Written 7/16/03 by Christina A Tugeau
Artist Agent LLC
WHERE, OH WHERE............"M.I.A."?
In a recent PW article about the book market (July 14, ’03 pg 30), Lynn Garrett states: “While spring lists brought inklings of difficult days for some publishers, fall offerings confirm the reality. Many…are publishing fewer books, and some small houses seem to have gone MIA.” (Missing In Action) As an illustrators’ rep, this quote really caught my attention. It is about the industry in general, but we’ve felt this in children’s publishing for about a year as well.
The current general economic malaise of the country causes everyone to hold their breath and take baby steps forward. Publishers are in a defensive mode as they, like us, wait for the pendulum to swing the other way. Statistics oddly show that there were MORE books published in 2002, but NEW titles declined in all areas. The Bowker survey shows a whole industry preparing for a slow economy and a ‘decline in sales even while technology makes it easier than ever to create, publish and sell more books.” (PW June 2, ’03, pg 10) Picture book sales have shown a drop in sales recently and that may be because there are fewer kids in that age group today. Fiction for middle grade and YA age levels seems to be the hottest just now and promises to be for the near future.
Many artists have felt the dramatic reduction of educational assignments as well. – the ‘bread and butter’ of many illustrators’ careers. It been reported that there were fewer state adoptions in ’02 and ’03, and programs have been delayed. The state funding decline has certainly driven down sales to schools and libraries as well, which has hurt curriculum-based and trade book sales and publishers. I’m constantly reassuring artists that is isn’t just ‘them.’ There IS a shortage of new assignment work.
Word has it that the prices going forward this year for new assignment work will be a bit lower than we’re used to. This isn’t good news as prices haven’t kept up with general increases as it IS! Publisher conservatism comes into play again here. Schools have less money to spend. Publishers have to keep prices down to be competitive enough to sell their programs so they too don’t become “MIA”. Paper, printing, personnel costs all continue to go up. Unfortunately one of the few areas they can spend less is with the writing and the art! AND they have access to more ‘pick up art’ and ‘stock’ for low prices. We, the writers and the artists, and parents, believe this is short sighted.