Many of the publishers who responded to our question “What do you sell besides books?” specialize in serving young readers. At first glance, this seems entirely predictable. After all, characters in kids’ books have often become profitable sidelines. But PMA members don’t produce dolls, toys, T-shirts, and such simply to add to book revenues. As you’ll see from the stories that follow, they create their non-book offerings partly to express and instill a variety of values.
— Judith Appelbaum
Cross-Selling & Character-Building
Hindsight Limited targets middle reader boys for action/adventure stories espousing character-building values. “Tales of the R.A.F.” is our first series, and two of its titles have won Benjamin Franklin Awards. Our second series, “Thunder Alley,” will focus on a young boy with an auto racing crew circa 1930, and it will show how winning has more to do with sacrifice and generosity than with simply coming in first place.
In the last two years, we’ve started selling book toy packages. One of our lines includes a die-cast metal airplane for each book. We shrink-wrapped 2,400 sets last year and sold out in four months. This year, we upgraded the packaging to a small box with graphics explaining the concept of the series. We believe more professional packaging will allow us greater access to both independent and chain store accounts. A second line we’re developing groups each boAIK8ith a snap-together plastic model kit and embroidered patch.
By combining our books with toys and models of the featured vehicles, we hope to change the perception of reading as work and make it play for middle readers ages 9 to 12–especially boys.
Our book/toy combinations account for approximately 40% of sales and up to 60% of revenue, and we include a brochure cross-selling all our products with each one we sell. Because of them, we have gained broader acceptance in the book and gift/toy market and stimulated serious interest from independent sales reps who normally require larger catalogs before taking clients on.
For those who are exploring sideline offerings, I have one warning: Watch your costs! Repackaging books with sidelines can be expensive. The toys cost money, new packaging costs money, and shipping costs go up. Unless you can price accordingly, the risk may be too high.
Don Patterson, Hindsight Limited
Web site: www.hindsightlimited.com
Music for Movement
OLLY Publishing Company produces and sells hardcover children’s picture books with a music CD, but the CD came first. Seven years ago, I published BooMP Bop, Fun Songs that Inspire Movement after presenting music and movement at numerous teacher conferences. Most of the teachers taught physical education and preschool, and they continually asked, “Where do you get your music?” or “Could you share your music with me?”
I generally used my first CD for workshop presentations. When I was halfway through producing my second CD, I decided to take a fork in the road and integrate my music and movement with children’s picture books. It has proven to be a good move. My book line–”Miss Diane’s OLLYKAZOO™ Adventure Series” (each title includes a story, a song, and a dance game)–offers a multi-sensory experience, and the pre-publication response has been very positive. At this writing, I have booked five schools, six author-signing events, seven scout groups, one PTO Today Conference, one Michigan Reading Association Conference presentation with a book-signing, and one artist-in-residence young author program. I’m in the process of securing a distributor, but already have six local stores committed to buying my books.
One lesson I’ve learned is that people love getting MORE than a book! Even though a book is an awesome thing, when something is integrated with it to create a fuller more meaningful experience, people feel they’re getting a bonus. I’ve already had people say to me… “You sell all that for $16.95? That’s a good deal!”
Diane Youngblood Donlon, OLLY Publishing Company
Diverse Ways to Encourage Diversity
We publish multicultural books that “Teach kids to be kind to all kinds of kids” and also emphasize promoting strength through diversity with products and services for youth and adults. We offer diversity training, character education services, motivational and keynote speaking, as well as book-signings and author visits.
The Culture C.O.-O.P’s Founder, Sandy Holman, has worked in a variety of service organizations, including public schools, and she has seen the value in encouraging both adults and children to focus on the importance of embracing diversity.
Often our books grab the attention of educators who take an interest not only in purchasing them, but also in having our staff visit their school for training or other services.
Mark Miller, Culture C.O.-O.P.
Attracting Media & Rights Buyers
Our flagship product is Woodfin, the Kaleidoscopic Chameleon. I have written 22 children’s stories about him and his forest of friends. The key message is about color, but the books also address diversity, self-esteem, attitude, and respect.
After the launch of the first two books in the series, we received a Letter of Intent to air our stories in an animation format on a PBS affiliate station. Now we’re working hard to find funding for this television series.
In the meantime, we have successfully prototyped two of the main characters in the stories as toys, as well as some of the props common to these characters. We’ll put these items on sale as we release related new titles. In addition, we have received three offers from foreign publishers as a result of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Su Peterson, Egner, Inc.
