This morning, Ellie Berger, President of Scholastic’s Trade Publishing division, addressed members of the publishing industry at a Publishing Perspectives forum held at Scholastic. The topic of her address was “What's next for YA and teen publishing?” We thought we’d share Ellie’s exciting forecast here.
“It is important to have an ongoing conversation about children's and young adult books because the publishing landscape is nothing if not an ever-evolving one. These are exciting, uncertain, dizzying, remarkable times to be in the business of words and ideas and stories, and the best way to gauge the topography is to talk about it, think about it, and innovate across it.
The question this day is posing is simply phrased and not easily answered: What's next? It's a question we've all been asking, and must continue to ask. But we also have to acknowledge that the answers may be far from this auditorium, in a corner of a mind in a corner of the world we don't even know about yet. Because that is one of the inspiring, tried-and-true lessons that children's and YA publishing has to offer: The next big thing always starts as something small, as the germ of an idea in an inventive mind. It can start with Jo Rowling sitting in an Edinburgh coffee shop, scribbling onto a legal pad. It can start with Suzanne Collins flipping channels between the Iraq War and reality TV and finding a way they could fit together. It can be Dav Pilkey in elementary school drawing comics . . . and then remembering them and bringing them to life as an adult. Or Maggie Stiefvater taking a Celtic tale told to her as a child and turning it into something completely her own.
We have always been in the business of words and ideas and stories, and we will always be in the business of words and ideas and stories. Because stories are eternal. Even as the landscape shifts, the material that it is made from remains the same. We must remember this. Whether a story is presented with pages or pixels, whether it is illustrated or multiplatform, it is still a story, and first must be successful as a story. And our authors are not the only ones who must tell a story well. Our marketing must tell a story well. Our publicity must tell a story well. Our gatekeepers “the legion of booksellers and librarians and teachers and parents who are behind us" must also tell a story well. The good news is that the story has gotten us this far, and will continue to take us farther.
This is the challenge we have set ourselves in the business of words and ideas and stories. We have to decide what stories we want to tell. We have to decide who we want to tell those stories to. We have to figure out the best way to tell them, and use the broadening range of technology as our ally, not our enemy.
In the din of everyday noise, which is not particularly conducive to storytelling, it is sometimes too easy to forget how important these stories are, and therefore, how important our work is. But deep down, everyone in this room knows it. It is our responsibility to find and support the talent who will lead us to what's next. We will tell our own stories to guide the next generation of readers to what's next. And we will never stop looking ahead to what's next.”