At Thursday's “Trends in the Christian Children’s Market” panel at BookExpo America, publishers agreed that the historic obstacles to getting their books into ABA stores matter less these days. Consumers “are buying them everywhere—mass market stores, chains,” said Laura Minchew, publisher of Tommy Nelson, now a part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. The panel, moderated by Mary Manz-Simon, a children’s book author and a specialist in the market, also included Annette Bourland, group publisher of Zonderkidz (and part of HCCP); Dan Lynch, publisher of B&H Kids; and Mike Nawrocki, executive v-p of Big Idea Entertainment and co-creator of VeggieTales.

Manz-Simon reviewed newly released data on the children’s market from Nielsen. Some results were unsurprising: Bible Belt states lead in sales of Christian books for children and most buyers are women (though more seem to be grandparents than in the past). But she also noted that price seems to be less a factor than in the past, even though buyers of the books are overall less wealthy than buyers of children’s books in general.

Rising developments noted by the panelists included more middle-grade books for boys, and books for older kids that are more graphically oriented for readers used to the visual media and “sound bite” content they see on their smartphone and tablet screens.

Bourland cited bookseller comments as the inspiration for Blink, the new YA imprint from Zondervan: “Many of them were concerned that YA books have become increasingly violent and sexually graphic, and that they were reluctant to recommend them for their teen customers.” Blink, she said, offers “clean reads” in the category. Lynch said that in keeping with B&H’s publishing program overall, B&H Kids is focusing on books with movie and TV tie-ins.

For Tommy Nelson, improving biblical literacy among kids is a major emphasis. “Christians are concerned about that for both children and adults,” Minchew said, citing Nelson’s Joshua Code series, first done for adults and now in a children’s version, Joshua Code for Kids. She also noted success with brand-name authors and books, such as Heaven Is for Real for Kids. Lysa TerKeurst, bestselling author of Made to Crave, is publishing a children’s book, It Will Be OK, with Tommy Nelson in October.

Along with branding, more graphics, and lots of book and movie tie-ins, another sign of the times is the new deal struck by Big Idea to produce unique VeggieTales content for Netflix. Though Nawrocki declined to provide details, he said they were already in production with the debut offerings.