News

Children's laureate takes on Waterstone's branding

The new children's laureate, to be announced in June, will be branded the Waterstone's children's laureate for the first time. The chain has been the major sponsor of the laureateship since 2006, and is understood to have pushed hard for the name change when negotiating its continued support for the 2011-2013 role.

Government funding for the position through the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council has been halved from £15,000 to £7,500 for 2011-20­12, making Waterstone's sponsorship more important to the laureateship than ever. The MLA grant had represented around a third of the laureate's funding, with a further third coming from the chain and the remaining sum from publishers.

The cut in the MLA's funding is not being replaced, so the laureateship will operate on reduced funds in 2011-2012. Sixteen publishers are contributing to funding the post. In a gesture to other retailers, a non-Waterstone's branded logo will be employed on point of sale for use elsewhere.

Waterstone's buying manager Sarah Clarke said the chain would be "upweighting our activity" around the laureateship this year, with every Waterstone's featuring the new children's laureate in their shop windows. "We will be supporting the role in stores and online in different ways throughout the year and beyond," said Clarke.

John Dunne, chair of the Children's Laureate Steering Group, said: "At a time when public and private funding is under so much pressure, it is extremely heartening to see Waterstone's reaffirming and strengthening their commitment to the laureateship."

A well-known author who preferred not to be named said: "I'm more comfortable about it being a Waterstone's laureateship than I was about a prize sponsored by Smarties. All sponsorship seems to carry a name and this is at least a bookseller, there is nothing to be ashamed of. What could a laureate do to support Waterstone's that wouldn't support the industry? Waterstone's aren't going to say: 'You can only advocate books that are in our three-for-twos.'"

However, Kate Agnew of indie the Children's Bookshop in Muswell Hill, said she was "anxious" about the development. "Hitherto it's been a mutually supportive role for independent booksellers and the children's laureate. One wants to go on supporting it, but if it is perceived in the public eye as the Waterstone's children's laureate, we have to be a lot more careful." She warned the post itself could be marginalised by the development. "It could be seen as a trade thing rather than as an ambassadorial role," she said.

Several publishers are also known to be unhappy at the development. A senior children's publisher said: " A lot of publishers think it takes away from the authority of the role." Walker m.d. Jane Winterbotham said the change "could become extremely tricky" over the issue of impartiality.

Kate Bostock, secretary of the Children's Book Group at the Publishers Association, said: "It is a bit complicated, with two sets of point of sale, but needs must. We want the laureate. The financial situation's difficult and we're very grateful to Waterstone's for supporting it." She admitted: "There may be teething problems."

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Kudos attached to laureate role: gone.

I think John Gregory's post here is the most pathetic I've ever seen. Well done, John!

Although I think Beckola has just topped it. Well done Beckola!

It is beyond a joke. Do these people have a red light on their desks that flashes whenever the Bookseller mentions Waterstone's so they can be the first in with their stupid, churlish responses? I expect in the time it's taken me to type this someone has already asked how many extra staff this sponsorship could have paid for. Bugger-all is the answer, the sums involved will be tiny.

Amazingly I didn't think my reaction to this news either stupid or churlish; neither do I have a red light on my desk. What I really resent is the commercialisation of honorary appointments, however worthy or high profile the sponsor is. I don't care whether it's Waterstone's or anyone else behind this sponsorship, and I'm certainly not knocking what is clearly the sacred cow of Waterstone's. It's the fact of the sponsorship itself that I think is appalling. Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned. But I'm flattered by 'Beckola's' response.

I agree with John Gregory and Kate Agnew. I am glad that the money to sponsor the children's laureate is being made available thanks to Waterstones, but as an independent bookseller it makes it harder for me to support something if it is so clearly linked to a major competitor.

At least Waterstone's sell books. It's better than Costa.

John, Waterstone's is the main sponsor for this award, and has been so for years. The sponsorship is even mroe important this time round, as the govt funding has been halved. As Waterstone's is a bookseller, what is the problem? It is not at all like Ann Summers sponsoring the Poet Laureate.

It's all very well being snooty about honorary appointments, but they have to be paid for, and it's fair to recognise the sponsor - without "appalling" sponsorship from someone, the position would not exist.