The Strategic Relationships System
Discovering a lack of books on youth sports and sportsmanship, I began to develop the “Getting Started Sports Books®” series for parents and coaches. These how-to coloring books serve as teaching tools, helping children learn the fundamentals and develop self-confidence even before they set foot on the playing field. This series of books has helped over 43,000 children get started in youth sports.
In the process of creating this series, I worked for several years with experts in youth sports and child psychology, and I also consulted educators and children’s book illustrators. Additional youth sports books are planned for the near future. The current books have met with the approval of numerous national youth sports associations and have sold more than 43,000 copies so far.
Soon after the launch of the Youth-Sports.Com Web site in 1997, I realized the necessity for additional products that would provide added value for site visitors and therefore build traffic. I quickly established strategic relationships with individuals and companies who offered other products for youth sports, including audiotapes, videotapes, other books, sports equipment, and sports apparel. The additional products have played a major role in not only enriching the site’s content, but also in increasing the bottom line profits from the site.
But there were even more benefits. Because the site covers sports other than those currently featured in my series, it shows up more in searches. This has resulted in a measurable increase in new visitors and, of course, while they are reviewing the other sports products, they are exposed to the books.
I encourage small publishers to find other products that support their books and to develop relationships that allow the marketing and sales of those products on site.
Edward Palmer, Getting Started Sports Books
Publisher as Packager
Eschar Publications publishes Youth Literature with a particular emphasis on African American characters and storylinesyind it publishes educational books. When I left teaching to become a full-time Mom, I decided to produce and host an educational radio program. The response to the Parenting For Education (PFE) show led me to write a newspaper column and then to write a book. Workshops that would demonstrate the PFE principles were a natural next step. Today, at least 50% of our books are sold through speaking engagements and workshops.
As the books gained more recognition, writers bombarded Eschar, asking to be published. After turning down many, we decided to provide a publisher-advisory service, akin to packaging, for organizations and self-publishers.
Vivian Owens, Eschar Publications
For Kids in Weddings
Paper Posie’s book titles include 10 Neat Things About Being a Flower Girl,10 Cool Things About Being a Ring Bearer, and Love to Color (a wedding coloring book). We also manufacture a “Wedding Day Kit” for children that includes postcards to color, a transfer tattoo, a fortune teller to color and make, stickers, a photo frame, flavored lip balm crayons and a scavenger hunt–all packed in a clear acetate envelope/box with a self-handle. The 2003 line will include Ring Bearer/Flower Girl teddy bears, a flower girl kit, a flower girl tea party kit, and an activity book for older children at weddings.
As the Art Director for Beverly Clark’s heavily illustrated coffee table book Weddings: A Celebration, I recognized how many children attend weddings and how little there was to help keep them entertained. As a children’s author and educator/gender equity consultant, I knew there should be some resources. I woke up one morning and created the Wedding Day Kit; the company, the books, and other products followed.
The books have anchored the sales of the other products; having a line has really helped in the wedding industry wholesale and retail business. When we sell a book to an individual online, they often make a second order for another product.
According to The Knot, a major wedding Web site that carries Paper Posie products, we represent 22% of all their sales of items for children.
Amazon.com accounts for most of the Love to Color coloring book sales as bookstores will not carry it. (The book is $4.95 with crayons, and it’s multicultural.) The bookstores were slow to take the books, but a mailed postcard–”There are 2.4 million weddings a year… which means a lot of little attendants”–caught their attention.
Of course, product development and production are very expensive. I knew books well, but the other items were hard to get right (we had to have the tattoos and the photo frames done three times). The first kit envelope was paper (after three designs), and no one could see what they were buying! These bad runs were all sent to the recycling center! Too many dollars to mention down the drain. Also, stores that don’t sell books have to be sold on the possibilities, and pricing is critical in the “product” arena. We started at $19.95 for the kit. Wrong! People may spend an average of $30,000 on a wedding, but will spend no more than $8.95 (our current price) on a child.
Penny Paine, Paper Posie
Customers as Colleagues
Raven Tree Press, an independent publisher of children’s bilingual books,
also offers services to self-publishers, as we have since our founding in 2000. These services include editing, proofreading, cover design, page layout, ISBN, LLCN, bar coding, copyright submissions, illustrator searches, distributor information, market planning, and print specifications
Collaborating with self-publishers stretches the imagination and offers a challenge in each new endeavor. Offering self-publishing services can have advantageous affect on cash flow. And another benefit is the increase in
networking possibilities. Providing these services puts you in touch with
people in many fascinating walks of life and the news of your publishing
company (including your own titles) travels to an ever-growing audience.
Amy Crane Johnson, Raven Tree Press
Boosting Sales with a Great Big Snake
Snakey Jake to the Rescue!
