At Multistory, we’re committed to making the BICW process as transparent as possible. We encourage you to ask us questions. You could email them to us or just comment on this post.
There are so many awards now. Crossword, Goodbooks, FICCI, Comic Con . . . Why do you want to add to this? So confusing it is.
It’s true. There are many awards . . . but.
When a book wins the Booker Prize, the sales of the book jumps; sometimes by 10 times, maybe more. This is called the “Booker Bouncer.” Unfortunately, the bump in sales after a children’s book wins any of the prizes you mentioned is nil, nada, zero, zilch. In such a situation, there is hardly any incentive for a publisher / author / illustrator to try harder and produce better books. Making and selling books in India is very hard, and awards should be making it easier. They should be real rewards not just bragging rights on Instagram, or a pat on the back.
We were very clear right from the beginning: we wanted to create an award that generates a sales bump, a “BICW bounce.” The bump will allow publishers to earn better and try harder and make books that are even better.
In 2016, before being longlisted, Graeme Macrae Burnet had only sold 22 copies. By the time Man Booker announced the shortlist, his book sales had increased to 24,000.50 Years of the Man Booker Prize, The Guardian
So what is the actual award?
If a book wins a BICW – Contemporary Award, the respective publishers receive the right to use the BICW – Contemporary logo on their books. Further, our sales team works with the publishers of the winning titles, and based on our financial bandwidth, we offer them a purchase order. In 2019, the smallest immediate order we gave was for 200 copies, and the largest was for 2000.
In the near future, we imagine that the order may be any where between 2000 – 5000 copies per title on average, and over 4 times the current revenues.
In 2019, Multistory ordered ~25,000 copies of the BICW winning titles, and generated sales worth over Rs 50 Lacs for all these titles put together.
So, BICW is basically a bulk purchase order? That’s what’s different from the other awards?
Yes! But that’s not all. We also offer the award across ages and across categories. So there are many winners! Not just 1. Or 5.
OK. Why do you use the word “BEST”? Isn’t it a little extreme?
It was very overwhelming when we first started using the word “BEST.” Our team was a little wary and unsure. It felt like we were passing a judgment on the books.
But over time we realised that most people don’t think of awards as a good-bad dichotomy. For example, in the Academy Awards (Oscars), people understand that the movie that wins in any particular year may not be their personal pick for “best movie,” although it might be a really good movie. People understand that the Academy has a bias towards certain kinds of movies, made by certain kinds of people. Everyone gets that the ones that didn’t win aren’t the “worst movies.”
There is a lot of subjectivity in the awards and any award is only indicative. Any “BEST” award carries that baggage.
And anyway, who are you to declare who’s the “BEST”?
The BICW Award program is run by Multistory Learning Pvt Ltd. Founded and run by book lovers, we make sure that every incoming employee candidate is a book lover by asking outright in their interview about the books they’ve read. If the candidate’s score on the BBC Big Read is less than 20, then their job application is not even considered.
As a company, we do many things:
- We work with schools in promoting reading – the Book Lovers’ Program for Schools.
- We’re publishers of children’s books under two imprints – Ms Moochie and The Little Book Lovers’ Reading Series for emergent readers.
- We’re stockists and distributors for other publishers.
- We retail in stores and on Amazon.
- We provide services to publishers and schools (and others) on their content projects.
- Our founders run a non-profit trust that runs a library.
Over the years, we’ve worked with over 200 schools, 2,000 teachers, and 2,00,000 students. We’re neutral in the industry and have collaborated with everyone. We have a large spread of work under our belly, and have done all of this commercially – not via grants, and also without “VC funding.”
We’re a neutral, independent company which has a breadth of experience in the Indian children’s literature industry, both as creators and as sellers. If we don’t do this, then who will?
What’s the process of selecting the awards?
- We send emails to publishers.
- They send us the books.
- We send these books to the jury.
- The jury reads all the books. They mark comments and send them to us.
- We collate their comments, and announce the winners.
- We send publishers a purchase order for their titles.
While it sounds extremely simple, publishers are also sent notes on our levelling and categorisation process. We work extra hard to make sure there are enough books to read in each category. The responsibility of jury selection is rests upon us. So does setting the criteria for the jury.
Can you tell us about the jury and their process?
We’ve written a detailed post about our jury. You can read it here – BICW jury.
Why has your own publishing house Ms Moochie Books received awards? This isn’t right!
Our process is such that although Ms Moochie Books can compete, it isn’t favoured. We have faith in our process, our ability to follow the process, and in our jury.
Why are titles from Karadi Tales, Harper Collins, Penguin, Good Earth, CBT, NBT, and so on missing from the list?
Karadi Tales does have 1 title on the list –The Night Monster.
Many publishers are missing from the list because we didn’t receive entries from them. We emailed everyone we knew to send us entries. If you think any of their books deserves to be on our list, please request the publisher to send us entries. Any books that meet our requirements, are in the declared categories, and are printed after 2005 qualify for BICW – Contemporary.
Also note that our award criteria excludes stories inspired from folk tales. A lot of gorgeous books that we really love won’t qualify. (Eg: The Rumour, Kutti and the Mouse, The Story and The Song …)
There are so many categories! Why? It’s like a category party out there.
We didn’t want to compare apples and oranges. Or anteaters and igloos. Or dinosaurs and planets. Or continents and trees. Or fish and birds. We could go on. But you must’ve gotten the point.
Some books are healthy for us, others are funny. Some books are protective, and some are larger than life. Some ask us to leave everything and get out there, and some keep us grounded at home. Some give us life. Some take us deep, others take us high.
Are you going to add more categories?
Yes. We will be adding more categories. And more age groups. But for us to declare winners in a category, the category must have relevance to the larger set. Also, there have to be enough good books in that category to go through the jury process.
For example, we believe that travel writing is an interesting category. Parents and school teachers ask children to write about their vacations all the time. But do we offer them great travel literature? No., we don’t. It would certainly be an interesting category to recognise in BICW. But are there enough Indian books on travel for our jury to read 10-odd books and pick one of them? Probably not.
Some of these books are so old! Why did they win the award in 2019?
Unfortunately, we can’t rewind the clock and start the BICW – Contemporary Awards earlier in time, so we will be recognizing books from 2005 onwards. Only after we’ve covered significant ground, will we restrict it to the current year.
We’re not strict about 2005. If we are sent a book that meets our criteria, and was published first in 2004, or even 2000, we will send it to our jury.
What about regional literature?
Sigh. If we could do everything, we would. But for the next 3-5 years, BICW Awards in regional literature looks like a pipe dream. If we find collaborators who can share the workload of administering an award, we might do it earlier.
Is there anything else people need to know more about the BICW Awards?
Yes. You need context, for which you have to read this blog post!