Bookseller Briefing 23/19 – week ending 7 June

New Booker branding as Crankstart sponsorship begins

Crankstart has officially taken over as supporter of the Booker Prize, ending 18 years of sponsorship by The Man Group.

The charitable foundation, run by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz and his wife, Harriet Heyman, was announced in February as the prize’s new sponsor in a five-year deal.

As part of the change, which launched on Saturday 1st June, the prizes are now named The Booker and The International Booker Prize.

The prizes also have a new website domain and social media handle @thebookerprizes. The Booker Prize Foundation has also refreshed the awards’ branding and logo.

Crankstart was set-up by venture capitalist Moritz and his wife Harriet Heyman in 2000 with the aim of supporting “the forgotten, the dispossessed, the unfortunate, the oppressed and causes where some help makes all the difference”.

Speaking about the sponsorship decision in February, Moritz said: “Neither of us can imagine a day where we don’t spend time reading a book. The Booker Prizes are ways of spreading the word about the insights, discoveries, pleasures and joy that spring from great fiction.”

The announcement was met with broad support from the trade, following criticism over Man’s involvement.

This year’s Booker Prize longlist will be announced on 24th July, with the shortlist on 3rd September and the winner announced at London’s Guildhall on 14th October.

The 2019 judges are the former publisher and editor of Gollancz, Jonathan Cape and Bloomsbury, Liz Calder, Chinese-British novelist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, journalist and author Afua Hirsch and composer and pianist Joanna MacGregor. The judges are chaired by Hay Festival founder Peter Florence.

Last year’s Man Booker Prize winner was Anna Burns for Milkman (Faber). On 21st May, Author Jokha Alharthi and translator Marilyn Booth jointly won the Man Booker International Prize for Celestial Bodies (Sandstone Press).

Big Issue founder launches literary magazine to create ‘reading revolution’

Big Issue founder John Bird is launching a new quarterly literary magazine containing chapters, extracts and poems from a range of writers in a bid to create a “reading revolution” and increase bookshop and library footfall.

Chapter Catcher will officially launch on Thursday 13th June with a conversation between Bird and Stephen Fry at the House of Saint Barnabus, Soho.

Bird told The Bookseller: “By going through bookshops and libraries we’re trying to increase footfall into those places. What we want is for everybody to read.”

He said the publishing world had been receptive to the idea so far and he was looking for more people to get involved. Readers will also be encouraged to seek out books they had never heard of after getting hooked by a chapter, he said.

Appearing unannounced at a podium during a Publishers Association parliamentary reception on Tuesday, Bird handed out copies of the first issue, pitched his new idea and told the audience: “Go to your bookshops, they need us.”

He told them: “It’s just a load of chapters and the idea is to get people to read wider and deeper. It is taking people on a journey.”

Phil Ryan, the magazine’s publisher, said the team would also be holding events and workshops, forming reading groups and “doing everything we can to bring books to life”.

He said: “Giving people access to the books that matter is at the heart of what we’re doing, bringing them into schools, prison libraries, local bookshops – pretty much everywhere. More than reading, we’re forming communities, supporting local businesses and creating a social echo to save our high street, and to open our minds.”

Priced at £4.99, the publication includes chapters from contemporary novels, classic literature, non-fiction and “in process” work. Bird said it would be on sale at bookshops while free copies would be available to prisons, schools, libraries and community groups. Charities selling the magazine will also get 50% of the money from sales.

Its first issue features a wide-ranging selection of extracts from Fry, Max Porter and Richard Wiseman to Virginia Woolf and Franz Kafka. There is also an essay from a prison inmate about life behind bars which Bird said was “incredible”

BBC Scotland to air literature series based on Barr’s Salon

BBC Scotland is launching a new literature series hosted by Damian Barr and featuring interviews with fiction, non-fiction and poetry writers.

“The Big Scottish Book Club”, airing later this year, will see the You Will Be Safe Here (Bloomsbury) author meet three writers in each hour-long episode of the four-part series.

Inspired by Barr’s popular Literary Salon and filmed in front of a studio audience it will also include chats with literature-loving celebrities. Producers said it aimed to celebrate books and authors from around the world while shining a spotlight on Scottish writers.

Barr (pictured) said: “Book sales are higher than ever and book groups continue to flourish (okay, drinking wine and occasionally talking about books). From Wigtown to Aye Write and Edinburgh International, Scotland has some of the best and busiest book festivals in the world. And we’ve given the world some of its finest writers.

“I’m delighted to host ‘The Big Scottish Book Club’ and invite everyone to join our conversation, readers and writers across the country and the world. Books are for everyone and so is this show.”

Gareth Hydes, commissioning executive, BBC Scotland, added: “We have worked to give his renowned salon sessions a Scottish twist for the new channel. There are a lot of great Scottish books and authors to discuss and invite on to the show, but it will also feature the international best sellers, which have got everyone talking.”

The news comes after BBC Arts announced its own season across TV and radio this autumn, alongside a year-long celebration of the novel. The schedule includes a three-part series called “The Novels That Shaped Our World”.

