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Publishers give new pledge on age banding

As the storm over age guidance on children's book covers continues, the Publishers' Association has issued a short statement aimed at reassuring concerned authors. It includes a pledge that there is "no question of age guidance being added to a book without full consultation with the author"...

I am disappointed not to have made it up to London for this evening's presentation of the Branford Boase Award (for reasons of weather & work), because I hoped to speak to Philip Pullman who was due to be at the event.

Pullman issued a strongly worded message to all signatories of the statment, summarising the meeting at which the Publishers' Association statement was thrashed out:

Simon Juden [Chief Executive of the Publishers' Association] opened by acknowledging in guarded and cautious terms that the presentation of this matter from their side had perhaps not been ideal, but that he and the publishers were very anxious to stress that their intention had never been to impose age-guidance (that is the term they prefer to use) on authors without full consultation, and that he thought it would be a good idea to take some of the emotion out of the discussion and simply deal with the facts.

I replied that I'd rather call it passion, and that I'd rather it stayed in, thank you very much, because the sheer volume and intensity of the anger caused by the proposal was entirely part of what we wanted to express. I went on to ask various questions about the research - full details of which had only reached me the evening before on my return from a conference in Sweden, so I had only the morning of the 3rd to digest several hundred pages. But what struck me very forcibly was that not once in all those pages was it acknowledged that authors and illustrators had a point of view that might be worth listening to; and in particular that not once were the concerns of teachers about the effect of printed age-figures on children, which have since been very vividly and cogently expressed, even considered...

It was particulalrly about the impact of agebanding - the publishers prefer to call it age-guidance [lol]; I prefer to call it branding - on school classrooms, school libraries and parental attitudes to reading that I would have welcomed ten minutes of Pullman's time.

The end of this short Guardin reporting of the PA statement release is worrying enough:

For the Publishers Association, Children's Book Group secretary Kate Bostock conceded that one new book, Keith Gray's Ostrich Boys, had already been published with a teen logo by Random House against the author's wishes. "It was a dreadful in-house mistake," she said, "but that's the only author affected"...

How many more 'dreadful inhouse mistakes' are there likely to be?

For the rest, Bostock said, "well over half of the books being published this autumn will have age guidance, but all of them have agreement from the authors."

But how graciously and willingly has such agreement been given? I know of signatories of the petition who have confided to me that when asked by their publishers if they were ok about having the 'guidance' on their books didn't object because, like most authors still building a reputation, they are desperate to keep on the right side of their editors and inhouse team.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on July 9, 2008 7:56 PM.

Primary Schools Book Award 2008 - The Winner was the previous entry in this blog.

Branford Boase Winner is the next entry in this blog.

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