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Last week, I had the opportunity to attend The Bookseller’s Children Conference. Although it was online this year, The Bookseller managed to capture the inherent spirit of the publishing industry: celebrating our love for stories and the constant ambition to improve the industry for the better. My screen was buzzing with voices from around the world, enlightening me with their insights into how children are growing with books in a digitised age. It became glaringly clear that social media and the internet have buoyed up the industry throughout these uncertain times.

Our reliance on social media and the internet has skyrocketed since the pandemic: we go to Twitter to check the latest updates on the virus, we scroll through Instagram and like selfies, and we comment on and share articles on Facebook. Yet, this is a fraction of the purpose of social media. This conference opened a whole discourse about technology’s importance for sustaining connections around the world. Naturally, the publishing industry, and more specifically, the children’s sector, had to migrate to online in order to survive. 

With varied sessions to choose from and countless guests, Youtuber, actress and author Carrie Hope Fletcher’s optimistic talk on the varying benefits of social media was one of the highlights for me. Fletcher dived deep into the intricacies of navigating each social media channel and how one can reap the benefits from its varying features. The goal is to spread content far and wide, and with a mammoth following on her Youtube channel, Fletcher has mastered it. She emphasises that ‘Audience needs engagement with the person’. Rather than passively posting content of one’s book, the author can interact with fans from around the world by answering questions about her latest book or show, her writing craft, and wider ideas that the book highlights. The advantages of interacting through social media have never been more clear: Reducing isolation under restrictions and the powerful ability to bond over books as demonstrated by marketing campaigns.

This was a sure win for Simon and Schuster, according to their Marketing and Publicity Director, Sarah Macmillan. Having to make a sharp turn to social media and the internet for their marketing campaigns, Macmillan states that there were already some trusty methods that would guarantee outreach. For long-anticipated releases of books, Simon and Schuster amplified fandom accounts’ existing passion by directly involving them with a book’s release. Readers and fans from around the world can gravitate towards these campaigns as they come from a genuine love for the author’s book and therefore, can create a global connection. It is possible that the internet has brought out authenticity in ways that were not possible for in-person book events. 

When used with purpose and good intention, social media and the wider internet can continue the industry’s mission to widen reading for all. If children had to quickly adapt to online learning earlier this year, then interacting via online book events and author readings should be matched with the same encouragement.