Barnes & Noble close to deal with Waterstones owner Elliott Management

Barnes & Noble (B&N) is close to securing a $436m deal to be bought by hedge fund Elliott Management, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), amid speculation that Waterstones boss James Daunt could lead both retailers.

If the deal goes through, Barnes & Noble will be the second bookshop chain Elliott has bought since 2018 after the New York hedge fund acquired Waterstones in May last year. Speculation is mounting that Waterstones m.d. Daunt could lead both retailers. Waterstones declined to comment.

The private equity firm is the lead bidder in the auction for the US chain and is expected to pay $6.50 a share, the WSJ reports. At Thursday’s close, B&N had a market value of $436m after stock went up 30% at $5.96. The deal, if successful, will mark the end of the once-dominant US book retailer as a publicly listed company.

The deal – which could collapse – got underway in October, according to the WSJ, with multiple parties expressing an interest in the acquisition.

B&N, which boasts 627 stores in the US, ended the fiscal year of 28th April 2018 with a loss of $125.5m as revenue fell 6% to $3.7bn. The chain had $129.3m in long-term debt, as of January, according to the WSJ.

The US chain has struggled to compete with Amazon in recent years and has also faced the revival of indie bookshops. In response B&N has grown its website and launched the Nook ereader. It has closed several stores, including its flagship. The deal, if successful, will mark the end of the once-dominant US book retailer as a publicly listed company.

Under Daunt, Waterstones, which has around 293 shops in the UK and Ireland, has returned to profit, reporting an operating profit of £24.0m (excluding Ireland and Europe) and sales of £385.7m, in the year end to 2018.

As of January 2019, Elliott, which employs 464 people, says it manages approximately $34bn in assets.

Ladybird spreads its wings with new non-fiction list and an expanded team

Ladybird, part of Penguin Random House Children’s, will next year bring back a range of miniature hardback non-fiction books as part of the relaunch of its trade division.

In June 2020 Ladybird will publish £5.99 hardbacks in the classic Ladybird format (170 x 112mm) about trees, sea creatures, baby animals, animal habitats, insects and “mini- beasts”, as well as four UK-only titles in its What to Look for in… series: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Books about the human body, trains, electricity, the Solar System and the weather will follow in August.

All the titles will cover core curriculum topics and editorial director Louie Stowell said the publisher wanted to make sure it was offering affordable non- fiction while there is still a trend for large, expensive books. The oversized titles are “beautiful”, she said, but stressed: “The idea with the new books is that this is a series and you can collect them all. It’s about approachability, inclusiveness and ease of access. What does the child need and want to know?”

The new series comes as Ladybird relaunches its trade brand and publishing, after expanding the team, led by publishing director Shannon Cullen, who said: “Ladybird as a brand has been around for 100 years and it’s our job to keep it going for the next 100. There was a change of guard on the publishing side, which was the point that I came in, and there was a moment to look at the publishing, the brand itself, and the consumer (where the consumer is, and who the consumer is)and try to marry those things together.”

In addition to Stowell, Cullen has hired James Stevens as art director, and the team is releasing 37 books this year (as opposed to seven last year) across novelty, picture books and non-fiction in the 0-7 space. New releases include the re-launched Baby Touch range, a book called Adventurous Girls (introduced by Jacqueline Wilson), a Little World series that enables children to explore different landscapes, and more titles in the 10 Minutes to Bed series. There is also a collection of weird and wonderful facts about the UK by Imogen Russell Williams and Louise Lockhart, entitled The Big Book of the UK, and in 2021, Ladybird will start publishing the Busy Day series, lift-the-flap books about different professions. The latter that has already seen “extraordinary” interest at Bologna, said Cullen.

The team is “constantly” carrying out research into who Ladybird readers are and Stowell described that demographic as a “very web-savvy audience, obviously, but also a frantically busy audience. Part of what Ladybird stands for is trying to give children what they need. So if they are not going to bed, here is a book that will help them go to bed.” A large percentage of Ladybird buyers are Millennials under-35s with small children as are grandparents, who are increasingly purchasing more things for their grandchildren. Fathers are also a growing market, with many taking on a more equal and active role in parenting, said Cullen.

A fresh take

Stevens, who is overseeing the design for the division, said that he wants to reflect the history of the Ladybird brand, but doesn’t want to be weighed down by “what has gone before”. Illustrators are found from a variety of sources, including agencies, and he said he was excited to be using a diverse range of illustration talent. “Good design is paramount for these books. We’ve approached every book with the goal of making it the best looking thing it could be.”

The team also has extensive marketing and publicity plans. It has already run a Ladybird-themed event with family rave company Raver Tots and is launching a monthly book club with Peanut, an app for mothers. It is working with social media influencers such as Fizzy Peaches, Unlikely Dad and Georgia Jones, with a big name lined up to be announced soon.

Ladybird sales were £7.74m through Nielsen BookScan in 2018, compared to £7.71m in 2017, and its sales in 2019 to date are up 19.7% year on year. Nielsen groups together the trade division and licensing (the two are in terms of production separate, albeit both overseen by Cullen), but Cullen wants to triple trade revenues by 2021.