In more ways than one, the Children's Book Council is on the move. A physical relocation took place last fall, when the CBC staff moved its offices to midtown Manhattan from SoHo, the organization's home for almost 11 years. "We were very happy in SoHo," said CBC president Paula Quint, "but when our lease ran out, our landlords announced that, since we had been such good tenants and were a nonprofit organization, they would only raise our rent 85%," she quipped. "So we moved into space that is located between the Morgan Library, the New York Public Library and the Garment District. It's perfect."

In a very different kind of move, the council's 15-member board of directors has since last fall spent a considerable amount of time appraising the makeup of its membership, whose realignment reflects the changing configuration of the industry. "By evaluating who makes up the CBC and who comprises the children's publishing community now, we can better determine what services our members want and what issues they are concerned about," explained current board chair Anita Silvey, v-p and publisher at Houghton Mifflin Children's Books. "We realized that as conglomerates have gotten larger, there is a greater disparity between the largest and the smallest publishers among our members. This has caused us to redefine the needs of our publishing community."

Board treasurer Mark Vineis, president and publisher of Mondo Publishing, reported that the board's analysis of its membership identified a substantial number of houses that—like his—qualify as "midsize." Describing the CBC membership (which is numbered by imprint, not by parent company), he said, "With the continuing wave of mergers and acquisitions, there are now seven multi-imprint companies representing 26 imprints, and of the 28 other members, 16 can be described as midsize, which is apt to be an evolving definition." (These figures do not include the CBC's 21 associate members, smaller companies that have fewer than 45 books in print and have published fewer than 12 titles in the prior year.)

Recognizing this as a growing segment of its membership, the CBC administrators and board are creating the Midsize Publishers Forum, which is targeted to roll out in the next several months. Gathering information from brainstorming meetings among representatives of midsize houses, the organizers were able to shape the program to best accommodate members' needs. "Our first initiative will be to focus on practical, hard-nosed business issues and, to the extent that CBC can do this legally, help set up service-sharing arrangements," noted Quint.

This initiative's first focus will be on two issues that publishers most frequently cited: advertising/marketing and publicity efforts. At an upcoming meeting, Vineis reported, publishers will explore such possibilities as collectively buying advertising space; pooling resources to contract time from public relations firms; and collaborating on author tours, perhaps grouping authors together to promote books on associated themes or concepts. "What we are looking to find are creative ways to form consortiums so that that we can have an impact similar to larger houses at a more reasonable cost to us," said Vineis.

Quint, who emphasized that the Forum program "is still shaping itself to a large degree," anticipates that subsequent initiatives will include establishing peer-discussion groups aimed at problem-solving and exploring methods for improving efficiency in such areas as print costs, print-run quantities and publishing schedules. A third phase of the Forum will ideally be a mentoring program in which executives and upper-level managers from larger houses and related industries will conduct seminars for managers in midsize houses.

In Search of Numbers

Also springing from an interest in providing information to its members is another project that CBC has in development. Titled the Children's Book Publishing Industry Sales Survey, its aim is to collect and report children's books sales data by format and genre. Though efforts have been underway for more than two years, the logistics of implementing the report have proved daunting for the CBC. Participating publishers—who currently number 15—must categorize each title, for example, and it is necessary to ensure that the houses are defining specific categories in the same manner. A third-party statistician is then responsible for collecting the data, and Quint expects the first reports to be available this fall.

"This is a project I have enormous enthusiasm for," commented Quint, "though I never expected that it would take so long to get this up and running." The results of the survey, which will include only pooled data rather than sales figures of individual publishers, will be available free of charge to all reporting houses, which will also receive a brief, quarterly summary and a longer annual report summarizing the statistics. Non-participating members will receive the summary free and can obtain the actual data for a fee, "as a ruse to get them to participate," said Quint, who hopes that eventually all CBC members will "come on board and make it an even better report." Non-CBC members will be able to purchase the results at a higher price.

Though Quint said that it is premature to mention some of the future projects and activities that the CBC is considering, she stated her belief that the Forum will eventually serve as a role model for working with other segments of the organization's membership, including paperback publishers and small publishers.