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Children's writers hit the headlines

21 February 2005

In recent years the success of the giants of the children’s book world has focused attention on the huge sales potential of writing for children. J K Rowling’s millions of books sold are a familiar phenomenon. But there’s also Jacqueline Wilson with over 20 million copies of her 30 different titles sold to date, as noted last week. Her most popular title, The Story of Tracy Beaker, has sold 750,000 copies on its own. Other well-known figures dominate the children’s bestseller lists, with no less than four Lemony Snicket books in the British children’s hardback charts this week.

Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness children’s series, the first title of which is Wolf Brother, has just been bought for the movies by Ridley Scott. Paver had left her fantasy manuscript on the shelf for two decades whilst she pursued a career as a lawyer, before returning to it and turning it into a publishing triumph. She received a £2.8 million ($5.3 million) advance for the series, the highest ever paid for a first-time children’s writer. Now her six-book series is going to get the big screen treatment as well and she’s likely to receive another £2.13 million ($4 million) for film rights.

Just this week it was announced that in less than six weeks 13-year-old Emma Maree Urquhart’s Dragon Tamers, written when she was just 10 years old, has sold 50,000 copies. It’s about a girl who is sucked into a virtual reality game and now Hollywood, not surprisingly, is interested in her as well. As the Independent commented: ‘she has managed to include everything that is guaranteed to make Hollywood film executives and publishers salivate in these days of JRR Tolkien and J K Rowling: dragons, magic and plenty of small people. How could she go wrong?’

Easily, is the answer. Good word of mouth can achieve a lot of sales amongst children. But although plenty of writers are setting out to mine the rich seam of interest in children’s books, those who aspire to similar success need the same combination they always did - an original scenario, strong characters and a compelling story.

See last week’s News Review

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