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Originally appeared in Publsihign Perspective on December 19, 2017 by Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief

What will kids be reading in 2018? Scholastic editors issue five predictions about what children’s book trends will be popular and successful next year.

‘Just the Right Book at the Right Time’

In a series of five points, the editors of Scholastic have set out predictions of what they think will be the top trends in children’s books for 2018:

1. More books will highlight strong female characters

2. Kid-friendly nonfiction will continue to grow as a draw

3. “Iconic series and characters” will return with new stories

4. Fantasy worlds and creatures should maintain popularity

5. Activity books will be engaging, especially in the STEM arena

Publishing Perspectives reported in early February on Scholastic’s biennial Kids & Family Reading Report, and this new set of observations is, in part, based on what came to light in that report.

In a prepared statement on the newly released round of predictions, Scholastic Book Clubs president Judy Newman is quoted, saying that the company’s editors gain deep insight into their market and its potentials, not least because they must “feature a wide range of choice all year long in our monthly, in-classroom flyers.

“Their expertise,” she says, “helps more children find just the right book at the right time to encourage a love for independent reading.”

Keynote Speaker: B. Alan Bourgeois

Every seat was occupied at the November 18th meeting, where we welcomed Austin author and marketing guru B. Alan Bourgeois. Following the business session which included election of new Board members, Kim Black handed the gavel over to our 2018 President, Mike Akins. There were many announcements from members about upcoming books and new projects. The creative energy and can-do attitude of Amarillo area writers is always inspiring.

Mr. Bourgeois is the founder and director of Texas Authors, Inc. and assists writers through his company Bourgeois Media & Consulting (BMC). "The arts is not something that most people are encouraged to pursue," Alan said. "Our parents meant well but most of our creative outlets was blocked."

In today's publishing environment, authors no longer need to consider whether to publish or not. With so many options available for writers, the reality is to ask the question "How to Publish?"  Finding the right option for your work is key to successfully selling your books.

There are about 8400 published authors in this state. With over 50,000 new titles being published on Amazon every month, authors are face with impossible task of being noticed. Alan founded Texas Authors Inc to help Texas authors market themselves. We watched an inspirational music video by X Ambassadors, "Renegade", which shows people facing insurmountable odds without considering their limitations. Here's a link to watch the video. 

There are three main types of publishing options for authors today: traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing.

The Big 5 traditional publishers have altered their focus. When you look at the new releases today, the main question is 'who does the author know'. Traditional publishing has become very public press oriented. Politicians, celebrities and people with high visibility are awarded book deals, not first-time novelists.  The main question is not so much as to the quality or content of the work, but how many social media followers do they already have. You give up total control of your work for a small percentage of the profits when you choose a traditional publishing deal.

Hybrid publishers offer a portion of the services than the traditional route, and you can retain some control. For example, you might pay for editing, cover design, and marketing options. If your are complete control freak, and have the dollars to spend, then self-publishing is the perfect option for you.

Research your book. Does the story you wrote have an audience? Look at everything in regards to your content, cover design, target market and compare it to other books that are similar. Does this fit what you intended?

You must practice and know the sales pitch/synopsis for your book. Briefly, in 30 seconds using one to two sentences that relates to the back cover copy, describe your book. Alan discussed book reviews and the importance of having an email for business. "Set-up an email for authorship and your books. Keep it active and keep it alive," he told us.

Marketing renegade style, is doing whatever it takes to get people's attention. Marketing is 1) promotion of a product, 2) the ability to get someone to want that product, and 3) getting someone to buy your product. Alan described some of the new and unique services Texas Authors Inc offers its members. 

"There are so many ways to promote your book. Think outside the box," Alan encouraged us to, "be the renegade that you are." We ended the workshop with a sing-along, as a second playing of "Renegade" was shown with lyrics provided.

