Waterstones has launched an industry-wide campaign to raise £1m by urging people to “Buy Books for Syria”.
In an unprecedented step, the industry’s top publishers from Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster to indies such as Profile Books and Canongate are donating titles from big name authors such as David Walliams, Neil Gaiman, Victoria Hislop and Ali Smith for Waterstones to sell through their stores under the ‘Buy Books for Syria’ banner, with 100% of the retail price going towards Oxfam’s Syria Crisis Appeal.
The charity promotion will begin on Thursday (1st October) with titles displayed on tables front of store in Waterstones' 280 shops, stickered with the ‘Buy Books for Syria’ name.
The offerings will include both frontlist and backlist titles from a vast array of authors including Mary Beard, Alan Bennett, Michael Bond, William Boyd, Bill Bryson, Tracy Chevalier, Lee Child and Julia Donaldson.
The company’s m.d, James Daunt, is committed to launching the appeal despite it being the industry’s most crucial time of the year in the run up to Christmas.
He said: “In desperate times like these, everyone feels the need to do something, to help in some way. We are doing what we do best: bookselling, and it only feels right that every single penny of each book sold will go straight to Oxfam. We are proud to be able transform the generosity of authors and publishers into such a substantial contribution to Oxfam’s work.”
He told The Bookseller that "some-perhaps most" of the sales would substitute "sales upon which otherwise we would be earning money" in the run up to Christmas but added that the company was "very fortunate to have an owner and board who have put this to one side and supported the initiative." Waterstones is owned by Russian oligarch Alexander Mamut.
Tom Weldon, c.e.o of Penguin Random House UK, added: “We often speak as an industry about the power of books to change lives - our aim with this campaign is to use the power of books to save lives. I'm humbled by the way publishers and authors are collaborating to support Waterstones and Oxfam in this initiative. I hope that together we can make a difference."
The original idea for the campaign came from Profile editor Mark Ellingham. The titles in the appeal include Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Profile), War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (Egmont), Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (Vintage), One Day by David Nicholls (Hodder), The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Quercus/MacLehose), among others. Publishers have provided between 1,000 and 2,000 copies of all the titles to be sold for the appeal.
Support from UK publishers includes Atlantic Books, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Egmont, Faber, Granta, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan, Penguin Random House UK, Profile, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and Usborne.
Other authors involved in the appeal include Mark Haddon, Matt Haig, Robert Harris, Khaled Hosseini, Max Hastings, Marian Keyes, Linda La Plante, Andrea Levy, Hilary Mantel, Peter May, Alexander McCall Smith, Caitlin Moran, Michael Morpugo, JoJo Moyes, David Nicholls, Ian Rankin, Tom Rob Smith, Salman Rushdie and Jacqueline Wilson.
Nicholls said: “This is a wonderful initiative, turning our passion for the written word into practical help at a time of terrible crisis.”
Smith added: “I support this initiative with heart, mind and soul.”
Mark Goldring, c.e.o of Oxfam, said the £1m of raised would help its program of delivering clean water to another 150,000 people in Syria, or providing support to tens of thousands of people in Jordan over the next year. “This help is urgently needed as the conflict in Syria shows no sign of ending,” he said.
Earlier in the month, authors and publishers lead by Patrick Ness helped to raise over £600,000 for Save the Children's refugee appeal by pledging to match donations from members of the public.