Thursday, 12 November 2015

"The Apprentice" thinks producing children's books is easy, and kids are dumb and unsophisticated. Quelle surprise! (A ReadItDaddy Editorial)

"Snottydink" - If you're able to say that without rolling your eyes you're a better person than I am!

Last week, The BBC's "The Apprentice" programme took on the world of children's picture book publishing and came away with...

(at this point I want to type - "A bloody nose" because judging by the live response to the episode on Twitter by folk I follow and immensely respect, the entire debacle was at least the comedy highlight of the Twitter year)

...came away with a stark message for all you wonderful creative folk who make the children's publishing industry the powerhouse it is. 

"Kids books are easy. Kids are too unsophisticated and dumb to need much more from their books. You're all doing it wrong and we've just shown you how easy it all is really!"

Obviously at this point a lot of people out there are chewing their keyboards in half, snapping pencils or throwing filing cabinets out of the nearest office window in disgust. "The Apprentice" is, after all, television entertainment served up as some sort of expert opinion on what makes modern business types successful, and how modern business is conducted in every marketing sector the programme touches. 

During the programme (which is still available on iPlayer and well worth a watch if you can stomach it) it was quite interesting to note that every time a publishing or creative professional became involved in the various pitches, you saw a tiny glossed-over smidgeon of what it really means to work in the industry, what it means to write or illustrate - and what it means to strap all that together into a book that's going to leap off the shelves into tiny hands, and become something that kids will read and remember. 

None of the books pitched achieved that - particularly the absolutely awful "Snottydink" which looked like it was hewn from the same template as an awful lot of self-published titles we've turned our noses up at. The assumption was that kids love rhymes, even really bad ones. Kids love drawings that look like something they'd do. Kids, in essence, are not sophisticated little humans who have developed any taste whatsoever so early on in a book's inception, adopt a "that'll do" approach to save yourself some time and effort. 

What. a. Crock. of. BULL!

Do you ever notice a recurring theme in our Book of the Week winners here? Scroll back through the blog, even back to the very beginning when Charlotte was 2 and look at those BOTW winners and tell me if you spot books with horrible clumsy awkward rhymes that read aloud sounding like someone being hurled down a flight of stairs stapled to a grand piano. Show me child-like appalling illustrations that mimic the sort of drawings your child does when all you've got in your handbag is a leaky biro and a couple of old shopping lists. Show me insultingly dumbed-down grammar, appalling cliches, abhorrent characterisation, staccato story flow. None of those will be there because, as bookworms ourselves, we'd never let Charlotte anywhere near books like that. 

Be honest though, did you tune in expecting to see anything different? Most folk involved in children's publishing would readily admit that they encounter the attitude displayed in spades on the programme in their everyday lives. I get it all the time. "Oh so you blog about children's books? Wow, you must be some sort of weirdo / unsophisticated simpleton / did we mention weirdo?"

I'd imagine if you write children's books you get this a hell of a lot. People assume you have the easiest job in the world because you can just slap any old crap together and kids will never call you out on it (which of course, is absolutely pricelessly untrue). Illustrators may have a slightly easier time of it because no one - even a stupid wire-headed fool like SirAlan - would stand there and tell you that artistic ability is purely determined by how quickly you can knock out a set of drawings. 

So no surprises in the episode. I genuinely felt sorry for book folk who were involved in it (it must've seemed like a dream gig I'd imagine) but it was pure gold being on Twitter the evening the episode aired. It really was.