It's our time to make a move

It's our time to make amends

It's our time to break the rules

Let's begin

And I say hey, hey hey hey

Living like we're renegades

Hey hey hey

Hey hey hey

Leaving like we're renegades

Renegades, renegades

(Renegade by X Ambassadors)

Thanks to Mr. Beorgeois for a very energizing and inspiring morning!

The following article may not completely apply to you as an author, however, there are many attributes in the article you should read to get a better sense of our future readers. This, as a marketing concept, will prove valuable.

Originally printed Publisher Perspective by Porter Anderson on December 13, 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, Canadian reading and writing platform Wattpad has produced a series of readership trends based on its users behavior. These trends offer publishers some insights into the interests of Wattpad’s 60 million monthly users.

In terms of tech, for example, Wattpad Studios’ partnership chief Ashleigh Gardner says the second-screen phenomenon—in which television viewers simultaneously use mobile or other devices to share and interact with the content their are watching on TV—is becoming more influential.

“Even in binge-watching,” Gardner says, “people are going through content so fast. We see people wanting more” of a show they’re sharing. That’s the point at which fan-fiction writing kicks in and the writers and their readers on Wattpad basically keep the party going, extending and embellishing storylines, generating new action for characters and plot points. The second screen of choice, then, becomes the Wattpad app on which the viewers are searching out new work that appears almost as fast as they can search for it.

“They’re coming to Wattpad,” Gardner says, “to stay within the worlds of Riverdale [the CBS-Warner Bros. show based on Archie Comics] or Stranger Things [the Duffer Brothers’ show on Netflix]. Every show we see on TV, we find fan fiction about on Wattpad.”

It’s Riverdale that’s had the biggest response this year in Wattpad’s tracking of the action on the platform. Content based on that series peaked in terms of reading minutes by users in October, when the system recorded 7.9 million minutes on Riverdale-related material. Some 54,000 story uploads related to the show were counted throughout the year. Also in October, Stranger Things drew almost as many users, recording its own high of 7 million reading minutes in material related to that series.

But it would be a mistake to think that all is entertainment and TV gossip among the more-than 60 million readers and writers at Wattpad.

“It’s been great to see how our users are responding to social movements,” Gardner says, referring to a particularly strong uptake on the #NoMoreBullying movement. One example of this is a paranormal tale called #FatGirlMagic by the writer known as @ClaireKann and responding to the #BodyPositivity theme. Gardner’s team has seen as many as 8 million reading minutes per month going into material based in such widely hashtagged topics and interests.

A related such focus, for example, could be seen in #FreeTheLGBT, a push to increase the number of prominent LGBTQ characters in fiction, and this was a big one, with an average 13 million reading minutes monthly. As many as 2,500 new story uploads were made with the tag following the pride activities of June.

The writer known on the site as @Vapid_Ink scored big in 2017 with Vigilante rising to massive popularity in the action category: the story pulled more than 2 million reads. The #MeToo movement in sexual harassment awareness has been a major trend on Wattpad this year, but it’s so far been harder to track because the hashtag is applied less precisely than some others are. #MeToo can refer to many things, in other words, and not always to issues related to sexual harrassment.

Diversity interests in wider terms drove 4.8 million reading minutes a month to a “person of color” tag (#PoC) . The system tracked an 84-percent growth level during the year for genre stories with diverse characters, too. If publishers have needed any evidence to support a readership’s interest in more diverse character sets, look no farther than Toronto where they could see more than 30 million reading minutes monthly going into tags including #DiverseLit, #Diversity, and #LGBTQ+.

In 2018, Try Werewolf K-Pop Killer Clowns

Here are several more trends that Wattpad’s staffers are reporting tracking this year. Gardner confirms that some 70 percent of the platform’s active user base is female and remember that roughly 90 percent accesses the content on mobile devices.

• K-Pop has been especially popular among Spanish-language users of the platform, which supports some 50 languages. In January of this year, Latin American users shared 12,000 K-Pop story uploads and by July, that trend had increased to 21,000 story uploads. • English-language readers seem to love Korean music, too, hitting more than 50 million monthly minutes of K-Pop reading time for the first time in 2017.

