The New York Times ran a front-page article this morning on the recent decline in picture book sales. Blame is assigned widely, from the economy to parents urging their kids to read up to publishers over-pricing the books and emphasizing YA. To the list of culprits, I’d add merch and tie-in books, which have cannibalized picture books sales due to lower price points and characters that kids recognize from TV and other media. And then there are school and library budget cuts—while trade publishers ostensibly target bookstores for their picture book sales, they used to be able to rely on schools and libraries for at least a few thousand copies to help break even. Sadly, those sales have evaporated, too.
So, how to reverse the trend? I hope there’s an answer, because as an art form, picture books have only gotten more beautiful, exciting, and innovative in the last decade. It would be a tragedy if consumer tastes or publishers’ timidity force picture book creators to focus their energy elsewhere. Any ideas out there?