The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) released its 2011 shortlist of nominated children’s book titles for Book Week last Tuesday, and the mad scramble – to make sure school library collections have the books – has begun in earnest.
When the stores say a shortlisted title is “not available”, that’s because it has already sold out of its initial print-run everywhere (ie. the warehouses are often empty long before the nominations come out, or they are cleaned out the day the shortlist is announced), and the publisher is now attempting to get a second printing done in time for Book Week. That attempt is usually successful, at least for the city stores in most states. Sadly, books that don’t make the shortlist often never get a second hardcover printing. That precious nomination is often their key to longevity. Publishers are very frugal and only very strong sellers and award nominees get a second bite at the market. Paperback versions of nominated hardcovers often don’t get scheduled until the approaching Christmas season, too late for Term 3 Book Week celebrations.
I have permission from my Principal to round up the titles in whichever bookshops I happen find them in, hopefully in ones that offer us a decent discount. I haven’t bought any books for the library since last Easter (except the 2010 shortlist) because of our BER rebuilding, so my 2011 shortlist shelves were totally bare. I’ve been treasure hunting shops since last Tuesday when the list came out – and I have actually found almost everything (including most of the Crichton Award nominees for first time illustrators). Often it’s the lone copy on a shelf I find, but a surprising number of the titles have been in reasonable supply this year. I resist just back-ordering the whole list from one seller at this time of year, because inevitably I see older, first printing copies in forgotten corners all over Sydney, when I could be using them with the students, but the shops also dislike it when you keep canceling books from the order. This time of year drives the booksellers crazy, and it also seems unfair to think of all those wonderful books that just missed out making it to the Notables list, since they are probably destined to be a distant memory.
So there’s no easy answer. I happen to enjoy the treasure hunt, and am usually very successful. Several of my favourite haunts see me walk in the door and they say, “Ah, we know what you’re looking for!”, even if it’s been a year between visits.
The theme this year is “One World, Many Stories”, and is neatly served by this cute song on Youtube.