Spreading the words

<p>Publishers' and booksellers' efforts to reach new readers will step up a gear on 2nd March 2006. On that day--the ninth annual World Book Day--the first 12 Quick Reads, a new cross-trade series of titles aiming to engage emergent readers, will be launched.</p><p>It is a concerted move by the industry to tap a new market, and consumer publicity begins in earnest next month. The first batch of Quick Reads takes in popular fiction, self-help and sport, and includes household names that will be familiar even to occasional or lapsed readers (see box opposite). Each fast-paced and accessible book will cover 100 pages of large, well-spaced type, with clear and inclusive jacket designs.</p><p>The books will target the UK's 12m people of working age who have literacy skills equal to or below those expected of a 13-year-old. Quick Reads are designed to attract a broad spectrum of non-readers: those who have never picked up a book and are discovering reading, those who have been put off by long, inaccessible tomes, and those who believe they have no time to read.</p><p>The cover price is &#163;2.99, and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has helped to fund 5m vouchers offering &#163;1 off. The Sun will promote the books and print vouchers throughout World Book Day week, and dozens of popular magazines, and the BBC's national and regional platforms, will publicise the campaign.</p><p>The aim of DfES and the publishers, booksellers and trade groups who have supported the initiative is to help haul up the UK's literacy rates. But the commercial benefits are obvious too: reluctant, emergent and non-readers represent a large segment of society--and an untapped market. People whose reading habit is kick-started by Quick Reads may become regular book buyers.</p><p>The project, which has been well over a year in the planning, has been spearheaded by Gail Rebuck, Random House Group c.e.o., who hopes that Quick Reads will make people feel more comfortable with books and turn reading from a skill into an enjoyable habit.</p><p>Team effort</p><p>Random House provides four of the first 12 Quick Reads, and there are contributions from other large houses, and independents such as black fiction specialist The X Press. Kathy Gale, Quick Reads project director, says: "It's like launching a publishing house, only with more people involved. One of its great strengths is that so many people have got on board."</p><p>After all the hard work put in by authors and publishers, the onus is now on booksellers and libraries to make the titles available to as many people as possible. Gale believes that the promotions need to be handled with care. "It's important that retailers' Quick Reads displays are as prominent as possible, so that people who have received vouchers and other outreach materials can see the Quick Reads section at a glance," she says. "If you're feeling intimidated about going into a bookshop, you need to be able to find the books you want quickly."</p><p>Retailers will receive branded display material and dump bins to promote Quick Reads. Borders has helped to produce a pack for booksellers providing tips on how to handle emergent readers in store. Discussions are ongoing to secure support from supermarkets.</p><p>Given that reluctant or emergent readers are by definition rare visitors to bookshops, the outreach work of Quick Reads will be vital. Vouchers will be circulated through further education and adult learner colleges with support from the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education. The Trades Union Congress will distribute vouchers to members through newsletters and workplace learning reps, and The Reading Agency will ensure that libraries take the message to potential new readers.</p><p>Game on </p><p>One Quick Read with a strong chance of tapping a new audience is Mick Dennis' The Game (Corgi), which will benefit from the promotional muscle of the Football Association Premier League in March. The book, which profiles 11 people involved in the league--from players and managers down to mascots and fans--will be plugged in Premier League clubs' matchday programmes, websites, and community outreach teams. Celebrity publicity for all Quick Reads is expected in the form of reading recommendations, with plans to be finalised in early 2006.</p><p>Project organisers are determined that Quick Reads are here to stay. A second wave of 10 books, from authors including Andy McNab and Val McDermid, will follow to coincide with Adult Learners' Week from 20th to 26th May, backed by a fresh round of publicity and a Quick Reads 'Booker Prize', asking readers to pick their favourites. Future authors and schedules are still to be finalised, but there will be more books in 2007 and beyond.</p><p>Happy World Book Day</p><p>Quick Reads has been welcomed as a refreshing addition to traditional World Book Day offers and events, which some booksellers say are in danger of becoming predictable. Other offers for 2006 will cover familiar ground, but will celebrate reading rather than advocating it, with new strapline "Happy World Book Day" emblazoned across promotional material. PR company Colman Getty is to run a media publicity campaign drawing on the results of a survey about UK readers' favourite happy endings.</p><p>The children's element of World Book Day will focus on its popular &#163;1 tokens and will promote six titles, covering all ages up to teens. World Book Day's Recommended Reads, which some retailers found unwieldy, will not run in 2006. Children's publishers have instead teamed up to produce Get the Buzz--a magazine designed by Walker Books, aimed at 7- to 11-year-olds, that may be distributed for free by bookshops and libraries.</p><p>With the help of National Book Tokens, more than 14m World Book Day vouchers and thousands of schools' packs are ready to be dispatched early in 2006. Schools' promotional materials for 2006 are illustrated by Nick Sharratt, whose work with Jacqueline Wilson should make them instantly recognisable among girls.</p><p>Alongside Quick Reads, World Book Day will continue to target adults with Spread the Word, where people can recommend books to friends and family by sending postcards. Two million copies each of four new postcard designs (including that shown opposite) will be distributed in early 2006 across the trade, by newspapers and at leisure venues. Counterpacks and promotional material will enable booksellers and libraries to personalise promotions, and e-cards will be available.</p><p>Cathy Schofield, World Book Day co-ordinator, believes the postcard scheme will have a bigger impact next year than it did in 2005. "We want to stress that World Book Day is not just for kids, and that Spread the Word is the missing part of the jigsaw," Schofield says. "It reaches people who might not go into bookshops but who go to cinemas or gyms, or read newspapers. Getting the message out beyond the book trade is crucial."</p><p>By celebrating books for all ages, World Book Day hopes to create a party atmosphere in 2006. While some of its aims extend beyond the commercial, booksellers are encouraged to make the most of the opportunity it brings to raise footfall. Schofield says: "People sometimes say we're trying to be all things to all people and that the message is diluted, but we want to be inclusive. The trade has been brilliant in its support and it should really take advantage of the day."</p>