I just got an interesting comment on this post:
Kim asks: "I was wondering if you could share how long it takes for copies of the winners get the medals on the covers? My daughter and I have been reading and picking our own Caldecott and Geisel favorites for the past couple of months. She understands what the medals on the covers mean now and I'd like to get some of this years winners but want to get them with the stickers on them. I can't seem to find an answer on how long this takes to happen. I assume book stores are sent stickers to put on their current stock?"
Brian responded with this comment: "It generally takes about a month."
I've always been curious about the stickers myself. I'm not sure that I have the definitive answer, but I've worked as a bookseller, a librarian, been a member of the organization that gives out the awards and had a talk with the publisher of an award winning book. I think I have a pretty good idea of what happens. To the best of my knowledge, here's the story behind the stickers.
Kim, before we get to your question, let's back up a little and talk about print runs and the incredible selling power of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals. When a book is published, a publisher decides how many copies to print. These initial copies are all first editions. If a book sells out its print run, the publisher will do additional printings and editions, but not every books gets a second printing.
There's no way a publisher can expect or predict a Newbery or Caldecott. Regardless of the pre-awards buzz, you never know what the committees will actually decide. No matter what the winning books initial print run was (with Hugo Cabret for example, it was quite large) there will never be enough copies to meet the demand. Available copies are purchased immediately by bookstores, libraries, schools, and a huge influx of customers. Typically, within a few hours of the announcements, all available copies of the book are sold out.
By that point, it's impossible to get the book, no matter what. The publisher has no more copies and thousands (I'm not exaggerating) of orders are pouring in. The publisher immediately starts a new and much larger print run to meet the sudden demand. Those copies typically come out within 1-3 months of the award announcement, depending how long the printing takes.
For booksellers, especially ones at independent stores like the ones I worked at, it is crucial to have as many of the winning and honor books in stock at the time of the announcement. If you don't, you won't get that initial rush of sales and you won't be able to get the book back on the shelf for at least a month. See this post for more about that.
Now, let's get back to the stickers. I wish I could tell you that on the day of the award announcement, everyone stops what they're doing and puts the stickers on the books. But really, it's much more mundane and gradual than that.
Nobody gets sent a batch of stickers. (That would be lovely, though). You have to pay for the stickers and they're purchased through the American Library Association Store. Anyone can buy them, incidentally, not just bookstores and libraries.
Even the publisher has to pay for the stickers, plus the cost of paying someone to physically put the sticker on the book. No publisher minds this, though, because of the enormous increase in sales the stickers represent. The publisher puts the stickers on the second printing and every printing thereafter.
Sometimes, with paperback books or books that are perennially popular, the publisher will put a photograph of the sticker on the book. That way, for example, they don't have to keep buying Newbery honor stickers for every copy of Charlotte's Web that is ever published. Sometimes, in later printings, they don't even put the stickers on... it will just say "Newbery Medal Winner" above the title. I don't really understand that, though. My feeling is if you've got it, flaunt it.
Libraries typically have many of the medalists and honor books already on their shelves. Whatever they don't have, they'll order immediately (budget permitting), and they'll receive the second printing a month or two later. My library has rolls of all the various stickers in the area they process books. Eventually, they'll go through the books currently in the collection and add the stickers and will put them on the new books as they come in. School librarians do the same thing.
Bookstores are a different story. All of the copies purchased on the day of the announcements don't have stickers... if for no other reason than that there is simply no time. When I was a bookseller, I watched the winning books go out the door before I could blink. Booksellers typically wait for the second printing of the book which already has the stickers on it.
So the short answer is : it generally takes about a month. Usually a bit longer.
But your question raises an interesting point, which is that not everybody wants the edition with the sticker on it. Sometimes, I'm proud of the unstickered books, because I bought them before everyone else. And at other times, the book look naked to me without the sticker.
So, now you know. Travis at 100 Scope Notes wrote a great post last year predicting where the stickers would end up on the predicted winners. But, since the stickers go on gradually and (except for the ones put on by the publisher) haphazardly, the stickers can end up any place on the book.
Thanks for asking. It's a good question.