No one has ever called waterstone's a 'sacred cow' - it certainly doesn't get that respect on this website - that position is reserved for the indies.

Beckola, John made a strong point using comedy to underline what he was saying.
If you don't see that, this probably isn't the best place to discuss your sense of humour.

Yes Lit Agent 2 it is my fault I got Gordo to get us into the worst mess ever and now Cam is absolutely wrecking things by wanting cut backs when we need to continue to spend just as we were .Forget Libya this is far more important for the world as we know it.

Frances, we are also an independent bookshop but if the children's laureate ever came here, we would gleefully pull out all the stops to promote what would be an excellent chance to sell a few books. Who cares if the post is 'sponsored' by Waterstones, in big bold lettering, it will be hosted by us.

BALLS-ED,

As most of the world seems to have forgotten, our financial crisis is rather less the fault of public spending than it is of a wholly under-regulated global financial sector that ensures every business in the world has to live by the rules of the market except their own. All the UK governments of at least the last thirty years have been complicit in getting us to this point and while Brown is certainly not blamesless, nor was Cameron for anything over than more deregulation as far as I can remember.

All of which is to say, surely the point Lit Agent 2 makes is eminently sensible - that there is something of a contradiction inherent in Cameron's Big Society concept if his government removes basic funding from swathes of 'social initiatives' that contribute to making our society rich but which can't boast a booming bottom line.

Although Waterstones' endorsement is a little better than Smarties in terms of the "right type" of sponsor, I can't help but think their sponsorship would have been more sincere if they had just said they would forego having their name on the title, and instead simply concentrate on the notion of it simply being about the Children's Laureate and the encouragement of reading. Naive, I know but I'm nothing if not an idealist.

Sarah Clarke said the chain would be "upweighting our activity"

Upweighting? Does this mean increasing? Sarah please... this sort of thing just feeds our critics.

As for the Laureate debate...

1) Waterstones has supported the Laureate and the "notion of it simply being about the Children's Laureate and the encouragement of reading", for several years without any form of branding. The fact that the money is NOT being taken away proves their commitment. Theo Bos's Sexy Butt has it right when he talks about Team Sky.

2) Frances: why does it make it harder for you to support something if it is so clearly linked to a major competitor? The 'clearly linked' has been there for years (see above) and there will be UNBRANDED POS for indies use.

3) Does the independent sector contribute financially to the Laureate? Would there be any money coming from the independent sector if Waterstones withdrew their sponsorship? These are genuine questions, as I understood it was an equal three-way split between the MLA, publishers, and Waterstones. The halving of the MLA contribution makes Waterstones the single largest sponsor, doesn't it?

I stand in my branch each day, surrounded by books that I love, talking to our customers at length about what we are each reading, and taking great joy and comfort from knowing that I might make a little bit of difference in someone's life, not least my own. My recommendation will give an adult or child a few hours happy reading, the author, the publisher and my shop and company will be that tiny bit closer to making money and staying in business so I can do the same again tomorrow, next week, next year. Just because we're big doesn't mean we care less. Nor does it mean we are any less committed to literacy, the encouragement of reading to all ages, supporting new, self-published, struggling authors and poets, schools, libraries, or all manner of innovative and traditional book, reading and literary events, or ways of selling books.

We were Hammicks, then Ottakars, now Waterstones. There was no golden age, no great, perfect leader, each has had its good and bad points. The Waterstones bashing that I've read across several sections is sad to read and hard to bear. Right now we may have complaints about work, but come on people, we Waterstones booksellers are beginning to feel like the whipping boys of the industry.

oh i don't now, you've done pretty well yourself there...

I agree with John Gregory, surely the 'National' part of the title should be kept - maybe something like 'Waterstones' sponsored National Children's Laureate,' or simply 'National Children's Laureate (sponsored by Waterstones).'

