07 Dec Sr Agent Chrys Visits the 2022 Montreuil Children’s Book Fair
By Chrysothemis Armefti — Article first published in December 2022
Senior agent Chrysothemis Armefti traveled to Paris at the end of November to visit trade and children’s books publishers.
The Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse en Seine-Saint-Denis (SLPJ 2022) a.k.a. the Montreuil Children’s Book Fair was a great excuse to travel to Paris and meet French publishers while exploring the abundance of the children’s book market. 2 Seas Agency recently started a worldwide representation for Astra Books for Young Readers, and French rights in Lorella Belli Literary Agency’s list. This was the perfect opportunity to introduce these two new clients, together with the others, to French publishers.
New trends in trade publishing in France
In the past few years, the publishing industry in France, like elsewhere, faced difficulties caused by the recent pandemic, economic inflation due to current events, rise in paper prices, restrictions on printing in China, and more. Despite this, publishers are trying to find new ways to surpass these issues and persevere.
Some of the solutions discussed during my meetings in France (and also during the Frankfurt Book Fair) were: reducing the number of produced titles per year, printing locally in advance (or with as much time as possible), changing formats (to semi-pocket or pocket size), and exploring the possibilities of different genres (i.e. more commercial titles, “feel good,” contemporary romance, fantasy, YA romance, etc.).
Publishers are also hopeful that ebook and audiobook sales will increase with solutions profitable for both publishers and authors. At the moment, audio sales are not high enough to cover the production costs, even for audiobook imprints inside big groups like Audiolib (co-owned by Hachette Livre and Albin Michel) or more recently Lizzie (Editis).
However, the development of new platforms such as Storytel (which launched this fall in France), BookBeat’s expansion in the country (with Hachette Livre as partner), the strong presence of the Danish Saga Egmont, and of course Amazon-owned Audible (that just launched unlimited offering), not to mention a possible venture of Spotify, will increase competition and shape the audiobook market to meet the preferences of French consumers.
Children’s Francophone market
I spent Thursday and Friday at the SPJM in Montreuil near Paris. The fair is free and open to the public, and attracted over 180,000 visitors this year. The paid entrance during the weekend costs only 5 EUR and includes a 4 EUR “chèque Lire”, a gift card to use when buying books. This is an excellent way for schools, companies, and parents to hand out “money” to kids to acquire books during the fair.
We have attended the Festival du Livre de Paris several times and, on some occasions, had meetings there. It tends to get busy, crowded, and loud, with no place to sit and discuss. Well, the Montreuil Children’s Book Fair was one of those fairs, extremely lively with kids of all ages from nearby schools, book signings with long queues, etc. However, for me, it was the perfect occasion to explore the francophone publishing scene, understand better the market, exchange contacts, meet with editors, and present our lists.
The French publishing market seems saturated with local authors and illustrators, but there is also a big variety of translated books. French productions tend to lean more toward the artistic style, while foreign titles cover mostly the YA market (fantasy, romance, thriller), graphic novels, and comics for young readers. Yet, there is still a huge selection of foreign picture books (albums) and board books.
Publishers are also trying to be original when it comes to the physical aspect of the book, creating attractive books with moveable parts, pop-up illustrations, and different sizes, shapes, and materials. And we couldn’t forget the audio market of course. From CDs and QR codes to children’s interactive storytelling devices such as Lunii, Joyeuse, Merlin (by La Chouette Radio in association with Radio France and the publisher Bayard), and even the Toniebox by Tonies.
As a professional, reader, and parent, Montreuil felt like a day in Candyland. So many beautiful books, for all ages, so many types, colors, and formats. Delightful discussions with editors that were proud of their editorial lines and eager to learn more about 2 Seas Agency and our books. Needless to say that I also couldn’t resist purchasing several books for my little one, even if she doesn’t read French (yet).