Books supply chain challenges = rising prices and low or delayed stock.
If you like to shop in person, you may have noticed shelves getting increasingly bare and gap-toothed as the shipping, production, and raw materials industries reel from a combination of pandemic and transport-related woes.
On the pandemic side, print production facilities are struggling, paper shortages are ongoing, trucking and overland shipping is an issue, and the Suez Canal shipping crisis sent shockwaves through international shipping that will continue to ripple for some time yet. Many children’s books are printed overseas due to the higher-cost colour images and creative formats used.
Book prices will rise as resource, shipping, and production costs get passed up the chain (and authors and illustrators definitely aren’t the ones getting a pay bump.)
Why is all this relevant to authors—especially children’s authors?
Print books remain popular across age groups and genres, but children’s books are particularly weighted toward print.
While children’s ebooks (and audiobooks) are enjoying growth, not every parent is able or comfortable handing a tablet with a pre-loaded library to their little, and image-heavy board books, picture books, early readers, and illustrated novels can be challenging to format for a strong reading experience on digital. Physical books are also much easier to unwrap under the tree.
Which brings us to the current news cycle. I just spent the last week doing interviews with the CBC on the subject. Many kids’ books are scheduled to release in the fall and early winter to capture that all-important holiday shopping season. And, as we’re hearing from our members this year, print orders may not arrive in time, bestsellers may not be possible to restock, and scheduled books are already being rushed out early or delayed for months, well into next year. All this can materially hurt authors’ and illustrators’ compensation and careers, and it’s clearly not awesome for readers, either.
What you can do to help:
- Definitely keep supporting new releases. Preorder early to signal interest and demand to the publisher; they may be able to increase that first print run to meet demand where they wouldn’t be able to order a reprint. Especially for your holiday shopping, this year shop and/or preorder now.
- If a new release isn’t available, consider browsing and shopping from backlist titles and store stock, putting in an order on books that you can afford to wait for, or switching to another format like ebook or audio. Browse CWILL BC Kids’ Books!
- Not in a place to buy books this year? We hear you; it’s been tough all over. Put in requests for books to be purchased by your local library and reach out to your favourite creators with some encouragement; they need to know that their words or art matters and people care!
- On the speaking side, we do have a number of people who are great over Zoom and/or vaccinated and able to present live where public health and safety orders allow and would love to hear from teachers, librarians, even business groups. Search our speakers’ database.
- Are you a published (or professionally indie publishing) author or illustrator of books for ages 0–18 living in British Columbia? Join us!
- And longer term, we’d love to see more domestic production capacity so we’re not continuously outsourcing overseas or even from the US. BC-created books would be rad!
- Finally: BC residents can enter our giveaway to win your choice of a kids’ book stack in time for the holidays or a free one-hour author or illustrator visit over Zoom. Not a local? Subscribe to our newsletter; we run national and international giveaways too!
Condensed edition of article reprinted with permission from the author. Original edition on Medium.com.
About the Author
K.A. Wiggins is an award-winning Canadian speculative fiction author, creative writing coach, speaker, and President of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia society. Learn more at kawiggins.com.