Thursday, 6 December 2018

On "Book of the Year" awards, comedians turned authors, and the big Twitter furore David Baddiel kicked off - A ReadItTorial.

"Your book's rubbish!" "No, yours is!"
Well we weren't actually going to do any ReadItTorials in December - but this one was too juicy to pass up.

It all started out with a #notbitteratall Tweet, as the subjects for our ReadItTorials often do...

One of the things I've noticed about being a writer of children's books that children actually like and buy is that your books are resolutely missed out of Children's Books of The Year round-ups in newspapers #notbitter #okslightly

...and swiftly descended into another round of Kidlit's favourite game where celebrity authors are rounded up and given a swift cattle-prodding, Twitter style.

It most definitely had us musing about how those "Book of the Year" roundups are actually drawn up, how the winning books are decided - but again whether there's actually some fire to back up David's smoke. Are Celebrity Books roundly ignored in BOTY lists purely because of the growing stigma attached to them?

We've reviewed quite a few of David's books in our Chapter Book roundups. None have ever really made our "Book of the Week" slot and none have troubled our Chapter Book of the Year slot either (mostly because we haven't actually been boxing out our Chapter Book coverage for that long). Yet C has enjoyed them, and I've particularly enjoyed the family-focused observation David makes in his stories.

The thing is, my initial interpretation of the tweet was that it sounded like the peacock-like ramblings of someone who's rather more concerned about book sales and the kudos (and increase in book sales) that winning a coveted newspaper-style Book of the Year award would bring.

David was rounded on by many authors in the business who took the tweet that way, but also launched into missives about celebrity books in general - not just laying into the quality of the writing (or ghost writing!) in most cases, but also stating that being an award-winning comedy writer does not automatically give you some divine privilege to become a well respected children's author.

Yet, hah, as we write this, a great many comedians and comedy writers are writing children's picture book or middle grade fiction. Why that specific age group? Are there comedians who can cut it writing for YA? Have any tried to pen graphic novels? Odd that it's a very specifically focused age group, innit?

Female comedians seem to do well writing for any age group. In fact female celebrities in general tend to publish to the adult market more than kids. Again that's quite an interesting nugget of fact that has absolutely nothing to do with the real focus of this blog post.

Most comedy writers want to make you laugh, whatever your age. They want that divine moment where their viewer or reader can wholly identify with, and find the humour in the situation or thing that the comedian is describing.

And like anyone who has a career, comedians want to be good enough at what they do to continue doing it. I would assume that most of them apply this same effort to their children's literature so again you're back to imagining that what Dave was actually having a dig at wasn't kidlit, but the newspaper awards. Either that or he has a gigantic massive ego that he feels isn't being fed well enough, recognition wise.

On the subject of comedy Daves, during the whole Twitterthon another nugget of info emerged that was quite spectacularly breathtakingly ill informed if true. This time, allegedly from David Walliams, the celebrity author most authors (and probably celebrity authors) love to hate / envy / allege is ghostwritten (delete as appropriate).

This one was from Blue Peter Award-winning author Gareth P. Jones (who also blogged about Baddiel's tweet).

Everyone feels hard done by, even the celebs. The other day someone in the know told me that Walliams doesn't feel like his publisher does much in the way of marketing for his books.

Just let that one sink in for a moment. Yes, the same David Walliams whose gigantic Point of Sale displays appear like a blight across the frontages and shelf spaces of just about every book shop you can think of, who has appeared no less than seventy billion times on just about every TV and Radio show talking about his book, and whose promo copies were sent out to grateful bloggers right across the land...oh no, wait, that last bit was a complete fabrication, I do apologise. We never get DW's books to review, I mean why bother getting lowly bloggers to promote them when they'll sell in their millions anyway eh? #NotBitter #onlyslightly

In a roundabout way I'm getting to the point, albeit very slowly. Anyone who has even the most peripheral involvement with the children's publishing industry and the many artists, authors, designers, writers, ghost-writers, translators, PRs, publishers, tea persons etc cannot fail to notice that there's something that most book folk have in common.

They're lovely, they're hugely supportive of each other, hell they have the utmost respect for their own authors and illustrators as well as other publishers' authors and illustrators too. In fact, the authors and illustrators themselves largely seem to respect each other and each other's craft.

Cast your eyes over Twitter whenever big awards like the Carnegies or the Kate Greenaway awards, the Blue Peter awards, the Costa awards etc etc are announced and the first thing you'll notice isn't a load of authors moaning that they didn't make the list, it's a load of folk congratulating those that have.

It starts even before publication for most folk too. Those of us still putting out manuscript after manuscript don't fire off angry tweets if one of our crit group, or writing compadres gets a book deal. We're there too, celebrating their successes, retweeting and writing about their launches, reviewing or covering their books and perhaps hoping one day we'll see something of our own in print, let alone winning any awards, annual or otherwise. Publication isn't some deity-granted right, nor is winning an award (we could get really into the grist of why we barely raise an eyelid when it comes to most annual book awards, particularly newspaper-backed ones, but that's a blog for another day).

Though obviously most celebrities are busy folk who are spinning a number of plates in the air, many appear on Twitter on a daily basis, yet barely seem to engage with other kidlit folk.

So I guess at some point David Baddiel might want to take a look at, perhaps even engage with the children's publishing industry as a whole rather than moaning that his particular glory barge doesn't quite carry enough privilege because of his celebrity status.

Good books are good books, and even though we've enjoyed his work (and a great many kids and adults have too), I can think of a billion and one other books that would be (and in fact have quite rightly been named as) Book of the Year material.

It's pretty much as simple as that.