CMC Rights Exchange @ London Book Fair – Always Judge a Book by its Cover: Yes, No, Maybe?
One of four sessions CMC staged in our Beyond the Book series in the Children’s Hub at the London Book Fair (16 April 2015)
- Broadcasters need gender-neutral content and publishers look for gender-specific.
- A series needs larger sets of characters (than a picture book) to maintain 52 episodes.
- 8 out 10 books got at least one Yes.
It was a simple idea, three children’s programme developers were shown the covers of ten, randomly chosen, children’s books for three seconds each and the panel was asked to give each book a Yes, a No or a Maybe. After giving explanations for their answers, moderator, John Lomas-Bullivant read out the description on the back of each book and the panel were asked if this had changed their minds. In the end, eight out of the ten books got at least one Yes.
Most of the discussions centred around the difficulties in filming with live cats and funding content for 6-9 year olds; Christopher Skala describing fantasy-adventure as an incredibly difficult market to get into. It was noted that broadcasters are more inclined to want gender-neutral programmes where publishers often look for gender-specific. Mellie Buse pointed out the differences between one-off picture books and a series. ‘There needs to be larger sets of characters and story potential to maintain a series through 52 or more episodes.’
It was an entertaining session but the books were not actually being pitched for real; they’d been selected randomly and the authors or publishers might not have even considered transferring them to the screen. There was, however, a serious side to the exercise. The number of projects on the desk of a commissioning executive is vast. They might look at the cover of a proposal for three seconds before deciding to read your proposal or the next one. The panel agreed you have to be distinctive, with Ken Anderson saying the most important thing to look at was the name of the author, was that someone you were familiar with? Secondly it was the title and then the image.