–a 9″ x 12″ illustrated hardcover book about a courageous snake–conveys messages about not judging by appearance, helping others without expecting anything in return, and the importance of true friendships.
Although my Snakey Jakes book program is fairly new, I have traveled extensively to meet with store owners and buyers, done several signings at bookstores, toy stores and schools, and hired a sales manager to present my books at trade shows that I cannot attend.
Along with the book, I sell a plush toy of the Snakey Jake character in two different sizes (30″ and 54″), Snakey Jake bookmarks, Snakey Jake growth charts, and Snakey Jake gift baskets.
I produced all of the books, toys, and other products myself, from the design phase on, and paid for it all too. I think unless you have a LOT of capital sitting around, this may be too expensive a way to sell a book!!! But I’m very happy with the response.
The toys and other products have greatly enhanced my book sales. All of the
toy stores want both the book and the toy. Most of the bookstores want at
least one toy if not more. Also, the toy draws a lot of attention to the book and can be used as a display element to lure people to the books. In addition, having other products gives you additional venues for selling them–places you wouldn’t even imagine. Right now, my biggest client is a gourmet gift store. I’m talking with Nordstrom about carrying my whole line, and my giant Snakey Jake toys are perfect for libraries and kids areas in bookstores.
Roxanne Capaul, Rotire, Inc.Web site:
[subhead]A Product Mix to Promote Reading
The Straight Edge’s mission is to encourage reading–both in its Interactive children’s books (Rub a Dub™ Books, Story in a Box™ Books) and in its educational products (Read a Mat®, Write a Mat™, and Inside-Outside™ Puzzles). Everything we make has text because our aim is “to get kids to read whenever we can and we’ll print words on any surface.”
Our line of Read a Mat • Eat and Learn place mats are printed on thick vinyl. There are more than 60 titles, ranging from the basic alphabet to the Periodic Table of Elements. Write a Mats are two-sided, laminated, and wipe-clean, with colorful, educational information on the front and fill-in-the-blank backs. The backs allow children to see how much they’ve learned by writing in the answers.
Our award-winning frame-tray puzzles are another “reading promoter” for preschoolers. The outside of each puzzle is a colorful and bright image of the object (e.g., a fire engine). The inside shows a sectional view through the center so a child can see how the object works.
We sell our non-book products through toy and gift representatives primarily to the toy and gift markets. In addition, a number of bookstore accounts also carry them along with our books.
Amy Epstein, The Straight Edge, Inc.
Web site: www.straightedgeinc.comE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Venues for Wally’s Values
As a small, independent publishing house, we need to squeeze every last drop out of each and every dollar spent. We discovered that one of our most successful ways to create inexpensive promotion is to offer sidelines.
Our first publication–a children’s book titled Wally WaddleSnout and the Peppermint Race!–was designed to capture children’s imagination and help teachers, parents, and grandparents address key behavioral values like self-respect, confidence in one’s own ability to overcome adversity, respect for others, compassion and tolerance, and the value of positive relationships. We wanted something to accompany the title in the marketplace, so we recreated Wally as a stuffed animal. (The toy features Wally’s snout nose, big eyes, bright orange body, yellow wings, and large, green webbed feet.) This way, children could not only enjoy Wally’s adventures in his picture book, but also touch and feel him. We hope our timeless values are reinforced each and every time a child reads our title or plays with the Wally toy.
Our sidelines–which now also include posters, magnets, and T-Shirts featuring Wally–were originally designed solely to promote the Wally brand. They have since proven to be very useful in other aspects of promotion.
The most important result of promotion is obviously sales–Don’t we all want to sell as many books as possible? Our sidelines, and the plush toy in particular, have done an excellent job of grabbing the attention of independent bookstore owners–people who may not have paid much attention to another review copy lying on their desks. During our follow-up calls, several bookstore owners have made comments such as “Oh! Wally is so cute! He’s on the corner of my desk right now!” and “I took Wally home to my children last night! They loved him! And they are my product testers!”
When we send information to media, we always include a photo of the toy next to our book. And when we send information to important local media contacts, we always send the toy itself along with our review copy. The result: multiple articles featuring our products… leading to additional sales.
So sidelines help to promote our brand, give us greater recognition and consumer recall, and help to spur sales of our title. However, we have noticed that our books tend to sell much better than our sidelines–nearly three times better, on average. Our experience tells us that sidelines are more effective for promoting brand recognition and, in our case, the values Wally stands for, rather than making a large profit on sales of sidelines alone.
John D. Hull, TDH Books
www.waddlesnout.com / www.tdhbooks.com