First Friday Club is our members-only monthly conversation and morning tea with an expert industry professional. May’s meeting featured Membership & Administration Officer Sherry Landow in conversation with Amelia Lush, manager of Better Read Than Dead in Newtown, Sydney, and specialist children’s bookseller/buyer for Better Read Kids.
Amelia has worked in independent bookstores in Sydney for over eight years and has a great love of Australian authors and children’s literature. Her First Friday chat provided interesting insight into the book industry from a bookseller’s perspective – one that isn’t considered as often as that of a publisher or writer, but one that’s just as vital in the world of books.
For those who couldn’t make it on the day, we’ve collated a few of Amelia’s thoughts…
…on Better Read Than Dead’s buying process:
As well as managing Better Read Than Dead, Amelia is in charge of selecting and buying children’s and young adult titles. She is assisted by a fiction buyer and a non-fiction buyer, and each month the team meets with representatives from major companies – all of whom usually have over 100 books on offer at a time.
So with that many books to choose from, how does BRTD decide what to stock? Amelia explains that the buyers’ primary concern serving each main readership group every month, with a varied range of new titles ensuring the store’s shelves stay fresh. In terms of children’s books, this means catering to the types of readers who enjoy particular genres, authors or styles: ‘The Andy Griffiths-type reader, the Percy Jackson-type reader, and so on,’ Amelia explains.
…on the current state of children’s and YA books:
As a specialist children’s buyer, Amelia is all over the latest trends and developments in the children’s and YA book market. According to recent studies, under-30s are currently reading more than over-30s; this is largely due to the ‘Harry Potter generation’ – people who grew up reading Rowling’s series and who have continued to read into adulthood.
The following generation has followed suit, meaning children’s and YA books are now bigger than ever. Young adult literature, in particular, has also been bolstered by another trend: readers outside the strict definition of their ‘target market’. Currently, over 50% of YA readers are adults.
…on common mistakes made by self-published authors:
As a picture book guru, Amelia is often approached by self-published picture book authors seeking feedback. But a lot of the time, she says, the books are already published. Furthermore, she’s noticed that writers often haven’t done enough research into the industry or taken note of what’s currently out there in terms of picture book themes, content and illustration.
…on tips for aspiring children’s authors:
To combat these kinds of mistakes, Amelia has a few recommendations for aspiring picture book authors. Firstly, she recommends that authors spend a lot of time looking at what’s already out there in the market in order to determine their own unique niche, or a gap in the market they can fill. Picture books – while always popular – are still conservative in terms of the portrayal of gender and families, says Amelia.
She also suggests getting a children’s bookseller to look at your book before it’s been printed – email them to ask if there’s a convenient time. Feedback is a lot more useful before printing, distribution and marketing takes place, so make an appointment early in the process to see a bookseller and get some feedback.
Finally, for authors whose book is published and ready to find a home in a bookstore, Amelia has a few pieces of advice. ‘Make sure the bookshop knows what you’re doing to promote the book,’ she says, indicating the importance of a combined effort by bookseller and writer.
Amelia also reminded the audience that Better Read Than Dead looks at every book that’s sent to them, so authors, keep that in mind!
…on the importance of cover design and illustration:
Amelia also urges children’s authors to remember the vital importance of illustration and cover design. Despite the old adage, people do judge books by their covers – so whatever type of book you’ve written, the importance of high-quality cover design can’t be stressed enough.
‘Keep the cover simple, and make it unique from the interior book illustrations,’ is Amelia’s key piece of advice.
Next month’s event:
Friday 3 June, 10am–11:30am
Be sure to subscribe to Newsbite and keep an eye out for details of each month’s First Friday Club.