A point being missed here is who will in future be chosen for the Laureateship. Mike Rosen was very politically outspoken. Anne Fine worked tremendously hard - but not at selling books. Two of her projects for blind children, the tactile wall and the brailled interleaved picture books for blind parents to share with sighted children (and vice versa) are rolling along ten years later. As is her marvellous site www.myhomelibrary.org offering over 200 freely downloadable modern bookplates for children to use to make even second hand books their own and form their own home libraries. Given the nature of her two main projects - to do with reading for the least favoured, not simply the sale of new books - wouldn't there have been great pressure (even if unspoken) not to choose her for Laureate if Waterstones were as central in the way now agreed? I suspect the honour would have skipped her to go straight on to Jacqueline Wilson, who produces so much more frequently. Watch this space. They may be very careful this year, but this will inevitably now become a far more commercial prize, and what 'honour' there is to it will soon wither in favour of the Darren Shan and Cherub side of publishing, which will do our young customers no favours at all.

Interesting the Telegraph coverage of the same story includes a very relevant quote from the current Laureate, Anthony Browne. Wasn't that quote available to the Bookseller?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/8466159/Waterstones-ta...

Way to predict a doomsday scenario based on nothing at all there, Anthony! As it happens, the same sponsor has been involved with recent choices of Laureate, including Michael Rosen and Anthony Browne. There is absolutely no reason - apart from the usual desire to be as negative as possible about Waterstone's on here - to expect the desire to find the best person for the job to change in the future.

It wasn't FFS. We got on to the story earlier this week, and spoke to the relevant parties before they got their press release together, which I believe had been slated for release in May. Had we spoken to Anthony we would have included his quote.

Kudos attached to laureate role: gone.

I think John Gregory's post here is the most pathetic I've ever seen. Well done, John!

Although I think Beckola has just topped it. Well done Beckola!

oh i don't now, you've done pretty well yourself there...

It is beyond a joke. Do these people have a red light on their desks that flashes whenever the Bookseller mentions Waterstone's so they can be the first in with their stupid, churlish responses? I expect in the time it's taken me to type this someone has already asked how many extra staff this sponsorship could have paid for. Bugger-all is the answer, the sums involved will be tiny.

hello to 'here we go again'. Who defends the current waterstones strategies/failures/disregard for their customers/useless hub? I think we should be told, but we really know it already anyway.

It's great to sponsor the laureate, no bad reflection on him. What is unacceptable is the managements, past and present, market a book as a 'product'. A book only becomes a product when it turns into print, paper and cover. But customers don't buy the paper bundle. They buy the story, the writing, the work of someone who has laboured sometimes for years to perfect the writing, the characters, the world he/she has created out of his/her imagination, or even just through a huge amount of research - that is what people buy, not a box shaped object made of paper. This huge thinking error lies at the heart of all the current problems. The head of HMV says they have to learn to sell other product - if he thinks a book is just a pile of paper, let him go and sell toilet paper - at least that would be easier and more honest. The current lot behave as though writers/agents and publishers should be grateful to find their work in Waterstones - do they really think that a writer thinks about whether there will be a bookshop to flog his book before he begins to write one? I'm a writer and I've never met or heard another writer who went round the bookshops with the question:- If I wrote a book on such and such, would you sell it?

Amazingly I didn't think my reaction to this news either stupid or churlish; neither do I have a red light on my desk. What I really resent is the commercialisation of honorary appointments, however worthy or high profile the sponsor is. I don't care whether it's Waterstone's or anyone else behind this sponsorship, and I'm certainly not knocking what is clearly the sacred cow of Waterstone's. It's the fact of the sponsorship itself that I think is appalling. Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned. But I'm flattered by 'Beckola's' response.

I agree with John Gregory and Kate Agnew. I am glad that the money to sponsor the children's laureate is being made available thanks to Waterstones, but as an independent bookseller it makes it harder for me to support something if it is so clearly linked to a major competitor.

I completely agree...It's really hard to get behind something that we have always supported when it's only Waterstones who will actually get anything back!

At least Waterstone's sell books. It's better than Costa.

John, Waterstone's is the main sponsor for this award, and has been so for years. The sponsorship is even mroe important this time round, as the govt funding has been halved. As Waterstone's is a bookseller, what is the problem? It is not at all like Ann Summers sponsoring the Poet Laureate.

It's all very well being snooty about honorary appointments, but they have to be paid for, and it's fair to recognise the sponsor - without "appalling" sponsorship from someone, the position would not exist.

