The name of Candlewick’s year-long picture book campaign to celebrate its first two decades, We Believe in Picture Books, speaks volumes about the Somerville, Mass.-based publisher’s beginnings and where its future lies. “When Candlewick was founded 20 years ago, our roots were firmly in picture books,” says Laura Rivas, associate director of marketing, publicity, and events. “Today we continue to believe in the importance of picture books and to publish them with great success.” The campaign, which officially launches on the last day of August, comes a few months after Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back received an E.B. White Read-Aloud Award at BookExpo America. It also follows Candlewick’s Find Waldo Local promotion with the American Booksellers Association last month to celebrate the 25th birthday of the bespectacled children’s-book character and to encourage the “shop local” movement. And it overlaps with an exhibit of Maisy creator Lucy Cousins’s art through November 25 at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass.
The 2012-’13 multi-prong picture book effort includes a dedicated picture book Web site, where Candlewick plans to post a video each day about why picture books matter. Candlewick president and publisher Karen Lotz, who is also managing director for the Walker Group, says that she got the idea for the promotion when she was on maternity leave and spent time looking at saw how people organize grassroots campaigns. She was also influenced by author talks at the press. “When we have authors and illustrators come [to our offices,] we have them talk to the staff in our kitchen. How do we bottle that? It’s so intimate,” says Lotz. Kate DiCamillo was the first to sign up to create a video. Other authors and illustrators are following suit, as is the entire Candlewick and Walker staff. The press is also encouraging booksellers, teachers, and librarians to chime in. “Anyone can speak up for picture books,” says Lotz. “The site is about sharing.”
Another piece of the campaign is aimed at boosting sales of Candlewick’s fall picture book list, as well as backlist titles. “As part of our larger corporate initiative, we’re encouraging indie booksellers to create a Candlewick Boutique in their stores to display our bumper crop of fall picture books and enduring backlist,” says director of field sales Elise Supovitz. The program offers special terms, including extra dating, plus a chance to win a free trip to the 2013 Winter Institute. For the two-tier program, Candlewick has created We Believe shelftalkers and standees, and a 13-month calendar featuring the company’s bears. There’s even a three-foot Candlewick bear and up to $100 available for a staff picture book party. The publisher is also offering autographed picture book prepacks for fall releases, with book plates signed by Klassen, Peter Reynolds, James Howe, David Ezra Stein, and Amy Hest.
Rather than hold a birthday party with staff, Candlewick is producing its first symposium in mid-November at the Cambridge Public Library, called “From Screen to Book,” or as Lotz explains it, “Why making a picture book is the holy grail.” Panelists include Candlewick art director Ann Stott and author-illustrators Tony Fucile (Let's Do Nothing), Peter Reynolds (Sky Color), and Scott Nash (Tuff Fluff); Shelf Awareness children’s editor Jenny Brown will moderate.
In addition, Candlewick is planning to give away thousands of picture books over the next year through partnerships with nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, so that families receiving a new home can get a book, and Reach Out and Read through its offices at military clinics.
“From my point of view,” says senior v-p of sales and digital initiatives John Mendelson, “the rumors of picture books’ demise are greatly exaggerated. Today, we continue to find enthusiastic customers and engaged readers in all sales channels for our beloved picture books.” So clearly, it’s not just Candlewick that believes.