Awards Morning, Bookstore-Style

Elizabeth Bluemle -- January 27th, 2014

While elusive gold and silver medals dance in the restless dreams of all the children’s book authors and artists whose books deserve recognition, booksellers have their own Newbery/Caldecott/Printz/King/Sibert award dreams. We dream of books we’re rooting for, the well-known ones and the dark horses. And, being booksellers, we dream of being able to have all the award-winners and honor books on hand for customers on the day the awards are announced.

This is a bit of a pipe dream, of course, since many thousands of children’s books are published each year, and we can’t keep *everything* in stock every single day. Books sell, and re-order cycles vary, so while we do the best we can to keep high-demand books and books we adore in stock most of the time, there will be gaps. And once the awards are announced, booksellers across the country are pouncing on any available stock the warehouses have. When the dark horse books win, they may have had small print runs, and publishers – taken by surprise by the award – need to reprint to meet demand.

We receive phone calls from all across the country from customers looking for first printings of award-winning books, and we get excited drop-in buying visits from teachers, librarians, author and illustrator customers, and alert civilians who keep up with the American Library Association awards.

So that means Josie and I are a veritable SWAT team of readiness on awards morning. We divide and conquer. I monitor the ALA’s live webcast and the various Twitter feeds (this year, #alamw14), and send winners to Josie instantly so she can do stock checks with warehouses. We place our orders as fast as we can—with real-time stock checks, we can see numbers dwindle before our very eyes. And timing is important even for backorders; for the most part, orders are fulfilled in the order received, so promptness is key.

And then, orders sent, flush with the fun rush of the Big Day, we spend the rest of the week debating the results along with everyone else.

By the time you read this, the ALA awards announcements will have been made. Are you happy with the winners? Surprised by any underdog victors? Distraught by overlooked favorites? Weigh in!