IPG Children's Publisher of the Year

Nosy Crow publishes The Snowman's Journey: an "instant" book of the 2012 John Lewis Christmas advert

Posted by Kate on Nov 27, 2012

We’ve teamed up with John Lewis to create an exclusive picture book for them called The Snowman’s Journey. It’s based on their new Christmas advert, The Journey, which they released on 9 November 2012 and which has had over 2 million YouTube views. Books will be on sale on 1 December 2012.


John Lewis’s Christmas advert, The Journey

The book is a hardback picture book, telling the story of the snowman’s journey to get the perfect present for his snowgirl. It’s written in rhyme by Birdie Black (which is the pseudonym I used for another Christmas story we publish, Just Right for Christmas), and illustrated with stills from the advert.

The book will also include a Stories Aloud QR code on the front endpaper. You can scan the code to hear a digital audio reading by Freya Wilson (who played Princess Elizabeth in The King’s Speech) enhanced with sound effects and music by BAFTA-winning composer, Robin Beanland.

So how did we get a full-colour book from idea to shop in three weeks?

Well, here’s the story.

The advert, called The Journey, was released shortly after 9.00 am on Friday 9 November. There was a flurry of comment on Twitter which we picked up within an hour or so, and I remember we all watched the ad in the office together, and talked about its emotional power. But it was a normal, busy day. I was off to the ASCEL conference of school librarians in Leicestershire that afternoon and thought no more about it.

But the next morning, I just… felt like looking at the advert again, so I switched on my computer. There were already 400,000 YouTube views recorded, and it was on this second viewing that the idea for the book dawned. It was such a simple story of an adventurous and dangerous journey with an emotional core that was clearly resonating with hundreds of thousands of people. While I’d been enormously impressed with other John Lewis adverts, this one really felt book-like and child-like and the snowman protagonist felt like a picture book character. I thought that the idea of a perfectly chosen but relatively modest gift was one that all of us who are being careful with our budgets this Christmas would respond to.

By 10.00 am, I’d written the first few verses and discussed it with Adrian, Camilla, Tom and Stephanie. It was Louise’s first weekend, so I let her off the hook, but she quickly became involved in the week that followed. The idea was that we’d assemble a small team in the office on Sunday to create a dummy that we could get in front of John Lewis within a couple of days. This was a completely speculative thing, of course: we had no idea who had rights and we had no idea if John Lewis would be interested in the project at all, or would be interested in acting as quickly as we needed them to act.


Our team working on the book

I was speaking at an IBBY conference on Saturday, but, still, the unedited text was complete by 10.00 am on Sunday 11 November, when Stephanie, Tom and I met in the Nosy Crow office. Tom provided a series of low-resolution screen-grabs from the YouTube advert and Stephanie started weaving the text and the images together into a much more sophisticated and “picture-booky” design than I’d envisaged. She decided, for example, that she wanted to use design on the wrapping paper from the snowman’s present as the endpapers, so Adrian went off to John Lewis in Oxford Street to get it. Tom started work on adding this book to our programme of Stories Aloud titles, and we did a very basic, lo-tech recording with Freya at 6.00 pm. Camilla, who’d been away for the weekend with her family, came in to dummy up the book… which was when we discovered we’d run out of toner, so we had to do the final print-outs with the help of an all-night printer in Mayfair. But by midnight on Sunday 11 November, we had a dummy book.


The wrapping paper from John Lewis

I went with Bounce’s Catherine Stokes to see Baker and Taylor in Bicester on the morning of Monday 12 November. They loved it, and by Wednesday 14 November, we were in front of John Lewis, who signed off the project on the afternoon of Friday 16 November and provided us with higher-resolution images.


One of the Snowman models (and me) at John Lewis

Stephanie, Louise and I worked to prepare print-ready files over the weekend of 17 and 18 November.


Louise giving the book a last edit

The book was on press in Italy on Tuesday 19 November. We received advance copies today. Bulk stock will be delivered to Baker and Taylor at 8.00am on Thursday 29 November, and books will be on sale at £9.99 in John Lewis and Waitrose stores on Saturday 1 December.


The Snowman display in the window of Peter Jones

Craig Inglis, Marketing Director at John Lewis, said, “I was thrilled to find out that Nosy Crow liked our Christmas advert enough to publish a book based on its story. Our snowman seems to have captured the imagination of a wide audience, so it’s great that children can now enjoy his epic journey in such a magical book.”