• Zombies are an abiding passion for the mostly-millennial crowd of readers and writers at Wattpads, with the writer @CrystalScherer pulling in more than 600,000 reads since January for her The Virus Within.

• Werewolves, however, seem to be another unholy grail of popularity among horror and sci-fi fans on the platform. Some 196 million minutes each month went to werewolf stories–that’s more than 136,000 days of time–and that’s over a measly (by comparison) 13 million monthly minutes going to zombies.

• The preponderance of women’s readership on the platform can lead some to think that the whole picture there is romance, but in 2017, but in fact, romance-and-something combinations in terms of genre interests have gained grace this year among Wattpadders. Romance and action seems to have been a favored combo, with romance readers gravitating toward mafia stories and bad-boy bikers. As do we all, surely.

• As long as we’re in the neighborhood, material relating to the boy band Why Don’t We was attracting almost 20 million reading minutes (13,888 days) per month by August. This one is an especially global attraction according to the sites’ officials, who say they expect WDW fandom to reach even more feverish heights on the big platform in 2018.

• And as we’ve mentioned in earlier coverage, cannibals seem to have taken on special meaning for many Wattpad regulars. They and killer clowns were two surprise quick gainers on the site, rising in the stats to 9,000 story uploads in September and October.

‘They Want To Participate’

If any over-arching message is inherent in all the data coming in from Canada at the end of this year, it’s engagement.

Gardner was at the FutureBook conference in London on the first of December, shortlisted for this year’s Disruptor of the Year FutureBook Award sponsored by the Frankfurter Buchmesse. She heard Eliza Filby’s closing keynote, as covered by Publishing Perspectives, on the rising influence of Generation Z and listened carefully, of course, as that group’s readers now are moving into range of Wattpad’s offerings—the minimum age for participation on the site is 13.

“While we’re extremely popular with millennials,” Gardner says, “we’re seeing more and more of the younger group on the platform, too. The 13-to-16 group is a flourishing community online, and that ties into a lot of what Eliza was talking about.

“They’re not just consumers,” she says, “they want to participate, they want to write their own stories. We see readers who want to write their own stories. They want to be heard. They want to consume the art their friends are creating. They don’t want celebrities to be out of reach, they want to be able to reach out to them,” as readers at Wattpad interact with their authors.

And there’s one more thing that publishers might do well to mull along with the wine over the holidays: speed to market. One of the most striking elements of success at Wattpad is how quickly new content arrives for readers on the platform in reaction to real-world events. Much as we see in the second-screen dynamic, the readers and writers of Wattpad are working far, far faster than much of trade publishing is used to working.

“They’re not just consumers. They want to participate, they want to write their own stories. They want to be heard. They want to consume the art their friends are creating.”Ashleigh Gardner

Gardner recalls #AlexFromTarget, the cashier whose photo went viral. “Its fascinating to see how quickly people will start to write stories about news stories or memes” for the platform. “A girl had secretly taken a photo of her checkout guy at Target, and he became a teen-heartthrob. The amount of fan fiction we saw about #AlexFromTarget immediately spiked in the next 24 hours, and you still see stories written about him today,” more than two years later. “Some were so inspired by that moment that they wrote the meta-fiction about him, and what it must have been like for him to have people so in love with him. “When it comes to reactions, the creativity and the speed happens as soon as the inspiration hits.” And this presents a challenge to traditional publishing.

“That lag to market,” as Gardner puts it, has also meant that the startup of some partnerships with publishers have taken awhile to put into action. But more of these deals will be introduced in 2018, she says.

“I’d like to see the industry get to a point where the trends” tracked in real-time on Wattpad “are being listened to. No one in the industry has as much of a direct reader connection as we do.” The potential, she says, is “to be able to show them, ‘This is what people want,'” to capture new market energy on the way up.