I read 50 books tonight.
Really. It's not an exaggeration... I counted them when I was finished.
They were all picture books, but still. That's a LOT of books.
Why, you ask? Good question. I read a box of samples in preparation for a meeting with a publisher rep. Book buyers get advance unbound copies of picture books to help them decide what to buy. The books are called F&G's (fold and gather) because all the pages are loose and unbound.
It's extremely exciting to read books that haven't been published yet. It can also be a little overwhelming. There are so many books, and they're such a mix of picture books, early readers, non fiction, biographies, Halloween books and every other genre you can think of. Yes, I am looking at Halloween books already. (See this post to see what I'm talking about.) It can be hard to switch gears from a book about a loose tooth with cartoon illustrations to a non-fiction book explaining the finer points of World War II.
Plus, you have to trust your gut. Almost nobody else has read these books yet. There are no reviews or award lists to consult. You can't check blogs for buzz, because there isn't any yet. You simply decide if you like the book, if you think you can sell it and if there's an audience for it in your community. And sometimes, you haven't even seen the book.... just the cover. Or you see it for a few moments during the meeting with the rep from the publisher.
I do read every picture book I get an advance copy of. So, whether it's by a Caldecott medalist or a first time author... I give each book a chance. Tonight, I loved a few books, liked a lot, some didn't work for me, and I earmarked a bunch to talk to my colleague about (she reads all the samples too). That's about average.
The best part will come slowly over the next six months as the books themselves arrive in the store. I'll get to put them on shelves, talk to people about them and watch them go home with customers to read and enjoyed by kids. What a great job.
Incidentally, if you're a children's book buyer for an independent store (hi, Alison Morris!) I would love to talk to you about how you approach this process. And maybe we can compare notes about specific books. Leave a note in the comments or e-mail me at wizardwireless [at] gmail [dot] com. Do anyone know if there's a listserv or an electronic discussion group where booksellers can discuss advance copies?