No one has ever called waterstone's a 'sacred cow' - it certainly doesn't get that respect on this website - that position is reserved for the indies.

Beckola, John made a strong point using comedy to underline what he was saying.
If you don't see that, this probably isn't the best place to discuss your sense of humour.

Yes Lit Agent 2 it is my fault I got Gordo to get us into the worst mess ever and now Cam is absolutely wrecking things by wanting cut backs when we need to continue to spend just as we were .Forget Libya this is far more important for the world as we know it.

Frances, we are also an independent bookshop but if the children's laureate ever came here, we would gleefully pull out all the stops to promote what would be an excellent chance to sell a few books. Who cares if the post is 'sponsored' by Waterstones, in big bold lettering, it will be hosted by us.

BALLS-ED,

As most of the world seems to have forgotten, our financial crisis is rather less the fault of public spending than it is of a wholly under-regulated global financial sector that ensures every business in the world has to live by the rules of the market except their own. All the UK governments of at least the last thirty years have been complicit in getting us to this point and while Brown is certainly not blamesless, nor was Cameron for anything over than more deregulation as far as I can remember.

All of which is to say, surely the point Lit Agent 2 makes is eminently sensible - that there is something of a contradiction inherent in Cameron's Big Society concept if his government removes basic funding from swathes of 'social initiatives' that contribute to making our society rich but which can't boast a booming bottom line.

Although Waterstones' endorsement is a little better than Smarties in terms of the "right type" of sponsor, I can't help but think their sponsorship would have been more sincere if they had just said they would forego having their name on the title, and instead simply concentrate on the notion of it simply being about the Children's Laureate and the encouragement of reading. Naive, I know but I'm nothing if not an idealist.

Sarah Clarke said the chain would be "upweighting our activity"

Upweighting? Does this mean increasing? Sarah please... this sort of thing just feeds our critics.

As for the Laureate debate...

1) Waterstones has supported the Laureate and the "notion of it simply being about the Children's Laureate and the encouragement of reading", for several years without any form of branding. The fact that the money is NOT being taken away proves their commitment. Theo Bos's Sexy Butt has it right when he talks about Team Sky.

2) Frances: why does it make it harder for you to support something if it is so clearly linked to a major competitor? The 'clearly linked' has been there for years (see above) and there will be UNBRANDED POS for indies use.

3) Does the independent sector contribute financially to the Laureate? Would there be any money coming from the independent sector if Waterstones withdrew their sponsorship? These are genuine questions, as I understood it was an equal three-way split between the MLA, publishers, and Waterstones. The halving of the MLA contribution makes Waterstones the single largest sponsor, doesn't it?

I stand in my branch each day, surrounded by books that I love, talking to our customers at length about what we are each reading, and taking great joy and comfort from knowing that I might make a little bit of difference in someone's life, not least my own. My recommendation will give an adult or child a few hours happy reading, the author, the publisher and my shop and company will be that tiny bit closer to making money and staying in business so I can do the same again tomorrow, next week, next year. Just because we're big doesn't mean we care less. Nor does it mean we are any less committed to literacy, the encouragement of reading to all ages, supporting new, self-published, struggling authors and poets, schools, libraries, or all manner of innovative and traditional book, reading and literary events, or ways of selling books.

We were Hammicks, then Ottakars, now Waterstones. There was no golden age, no great, perfect leader, each has had its good and bad points. The Waterstones bashing that I've read across several sections is sad to read and hard to bear. Right now we may have complaints about work, but come on people, we Waterstones booksellers are beginning to feel like the whipping boys of the industry.

I agree with John Gregory, surely the 'National' part of the title should be kept - maybe something like 'Waterstones' sponsored National Children's Laureate,' or simply 'National Children's Laureate (sponsored by Waterstones).'

