Thursday, 1 March 2018


Hello! Today it’s WORLD BOOK DAY and a time of great celebration.Here in Britain, schools and children will celebrating books and reading by doing quizzes, having exciting assemblies, dressing up as book characters, maybe parading about the place as such – especially some teachers - and much more. I hope you’ll discover some interesting book titles, enjoy an Author or Illustrator visit or Skype call, perhaps, and most of all, indulge in lots of reading – and writing too, if it fits in with your day.
Image result for World Book Day logo 2018 
Snow permitting, I should be in an Infant & Nursery School the other side of Yorkshire which makes me very happy. I love being with children and sharing their enthusiasm for books and reading so my fingers are crossed for the incoming weather. By the by, I believe this excellent school has been in touch with their fine, local independent children’s bookseller so the day should work out well for everyone.

Yesterday I warmed up for World Book Day by helping out at my local library, where primary children met their local librarian, used their reader tickets, discovered how library shelving worked and learned how to make a cute origami bookmark. (So did I!) She also showed them that some people mark their pages with very strange things, some worse than a turned-down corner. How about an old five-pound note book mark? A helpful rasher of bacon? An unclaimed lottery ticket? Or even a mysterious pair of false eyelashes? What a strange side of life these librarians must see!

Whether or not I make the visit tomorrow (rushes off to check the weather forecast again!) I know that plenty of heroic authors and illustrators are travelling the land and visiting as many schools and children as possible. Some schools will even have sent home letters and arranged book stalls where children can buy one of “their” author’s books and have it signed. And this is where those £1.00 World Book Day tokens come in, because these tokens can be quite complicated little things.

The good bit: WBD tokens are an established part of a great big publicity campaign about the value of books. The WBD scheme was created with the noble intention of helping to get books into the hands of as many children as possible.

However, the tokens aren’t absolutely “free”. The loss isn’t covered by some charity or library or special fund. Real life bookshops and booksellers are the ones who take that £1.00 “hit”, or so I believe. As a group, the booksellers decided to accept WBD promotional tokens in the hope of extra sales but also because they believe World Book Day sparks a wider interest in books & reading throughout the rest of the year. There's also evidence that book ownership is a vital aspect of literacy and therefore a Good Thing. Additionally, so that there is a book available for every child to own, the children’s publishers create a list of World Book Day £1.00 titles each year.

Image result for World Book Day logo 2018However, this complexity can mean that WBD tokens are a slight problem for any visiting author or illustrator whose visit isn’t supported by a local bookshop or similar. As individuals, they aren't really part of the wider WBD scheme. If they bring any book-stock with them, they will have paid for their own titles themselves. The only “free books” that traditionally published authors get from their publisher are the ten or so free “author copies” granted prior to publication, and that’s it. From then on, while authors may get a slight discount, they may well have to buy their own school visiting book-stock.

These authors will have bought the books, stored them, packed them, carted them to the school or wherever, counting them out and then back again, all the while hoping that those big metal cases of purposely over-printed titles aren’t already in school, tempting the children and parents and teachers away from their own non-celebrity, non-media titles.

So, if you call into the school hall and spy an author, any heap of rattling cash or crisp notes they are handling will already be well accounted for. In addition, if you’re imagining vast royalties coming from the stack of books, these may well work out at less than 5p a copy, all if which goes to repaying the original book advance until the title's sales have recouped the publisher’s original outlay. Book finances can feel very circular indeed - and all this is only part of the story!)

Image result for World Book Day logo 2018Don't misunderstand me. I enjoy World Book Day and am very pleased that there are so many people celebrating reading in all sorts of ways and encouraging children in a love of books at home, at school and in local libraries, and children's authors are often as generous as they can be with their books, too.

However, now, if you come across an author on World Book Day who seems less than eager to accept one of the fabulous World Book Day £1.00 tokens, you now know why.

Please buy the author or illustrator's book anyway, there and then and not on Amazon afterwards, if at all possible. And if you've got this far, thank you for listening.

Penny Dolan


Joan Lennon said...

Well put, Penny!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Wonderful post Penny and very timely. The world at large doesn't understand book finance. So I hope some budding readers and budding buyers out there have read this! And hope the day has gone well for all authors who did school visits. Here in the southern hemisphere for the moment, I feel very removed from it all... there have been some real horror bookings.