Around 380 delegates attended this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) ‘multistoried’ conference, which was held at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 17-19 May.
Julie Wells, national president of the CBCA, told Bookseller+Publisher that the 2012 conference ‘was always going to be smaller than the last few’. ‘The CBCA Sydney [in 2006] may have been up to 800 delegates and Victoria [in 2008] was closer to 600,’ she said. The 2010 conference, which was to be held in Brisbane, was cancelled following the global financial crisis.
Wells said the conference committee planned for around 350 delegates, and therefore ‘did not book a huge venue area and decided not to include a trade fair’. However, she added that ‘publishers were marvellous in supporting their authors which we really appreciated’.
Coinciding with the Sydney Writers’ Festival, the biennial conference attracted some high-profile international authors including Eoin Colfer, who entertained the audience with anecdotes about his teenage son, the inspiration behind Artemis Fowl; Oliver Jeffers, whose presentation was peppered with charming illustrations; and Davide Cali, who launched his graphic novel Ten Little Insects, at the conference. Colfer, Jeffers and Cali were also the bestselling authors at the conference bookshop.
Popular local authors included Mem Fox, Alison Lester, Nicki Greenberg and Isobelle Carmody, who delivered keynotes and contributed to sessions on subjects such as graphic novels, fairytales, humour in teen fiction, and values in fantasy books.
The conference ended with a spirited discussion on the future of the book with Omnibus publisher Dyan Blacklock, A&U publisher Erica Wagner and James Williams, co-founder of the Pegi Williams Book Shop.
The panel began with a discussion of the ‘new normal’ for publishers following the loss of 20% of their retail market, and the importance of blockbuster titles such as Harry Potter and ‘The Hunger Games’ to fund riskier publishing ventures.
Wagner suggested that innovation needed to come from the authors and illustrators—‘they are the creative force’—and raised the idea of creating apps and ebooks that led readers back to printed books.
Industry-wide advertising also came under criticism, with Wagner arguing that cleverer advertising was required for books in order to compete with the entertainment industry.
The next conference will be held at the Rex Hotel in Canberra on 16-18 May 2014.