A point being missed here is who will in future be chosen for the Laureateship. Mike Rosen was very politically outspoken. Anne Fine worked tremendously hard - but not at selling books. Two of her projects for blind children, the tactile wall and the brailled interleaved picture books for blind parents to share with sighted children (and vice versa) are rolling along ten years later. As is her marvellous site www.myhomelibrary.org offering over 200 freely downloadable modern bookplates for children to use to make even second hand books their own and form their own home libraries. Given the nature of her two main projects - to do with reading for the least favoured, not simply the sale of new books - wouldn't there have been great pressure (even if unspoken) not to choose her for Laureate if Waterstones were as central in the way now agreed? I suspect the honour would have skipped her to go straight on to Jacqueline Wilson, who produces so much more frequently. Watch this space. They may be very careful this year, but this will inevitably now become a far more commercial prize, and what 'honour' there is to it will soon wither in favour of the Darren Shan and Cherub side of publishing, which will do our young customers no favours at all.

Way to predict a doomsday scenario based on nothing at all there, Anthony! As it happens, the same sponsor has been involved with recent choices of Laureate, including Michael Rosen and Anthony Browne. There is absolutely no reason - apart from the usual desire to be as negative as possible about Waterstone's on here - to expect the desire to find the best person for the job to change in the future.

Interesting the Telegraph coverage of the same story includes a very relevant quote from the current Laureate, Anthony Browne. Wasn't that quote available to the Bookseller?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/8466159/Waterstones-ta...

It wasn't FFS. We got on to the story earlier this week, and spoke to the relevant parties before they got their press release together, which I believe had been slated for release in May. Had we spoken to Anthony we would have included his quote.

well with the advertising in all the windows - the general public might realise there IS a Laureate...hopefully they will learn what they do! lol

As for Ann Summers -surely they would sponcer the erotic fiction Laureate?!

Cheap.

What a shame. For the record, as there are so many people keen to read every comment as a sleight against the chain, I think this move would be cheap nomatter which company shoved their garish branding over a previously dignified title.

That's the current waterstones mantra - love waterstones - not love books the management demand of staff.

Perhaps they'll demand that the laureate wears one of those silly T-shirts, perhaps with the slogan : - I wouldn't write books if there was no Waterstones

If the Bookseller's Association were not so intent on replicating an Edwardian luncheon club for their executive they perhaps might have won a few hearts and subscribers by sponsoring the post of Children's Laureate.

It is a terrible gaff handing it on a plate for a few grand to Waterstone's ; it will doubtless give comfort to Uncle Tim but is typical short selling to a "tacky" and very damaged/failing (financially) brand.

What brilliant news. Well done Waterstone's!

I am really hoping this is going to be a continual thing in the future. It seems as if the sky is the limit on this and hopefully the children will benefit tremendously. Thank you for this article.

 
 
 
 
 
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As a dedicated Waterstones children's bookseller, I am delighted by this news. It seems a shame that once again any move made by the company in a bid to retain a certain degree of presence, commerciality and credability in an already struggling industry is met with nothing but open hostility. Can we do nothing right?

So, no problem with Orange awards or Costa awards? God forbid the company sponsoring a writrers award should be a bookshop. Waterstone's needs the support of the writing community, because whether you like it or not, the publishing business in this country would be in trouble without Waterstone's.

Why so many hypocrites whinging on here about a literature award being sponsored by a book chain? It was previously sponsored by a company which is boycotted because of its aggressive (indeed murderous) marketing campaigns, which contribute to the deaths of 1.5m children a year - get something real to moan about for god's sake.

During my tenure as Publicity and Promotions Manager at Hammicks, our response to Waterstone's sponsoring the Children's Laureate would be very similar to the independents. If the company was still alive, my phone would be red hot with irate booksellers asking why Hammicks were advertising a major competitor. Hammicks central buying and marketing team would jettison any Waterstone's branded POS and replace it with generic material or, alternatively, produce stickers to overlay the Waterstone's logo.

Hammicks staff would also sense a certain amount of hypocrisy, because Waterstone's love of children's book campaigns at head office, is at best very patchy in the branches. My local Waterstones bookshop supported World Book Day for the first time this year. The celebration has been running since 1997 when Hammicks went solo and launched the first World Book Day token.

I wish good fortune to the next Children's Laureate and hope the post continues to be a powerful advocate for kids. As for the organisers, don't judge them too harshly: they were forced into an impossible position by the cuts, and have at least endeavoured to protect the interests of the independents.