Felone warns passing on soaring costs could price out young readers

Publishers struggling with soaring costs should be wary about passing these on to consumers as household bills soar, Knights Of m.d. Aimée Felone has warned.

Delegates at The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference on 26th September in London’s County Hall heard indies and diverse communities are both being hit by the rising cost of living, which could have “devastating” results for young readers. 

In a keynote speech, Felone, who is also co-director of the Round Table Books shop in Brixton, said she felt the responsibility to “almost safeguard” against the price impact for everyday buyers. 

“The cost of living is increasing at such a sharp rate and disproportionately for diverse communities that there are ethical considerations to be made when questioning whether or not to pass on increases,” she said. “We literally cannot afford to further price out new generations of readers or even ostracise communities that have been historically left behind.”

Felone warned that indie publishers are also being more heavily impacted by the cost-of-living crisis than commercial publishers. “While the entire industry is affected by the cost of literally everything going up, the impact is not equal,” she said. “Yes, we are all weathering the same storm, but we are in very different sized boats.” 

She said that smaller publishers run the risk of “not only getting priced out” but also being hit with skyrocketing bills, which will affect the number of books they can publish.

“By no means am I attempting to downplay the very real threat that these increased costs play to us as a publisher, but the long-term effects of pushing those who are already on the periphery of the market even further away from accessing our books will have devastating results,” she said.

Knights Of, which has championed diverse publishing within the industry since its inception, won Children’s Publisher of the Year at the Nibbies this year, and publishes many award-winning authors including Elle McNicoll. 

In a later talk entitled “How We Reach Children Who Don’t Buy Books”, Cathie Holden, schools co-ordinator of Nibbie-winning bookshop The Bookery implored children’s publishers to consider the cost of hardbacks. Speaking alongside her colleague, bookshop manager Dee Lalljee, Holden said: “This is a plea to the publishers: please publish a book in paperback at the same time as hardback, as we find that it’s really difficult to take a book into schools that’s £12.99 in hardback. We just don’t feel like we can ask parents for that. If it’s also in paperback, that’s much better.”

She also said ensuring “each book in a series is complete in itself” can be crucial to ensuring children remain engaged. “Otherwise I’m reading an extract to a child and they think ‘ah, but I didn’t really find out what happened, I have to read book two’ and ‘what if I don’t have the money for book two’,” she said. 

Article posted on The Bookseller, Sept 26 2022.