The Syrian conflict is one that has caught the attention of both the public and the media over the recent months being labelled as ‘the worst humanitarian conflict of our time’, but what can the publishing industry do to help?
Tomorrow (1st October) sees the launch of Waterstones’ ‘Books for Syria’ in 280 of its stores across the country. Working together with Oxfam, the bookshop aims to raise £1 million for Syrian refugees by selling a number of titles and donating 100% of the proceeds to charity. Publishers both large and small are getting on board with the project including Penguin Random House and Harper Collins each donating between 1,000 and 2,000 copies of the chosen titles for sale.
Perhaps this could be seen as a bit of a brave move on the side of Waterstones and the publishers involved as they launch the scheme just a week before ‘Super Thursday’. ‘Books for Syria’ include titles from both the frontlists and backlists of the involved publishers – potentially making a small but negative impact on sales figures during the run up to Christmas.
‘Books for Syria’ isn’t the only initiative to commence this month. On 15th October ‘Soup for Syria’ is released, raising money for the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Inspired by a friend and author, a Publisher at Interlink in the US developed the idea of creating a cookbook made up of soup recipes from a number of high-profile chefs. Over eighty chefs including Anthony Bourdain and Yotam Ottolenghi have contributed recipes for the book, with all the proceeds from the US sales going to the charity.
In the UK ‘Soup for Syria’ is published by Pavilllion, with ‘at least £2’ of the £18.99 retail price (Amazon.co.uk) from each sale going to the charity, who will be using the money toward the food fund. ‘Soup for Syria’ is hoped to be a good seller – appealing to the hearts of readers (and cooks) who may like to indulge over the festive period.
Publishers are not the first in the industry to put into action the idea of books saving lives. On 3rd September Young Adult author Patrick Ness took to Twitter to promise to match £10,000 worth of donations to ‘Save the Children’ in aid of the Syrian refugees. A host of other authors including John Green and Philip Pullman joined in and together raised over £150,000 in twenty four hours. The current total stands at over £500,000 – a resounding success that I’m sure ‘Books for Syria’ and ‘Soup for Syria’ hope to follow.