The 700+ booksellers attending Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque last week took to heart NPD Books’ 2018 report on trends in the bookselling industry: While the book market is, overall, “incredibly flat,” according to analyst Allison Risbridger, children’s books and adult nonfiction are growing. The vibrancy of the children’s book market came up again and again in general educational panel discussions, and though there were few panels specifically addressing children’s books, one, sponsored by the ABC Children’s Group, “A Crash Course in Kids’ Bookselling,” drew about 40 general booksellers wanting to take full advantage of this sector of the book market.

“A Crash Course in Kids’ Bookselling” featured indie booksellers Cathy Berner, children’s/YA specialist and events coordinator at Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston; Christy McDonald, owner and children’s buyer at Secret Garden Bookshop, Seattle; Sara Grochowski, children’s specialist and buyer at McLean Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich.; and Megan Dietsche Goel, children’s book buyer at BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

Berner pointed out that with children’s specialty bookstore sales up 3% in 2017 at ABA member stores—including an 11% growth in board books and a 20% growth in graphic novels—general bookstores should “be invested in the success of children’s book sales.” Audience members received the following helpful tips:

  • It is important to make the bookstore feel like a safe space for children. (Grochowski)
  • Make sure you and your staff are familiar with all of the stock. (McDonald)
  • Encourage general booksellers to rely on children’s booksellers, and vice versa. (Berner)
  • Display children’s board books near plush toys for gift ideas. “Tie it all up with a bow, you’re good to go!” (Berner)
  • Call the YA section something other than that. McLean Eakin calls it the “Avid Reader” section; it’s a more welcoming term and does not imply that one must be a teen to read the books there. (Grochowski)
  • Don’t label the YA section at all: just put YA books next to the corresponding adult books section. (McDonald)
  • Put up a lot of shelf talkers. (McDonald)
  • Place face-out picture books. (McDonald)
  • Put up a wall display of nonfiction books that are face-out too. (McDonald)
  • Be creative and look beyond the typical categories. (Goel)
  • Keep switching books around to keep things fresh. (Grochowski)
  • Open children’s books, touch them, feel them. It helps general booksellers feel more familiar with children’s books. (Goel)
  • Try to engage with the child, not just the parent, when discussing books, to accurately assess the child’s reading level. (Berner)
  • When suggesting books for a child, ask if the family has a lot of books, or if there are siblings, to get some sense of where a book will fit with a family. (McDonald)
  • Don’t pretend to know everything about children’s books. (Goel)
  • Nonfiction appeals more to reluctant readers, who like to read if they learn something. (McDonald)
  • Don’t automatically suggest fiction. (Grochowski)
  • Pay attention to the awards, like the Newbery and Caldecott Awards, and other awards for children’s books, as well as Indies Introduce selections. (Grochowski)
  • Consider doing podcasts—author interviews. (Grochowski)