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:
It’s been less than a week since we announced Stories Aloud, our new digital initiative combining audio readings of our picture books with each paperback edition, and the project has already had its first reviews!
“One thing publishers can continue to do is innovate, and one thing they could perhaps do better is use what natural advantages they have. Nosy Crow’s Stories Aloud is a good example of both of these things (as well a finding a use for QR codes!). The service allows readers of their books the option to use the QR code to stream an audio version of the title. What appeals to me is that this allows me to interact with the content in a useful way digitally without detracting from print, or removing the desire to own a print copy … As Osprey Publishing has done, using the skills of live booksellers to sell print and digital together without one undermining the other, is a neat bundle of joy.”
“The good thing about the Stories Aloud idea is that children can listen to the stories whenever they like, at no additional cost. You have access to the “audio book” when you’ve only paid for the paper book, so in effect you’re getting, “two for the price of one.” … I highly recommend the book, and I love the idea of Stories Aloud, too. I will still read to my children, as I really enjoy it, but I feel a lot more children will benefit from being read to, thanks to Stories Aloud.”
“Although the traditionalist and worrier in me squirms at the idea that parents won’t necessarily be enjoying picturebooks with their children if they can rely on apps like this, this IS a pretty cool idea. Children hankering after books don’t have to rely on busy mums and dads being able to drop everything every time and settle down for a story with apps like this, especially when they’re child-friendly too. There’s nothing to stop parents enjoying it with their children too really, helping them to anticipate the ‘ping’ sound or to see how the audio reading and the words slot together.
So yes, hats off to Nosy Crow for a neat new digital idea – keep an eye out for their QR codes the next time you spy the Crow!”
Thank you to everyone who’s written to us – on this blog, on Twitter and Facebook, over email, and elsewhere. It means an awful lot to read and hear about other people’s enthusiasm for this project – especially when it comes from our readers. So here’s to Stories Aloud, and to innovation everywhere!
Stories Aloud is a new way of bundling together digital content with our print books: from January, every one of our paperback picture books (and existing picture book titles, as they come up for re-print) will come with a FREE audio reading using children’s voices, complete with sound effects and original music. To activate the audio reading, all you have to do is scan a QR code on the inside cover of the book, and the audio will be streamed from the web (over 3G or WiFi).
We think that this is something that will work well for booksellers looking for ways to bundle together digital and print content, for parents who don’t always have the time to read with their children (or want to keep them occupied) and for children, especially those who don’t quite have the skills to read independently yet.
“My own children loved listening to audio recordings of their favourite picture books. Years before they could read for themselves, audio recordings meant that they were able to listen to stories wherever they wanted to. It was a really empowering thing for them that helped to build their understanding of books and their literacy skills.
“We’ve been looking for ways to invite all booksellers, not just those who deal in ebooks, into the world of digital content, and this seems like a really great way to do it: every bookseller who stocks one of our picture book paperbacks will be offering their customer free digital content when they sell a copy of a book.
“Our innovative idea brings together digital listening and reading print books in a way that uses today’s technology and that works for booksellers, for parents and for children, so now families can listen to a story, wherever and whenever they want: just pick up the book, pick up a device, scan the code and hear the story.”
Stories Aloud books will be on sale from January, and we’re launching with seven titles: