Thursday, June 01, 2006

Swag-gering

Picking up on our theme of yesterday, the NYT today publishes an article about swag and the Tony Awards, yet another area in which children's books lag behind the other arts. I did get a "Camp Green Lake" baseball hat when I was on the 1999 Newbery Committee, but it was after the fact and a gift from Ginny McKee, the committee chair, besides. Where's the loot?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

There may be a reason why librarians are steretyped as meek and mild creatures. I was asking one the very question you asked because she was on a couple of national committees and telling me aobut the fab parties she was invited to after the awards. Parties given by publishers for authors. She was delighted. But she couldnt afford to sit on these committees often because she had to pay all her own expenses, hotel, meals, airfare, her library system wouldn't pick it up. and I said, the awards bring so much money insales that the librarians should band together and refuse to sit on committees unless publishers keep a slush fund for the committee members who do all the work. Pay ThEIR expenses. And give them each a baseball cap.

ifahren said...

Aaaaannnnddddd the award goes tooo: whoever pays for the best loot!

Andy Laties said...

Well, if Congressmen have their lobbyists, why shouldn't librarians?

In fact, everyone knows that the top marketing people on the publishing side do in fact lobby leading librarians (discreetly of course). I think flattery is the preferred method, though, publishing budgets being what they are.

Elizabeth said...

Roger, didn't you once publish an article in SLJ called "Biting the Hand that Feeds Us" protesting that we publishers were courting reviewers too much?

I've actually seen the Tony swag, since a friend was costume designer on that show for a number of years, and it's not much different at all from the tote bags, sample CDs, flashlights, mugs, hand mirrors (to promote Kai Meyer's first book) etc. that we give out at conventions and send to booksellers to get attention for our books. And we invite librarians and reviewers to parties and meals for authors routinely. The Tony voters don't get that! I'm not really sure what your beef is...

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you, Elizabeth, we want trips to antarctica and plasma televisions. HAND MIRRORS? What planet are you living on?

Anonymous said...

And apparently Roger wants Kevin Henkes, but we won't go into that. The authors might go for it, awards are, after all, awards, but the publishers are a bunch of calvinists.

Roger Sutton said...

I guess my tongue was too far in my cheek. Swag is a BAD THING. Publishers paying for librarians to be on award committees is also a BAD THING--while the Newbery and Caldecott Medals are a Good Thing for the publishers of the winning books, that is not the point of the awards, which are instead meant to signal--to readers--books of exceptional merit.

The issue of dinners and author parties is a complicated one, but while I can see where they are good for the publisher, their value to a committee member--beyond the free food--is questionable. And yes, I do attend these affairs, so if our brave Anonymous cares to take a potshot at me about that too, have at it.

Btw, anyone who links publishers with Calvinists clearly hasn't spent much time around either. Ditto re me and Henkes.

Anonymous said...

publishers paying to be on award committees is a bad thing but librarians paying their own expenses to serve everyone else is also a bad thing. Publishers should be charged more to enter a book for an award and this money should be used to fund committee members' expenses.
Why do you think I think you shouldn't attend these dinners and parties? I would think your presence would enliven any party.
And, honey, you started the Henkes thing. But I will drop it.
I don't take potshots, I just stir the pot. But I will leave you alone for a while so you can get back to the extremely boring business of the book business in relative peace.

Anonymous said...

And regarding Calvinists and publishers, you nimcompoop, you are not the only one whose tongue does not always cleave to the roof of his mouth. There I am done.

Roger Sutton said...

What she is proposing resembles the way the National Book Awards are run--publishers pay to submit their books (and pay more if a book is chosen as a finalist); the National Book Awards organization pays the judges' expenses.

The ALA Awards do not require that a publisher nominate or submit books--it's up to the committees. I think this is a fairer system for choosing, because the jurors are not dependent on any publisher's whim or budget in determining a winner. I remember one book I really wanted to discuss with my fellows when I judged the NBA but because the publisher had not submitted it there was no point--it could not be considered.

It is true--and a hardship for many--that you have to sign up for at least two (maybe three) ALA conferences in order to be a member of an awards committee, and ALA does not support your expenses. Many librarians have some or all of their exp. paid for by their libraries, but of course this leaves out those belonging to poorer institutions (and since the employees probably make lower salaries, they get double-whammyed). ALA does give out conference scholarships to new librarians, and I wonder if this could be extended to support librarians more generally. But I'm not holding my breath.