You can read our full press release here, and take a look inside below:

Comments (22)

  1. Great job! Love it.

    Nikos Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  2. I think you are absolutely stonkingly brilliant with this idea. I watched the ad and in fact each time I watch it it makes me cry in a GOOD way…I think this is a piece of genius and I wish I had been on the team helping to create the verse, as I spend a lot of my time doing verses for various clients and my own work…Such a marvellous story of how one can watch something..have a lightbulb moment..dummy it up..show it to JL (who I work for from time to time in another capacity) and VOILA have a finished product in time for Christmas rush. I am so impressed not that my being impressed means much to you in the scheme of things but I just LOVE this whole story. you are such an on the button company..I am about to send you something else in the New Year to go on your ‘look at’ hopefully pile…Crows rule..great Yule (sorry couldn’t resist)

    Carla Koala Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  3. Wow ! And we haven’t even had the advert around here yet. Great work, team Nosy Crow.

    Fleur Hitchcock Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  4. TOTALLY awesome.

    Leen Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  5. That is amazingly clever. No wonder Nosy Crow is doing so well.

    Anne Booth Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  6. You clever things! Well done team crow from concept to shop in three weeks whilst not compromising the quality – only the nosy crow team could do this, amazing but just show where there’s a will and a talented team there’s away – I’ll be reserving mine online. Who ever came up with the Scan/stories aloud concept is a clever crow -fabulous idea my boys will love this!

    ZOIE Tanfield Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  7. Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. Well done Nosy Crow team! I shall be buying one for someone – I don’t care who!

    Sue Ransom Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  8. Oh you are ALL so clever. I only just caught the ad the other day (my husband has been raving about it). It’s certainly a real standout ad and will be a standout book. Nosy Crow certainly seem to have a knack of catching the ‘zeitgeist’.

    I’ll buying one for the stocking. Congrats.

    Sarah Warburton Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  9. Kate, this is fantastic! A book created from concept to finished item in 3 weeks, wow. I must be one of the few people who hadn’t actually seen the advert, maybe I should watch more telly.

    John Shelley Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  10. That is so impressive! What a fantastic idea, and how brilliant that John Lewis snapped it up immediately! Lovely to read about the process of making a picture book dummy in super-quick time, too, and I love the idea of the wrapping-paper endpapers. Can’t wait to see it in the shops!

    Helen Peters Tuesday November 27, 2012 #

  11. This is incredible what an amazing achievement – well done folks!

    Sally Poyton Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  12. This is such an inspirational post. The perfect illustration of what it takes to make a book: creativity, collaboration and lots and lots of hard work. Congratulations to everyone at Nosy Crow.

    Christopher Edge Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  13. This is such an inspired idea, just like Stories Aloud in fact! I’m not surprised that John Lewis snapped it up. And to achieve it all in such a short timescale is stupendous. I noticed on twitter that you were all working one sunday and wondered what it was all about. I should have known it was going to be something brilliant!

    Paula Harrison Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  14. Really, really impressed and pleased that Nosy Crow have turned that sweet ad into a book so I can read it and snivel over it in front of my children whenever I like!

    Kate Shaw Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  15. What an amazing post. It’s incredible that you were able to turn an advert into a book and get an order for it in less than a week – it shows us all what’s possible with the right team. Well done Nosy Crow!

    Ales Craggs Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  16. Initiative, creativity + hard work = success…well normally, and of course i am a little biased. A big thank you and well done to the team behind this beautiful book.

    Lloyd Page, Head of Brand Marketing, John Lewis.

    Lloyd page Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  17. Great idea! And well done for acting so quickly. I just love these characters.

    Ann Evans Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  18. What a fantastic story! Love hearing about how Nosy Crow is getting on – this really is brilliant example of the initiative that the publishing industry so often lacks, but that Nosy Crow does so well!

    Matt Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  19. What a brilliant idea! You are an inspirational publisher crammed with inspirational people.

    Caryl Hart Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  20. Amazing to have created something so good in so short a time – I shall certainly be buying a copy for my grandchildren!

    Ann Victoria Roberts Wednesday November 28, 2012 #

  21. Great theme for a book, just picked up a copy from John Lewis today. I can’t help feeling though that the book is let down by poor quality of the pictures which seem to be pixelated and ‘noisy’. Did the YouTube screen shots end up in the final book by mistake instead of the high res images?

    John Saturday December 22, 2012 #

  22. Thanks for your comment, John. As the post says, John Lewis was able to provide higher resolution images than the YouTube ones in the dummy, and we had them cleaned up as far as possible in the very short time available. But, as this hadn’t been a project that was originally intended to end up as a book, it turned out that there was no really high resolution still photography from which to work, which is what we’d have needed to create something really crisp. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the sharpest image is the penultimate one of the snowgirl in her gloves, scarf and hat, and that’s because it’s a composite image made up of three separate shots as the camera pans up the snowgirl to show the things separately… so there’s three times as many pixels in it. Overall, the picture quality is one of the inherent limitations of the genesis of the book.

    Kate Wilson Saturday December 22, 2012 #

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