Behind The Scenes: How The Books In Your Bag Are Chosen
Every year at Bookbug HQ we select three new books for each Bookbug Bag. Have you ever wondered how these books make it into our Bookbug Bags and who selects them? Let me take you through the stages of this selection process from where it all begins…
First of all, book selection is done up to 18 months in advance of the Bags being distributed to our Bookbug Co-ordinators across Scotland. So we have just selected the books for our 2016-17 Bookbug Bags! This is so that the books selected can be produced by the publishers in time and are safely delivered to our warehouse by December for packing, ready for the first delivery of the year in March. These bags are distributed by our busy Bookbug Co-ordinators to every child in Scotland throughout the year.
As well as eating delicious cakes and reading lots of lovely books, these meetings are an opportunity for publishers to show us any new releases
In early February this year, Kirsty Sinclair and I visited some of the UK’s leading children’s publishing houses. Squeezed into 7 days were visits to 17 publishing houses including: HarperCollins, Walker, Bloomsbury, Random House, Penguin, Floris and Black and White publishing to name a few. This included a sneak peek into Walker’s famous ‘shed’ where they keep a copy of every book they’ve ever produced. Also deserving a special mention is the delicious gingerbread we sampled at The Crow’s Nest, Nosy Crow HQ.
As well as eating delicious cakes and reading lots of lovely books, these meetings are an opportunity for publishers to show us any new releases and even any back list titles that they think would be suitable for the bags. Prior to these meetings, publishers are given a set of submission guidelines which outline what we are looking for in each bag.
After our meetings, we sent the publishers a list of the books that we wanted them to submit. We also sent out an email to all our publishing contacts across the UK inviting them to submit any suitable titles. This process is open to all with a deadline around the beginning of April each year.
Then comes the really fun bit: The Early Years office starts to fill up with submissions, and we get to read through all of the beautiful books that are sent in. This year we had around 300 submissions, with 15 copies of each title to share with our panel; this equates to approximately 4,500 books… which had to be unpacked and carried down to our staff room.
With our shelves (and my biceps) bulging, we enlisted the help of our Bookbug team to get reading and put forward their favourites. Over the course of a few team meetings, several cups of tea and plenty of biscuits we selected a long list for each category: Baby, Toddler and 3-year-old.
Every year we invite a panel of experts to help us select the final titles for the bags. We invite librarians, parents, teachers, health staff and education and early years professionals to sit on our panel, which changes every year. They are sent the longlist to read and share with their children, classes, family and friends to put a case forward for their favourite books. The panel meeting is held at our office in late May (to give them a chance to read all the books) where the hot debate starts and plenty more tea and biscuits are consumed. The panel need to ensure the books included in our Bags are pitched at the appropriate age range and represent the highest quality in publishing, with appealing illustrations and excellent use of language, rhythm, rhyme or repetition. After much discussion, a bit of shouting, and some voting, the top three for each bag are chosen and a reserves list is also selected.
After much discussion, a bit of shouting, and some voting, the top three for each bag are chosen
Kirsty then gets back to the publishers and negotiates a price for the books. Orders for each book can be anything between 56,000 to 62,000, so we work with publishers to order books within our budget.
A huge thanks needs to go to the authors and illustrators for creating these amazing books, everyone on our panel and all the lovely publishers who submitted books for our bags. The newly selected Bags will be available from March 2016 onwards from your Health Visitor, your child’s nursery or local library.