"The Apprentice" shines spotlight on children's books

"The Apprentice" shines spotlight on children's books

Warning - this article contains spoilers.

Publishers and booksellers were in the spotlight in "The Apprentice" last night (4th November), after candidates were asked to create a children’s book.

On the BBC One show, Lord Alan Sugar brought the two teams to The London Library in St James Square and tasked them with producing 300 copies of a children’s book for three to five-year-olds, along with recording an accompanying audio book, before selling them to retailers.

'Team Connexus', led by private tutor Sam Curry, made a book about a mythical creature called Snottydink ("dragon-like, but with some elephant qualities"), who lives a life of isolation until society learns to live with him.

Meanwhile, 'Team Versatile', managed by hair and beauty salon owner Charleine Wain, created Bizzie Bee’s First Adventure about a bee who goes on a trip to make honey, making friends along the way. The teams developed their idea in independent publisher Canongate’s offices in West London.

'Team Connexus' first pitched its book to Louise Corcoran, deputy manager and children's specialist at Foyles Westfield Stratford City, and Jasper Sutcliffe, head of buying, based in Foyles Charing Cross Road. Sutcliffe said he was “impressed” by the Snottydink’s visuals and rhyming and took 50 copies of the book to sell. At Waterstones Piccadilly, bookseller Chris Denyer praised the title for being “visually eye-catching” and ordered 15 copies of it. Team Versatile was less successful in its Waterstones pitch, not managing to sell any copies. However, Foyles called Bizzie Bee’s First Adventure “bright and colourful” and ordered 25 copies of it.

The teams also approached independent bookshops to pitch their books, including Pages of Hackney and Victoria Park Books in East London, Gosh! Comics in Soho and rare bookshop Peter Harrington in Cecil Court. While Snottydink was criticised by booksellers and parents in a focus group for being too advanced for the target audience, using words such as “rife”, “dire”, “quell” and “ado”, Bizzie Bee’s First Adventure was accused of being "simplistic" and more appropriate for a younger age group.

Children’s author Cressida Cowell appeared on "The Apprentice: You’re Fired" on BBC Two after the main show with comedian Romesh Ranganathan and broadcaster Gaby Roslin and talked about how important it was for authors to maintain relationships with publishers and retailers and how vital author visits were to selling books. She said: “You can’t hide away as an author anymore” and joked: “I’ve been to so many primary schools I could practically be an Ofsted inspector!”

She also called Bizzie Bee’s First Adventure “dull”, saying that she preferred the Snottydink book because “good children’s books do have a message”.

Author and illustrator Yasmeen Ismail gives her impressions on "The Apprentice".