurturing environment and the time a parent has with their children reading grows a close bond that cannot be beaten by anything else. A few thoughts from across the day –

  • Reading books in families is special and desirable, compared to screen time
  • Books build concentration and encourage critical thinking
  • Books aid mental navigation and memory
  • Books are immersive, tactile reading devices


What parents and children look for

  • Content that their children will read over literary prowess
  • Stories to hook them so they can read and read and buy more and more books
  • Recognition and familiarities, leading to the popular series-led publishing
  • To be entertained, thrilled, taught and to empathise emotionally with the story, its journey and its characters.

A great example of Brights successful series-led picture books are Sue Hendra’s Wanda and The Alien, with Random House, now successful TV show on Milkshake, Nickelodeon, produced by Komixx



Series Publishing

  • The human instinct to gather and build reserves for survival leads to a childhood passion for collecting things
  • Children from as young as 2 want series-led content, they want books that are familiar and they want the next one. This continues through early years and then plateaus in early teens, when the drive for individualism and discovering the new takes over (Cally Poplack at Egmont)


Egmont Stats


Vicki Speaks on the Panel

With Laura Bethany Main Ellen – Lead Children’s Bookseller at Waterstones Piccadilly, Ed Ripley – Sales and Marketing Director at Walker Books and Tamara McFarlane – Independent Retailer, as a  retailer from The Bright Emporium 


During the Bookseller Conference, I sat on a panel about retailers and how publishers, artist and agents can all work together to make more books sell. Speaking as a retailer, with the Bright Emporium opening for business on the 14th November; we were able to discuss the potential of creating innovative spaces. The Bright Emporium is a multi-sensory experience for children to immerse themselves into the content of books.

The Emporium is not focused on selling books, but selling the content of the books. We are selling the sizzle not the sausage – the sizzle being the story, the sausage being the book. Books don’t just arrive; they are a creative process of ideas, storytelling and messages. They are also the drawings, the characters, the colours and the landscapes, sewn and stitched together. Every artist and every writer are all different. They are all exploring ways in which they reach and recognise their ideas, bringing them to life through hard work and creative inspiration. The Emporium is a space where children and families can appreciate and discover this creative journey, for them to connect with the creative content of books and celebrate their favourite stories. They can meet authors, buy artwork; take a bit of a book home. It’s a showroom to all books – it’s about content rather than product. We will make reading cool. It is about discovering the world around you. Stories that evoke emotions and inspire you will help guide you to be a better person, better parent, better human being. Books, children’s books especially, celebrate the goodness of what we want the next generation to be.

One of my favourite quotes from Quentin Blake sums this up for me –

‘Children’s books, books for the young, are one of the most interesting and lively aspects of British publishing. We are amongst the world leaders. Even more to the point, however is that these books, at their best, are the primers in the development of the emotional, moral, the imaginative life. And they can be a celebration of what its like to be a human being. That is why they are important.’




  • There was a focus on brands – 24% of the entire children’s book industry sales come from 20 of the top brands.
  • What is really exciting to us, the creators of children’s content, is that 55% of these brands came from book original brands, and only 16% came from TV, 14% from digital and 7% from films.
  • And, most exciting for new authors and illustrators, 13 of the top 20 brands emerged in the last 2 years alone.
  • Giving great hope that new content is being released and breaking through to the best sellers all the time.

Will these be the brands of the future?



Brand Extensions

If you’re an author illustrator that wants to extend your ideas reach, here are some great tips on creating series from the creators of Guess How Much I Love You (Walker Books), which celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year –


  • Children love books that have a strong central message.
  • Extending a story into a brand is about making sure to stay strong and consistent with the core values of the story and characters.
  • Clearly defining characters and styles helps a brand grow.
  • Great story extensions take advantage of changing seasons, anniversaries and associations.

The trans-media journeys of some of children’s publishing’s biggest brands, such as Minecraft, show that digital and print should be treated as friends. This tremendous digital craze led to print publishing’s largest ever brand expansion. As an agency that develops artists and content for children, I thought these were great, simple principles, opening up a lot of questions to ask yourself as your ideas evolve. Cally Poplack summed up Egmont’s approach to children’s books, in terms of what publishers publish. She asks –

  • Is what you’re working on what children love to read and what their parents are prepared to buy?

I felt greatly enthused and proud that Bright represents so much of the future in children’s publishing and that our artists have every potential and opportunity to develop the classics of the future. With our current successes, continued assault on the bestseller lists, having a great eye for new great content and the energy and expertise to drive these forward, we are in a fantastic position in an industry that after 10 years is really picking up speed.




A point of interest: The Korean market is up 11% Bright has always done a lot with Korea. As a nation it loves great art, British design and education.

Korea & Trends

Other trends of what overseas publishing houses do and don’t look for came in this very helpful slide.