K T Horning said...

One of our wise foremothers once said: "Everyone has his price. Mine is not a publisher dinner."

As I understand it, the whole tradition of publishers inviting librarians to meals at ALA stemmed from the fact that librarians have always been underpaid and that it's been a sacrifice for most of us to attend conferences.

But it seems to me that the employees in marketing divisions of children's book publishing are paid even less than librarians, so it doesn't surprise me that they sometimes go a little overboard when they're on expense accounts. Most of them look like they could use a good meal. We librarians are happy to oblige.

mvp said...

First I should say that librarians are the greatest people in the world, bar none; but the characterization of them as selfless servers of others strikes me as incomplete, at least. Being on a Newbery/Caldecott/etc. committee is a plum assignment and good for one's career, yes?

Also, as to Roger's comment that the point of the awards is to signal "to readers" books of exceptional merit--he's right, of course, but let me quote from Frederick Melcher's statement of purpose for the Newbery Medal: "To encourage original and creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children's reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field."

Child readers are implied in the above, but just barely: the emphasis was all on the writing and, oh yes, getting some recognition, out there in the world, for children's books!

Andy Laties said...

Re: kt's comment --

So: 1)Librarians charitably run awards programs so that marketers in publishing houses can have an excuse to spend their companies' expense-accounts on personal pleasure (parties). In other words: 2) Librarians are using awards programs to manipulate the internal workings of publishing houses.

The first sentence sounds absurd: librarians don't care about the lives of marketers. The second sentence is however true, since librarians do hope that the presence of awards opportunities will stimulate EDITORIAL behavior among publishers conducing to the publication of meritorious literature.

And -- since these days many houses have former marketing and sales division people running the companies (in the top dog Publisher job-slot) -- and therefore, EDITORIAL decisions are subservient to the understandings of marketers and sales people -- the second sentence -- about how librarians are trying to draw forth a certain kind of behavior from editors -- DEPENDS FOR ITS SUCCESS on the first sentence.

Librarians do indeed run awards programs so as to permit marketing people to spend their companies' expense accounts on personal pleasure. Only in this party atmosphere will the sales and marketing types concede to editors' irrational better natures, permitting editors to "do the right thing" and publish great literature.

No parties for marketers, no editorial freedom to produce great books.

Got to keep the boss happy.

KT Horning said...

Martha, while it is true that the Newbery and Caldecott committees are considered plum assignments, every year librarians have to turn down the opportunity to serve on one of these committees because they can't afford to attend two ALA conferences. As library budgets shrink, outside travel is generally one of the first things to get cut, and few librarans can afford to pay their own ways to attend conferences.

Fran H said...

Color me naive, but I was unaware that a fee had to be paid to be considered for the IRA/CBC booklists. Guess I just never looked that deeply into the website before, but I got curious when what I thought was a dreadful book (as did my 8-year-old, highly critical daughter) was on the Children's Choice list.

Thank heavens that not everything is pay-to-play!

Fran H said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elizabeth said...

My Goodness, I sort of missed Roger's tongue-in-cheek tone that started this blog entry, but Andy, how serious are you about yours? Kidding, surely? Although editors are clearly the real talents in publishing houses(according to your scenario), and being put down by the man. So who am I, an editorial type, to disagree?

Although here's my own naivete speaking--it never ocurred to me that there was a perception (at least among some) that having people with sales or marketing background in top jobs was considered to adversely effect the publishing of good books. Feel free to disagree, but in 21 years in the business, I haven't had a book I really loved turned down by anyone, and sales and marketing people truly don't make editorial decisions--though I'll admit I often take their advice about book jackets. But that's not where I personally feel most confident either, whereas I do always trust my instincts about the book itself.

rindambyers said...

Whew! Glad to know for certain that publishers aren't Calvinists. I never could like either Luthor or Calvin much...since both of them ordered executions of their "enemies" in their lifetimes....I'll take St. Francis instead, please. Although I fear he would be giving book award money--if he won any--away to charitiable causes--perhaps to scholarship funds for deserving but poverty-stricken librarians...?

Anonymous said...

Just realized, roger, that you may think the deleted comment was from much maligned anonymous, but it was not.

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