This year’s edition of The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference was the first of its kind as conditions imposed by COVID-19 forced the event online. However, this did nothing to the quality of the content and in fact brought a multitude of new topics to the table regarding this new normal. It was lovely to see how speakers had found different approaches to provide aid through their trade, as well as all the interesting ways they have had to adapt their businesses in order to up their resilience game. 

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our daily lives in so many ways. Among the more immediate effects, like redundancies and furloughs and economic anxieties, we have been lonely and worried and quite frankly just plain bored. Many of us have not been able to see family, visit friends or even leave our homes for that matter, which means we have felt less connected – a theme that really came through in this year’s conference.

What I really noticed as a common nominator in a staggering amount of talks was that this longing for connection and relief from worries and boredom really came to the forefront when it came to marketing children’s literature during a pandemic. For instance, one third of books sold since the end of lockdown in the UK have been children’s books. On that same note, 70% of this year’s sales of children’s books happened in April and May during peak lockdown. Since lockdown ended an additional £9.7 million has been spent on children’s books in the UK, compared to the same time period in 2019. So, in other words an additional 1.6 million books have been bought this year in the UK during this period. And all this, in an economic climate where content creators say they struggled with reaching their consumers in an age of social distancing.

Many speakers related how they have had to shift their focus from their physical presence to their social media outlets, but that they also had to step up when it came to the content that they did put out in terms of accessibility and affordability. Speakers argued that by releasing free content, or repurposing existing material from their backlist, the traffic that this generated reached the products that actually brought in revenue, which in turn rendered the commissioning of affordable content a worthwhile endeavour.

Thus, it seems that pandemic marketing approaches benefit immensely from this ‘what can I do’-mentality. By focusing on the needs of consumers and releasing affordable, solution-oriented content these books have tended to find their way into their hands, homes and hearts of parents and children by way of word of mouth. During the pandemic, children’s books have had the magical power of uniting these bored and worried families all around the country by providing them with something fun, constructive and useful to do together as a family, just like so many other families like them.