Press Here is not only the title of the book, but the simple instruction that launches its readers on an engaging adventure on which they push, rub, jiggle, clap at, and even blow on dots printed on the page to make them rearrange themselves. Written by Hervé Tullet and released by Chronicle’s Handprint Books imprint in April, the book debuted on PW’s picture book bestseller list this week in the #7 slot. Press Here was originally published in France as Un Livre, and immediately caught the attention of Handprint’s Christopher Franceschelli at last year’s Bologna Book Fair.
Hearing buzz about the book at the fair, Franceschelli sought it out at the booth of its French publisher, Bayard Jeunesse. “I was entranced and had an immediate sense that here was something special,” the publisher recalls. “The book just draws you in and you want to push that button. What I knew immediately—it was completely serendipitous—was that the book begged for the title, Press Here. There I was at Bologna, standing in the aisle, shaking and blowing on this book, likely much to the bemusement of other folks there.”
Other folks, in fact, were similarly enchanted by Press Here, and there was sufficient publisher interest in the book that Bayard held an auction after the fair. Franceschelli won U.S. and UK rights; Allen & Unwin bought Australian rights.
Pressed to pinpoint the appeal of the book, Franceschelli has a bit of difficulty, well, putting his finger on it. “I haven’t quite entirely figured out what makes it work so incredibly well,” he says. “I think part of it is our essentially primal urge to be in control of our universe. We want to believe we can change the world around us, and this book enables us to do that. At the same time, you come to realize that the book is controlling you as you follow its directions, and there is that security and safety of being told what to do in life.”
Part of the magic of Press Here is what Franceschelli (who translated the book into English) calls “its simplicity. It breaks the fourth wall without requiring the wiz-bang of technology.” That said, the publisher is negotiating a deal for a Press Here app, of which he admits being “inherently suspicious” at first. “The book is the ultimate anti-app, since it’s all about your imagination moving it, not electronics moving it. But this app is done brilliantly. It is not a translation of the book onto the screen, it’s a riff on the book, an imaginative exploration of dots in motion, interacting with one another.”
Readers Are Hard Pressed to Resist
Sales of Press Here were strong out of the gate. The publisher initially printed 40,000 copies of the bookand will soon reprint. Kim Lauber, Chronicle’s children’s marketing manager, reports that the house has received an unusual outpouring of feedback from retailers, librarians, teachers, and bloggers. “I’ve heard stories from so many people about how this is the ultimate picture book—a nod to the nostalgia of the printed page and a step toward the trend of interactive digital publishing,” Lauber says. “It’s certainly homage to the idea that with books there is truly magic behind the turn of a page.”
One bookseller who has seen that first-hand is Kevin Atkin, manager of Bookshop West Portal in San Francisco. After receiving a pre-publication copy of Press Here, the store featured the book at a story time and, he says, “it totally captured the audience and was a big hit. Kids all had “Press Here” stickers on their hands, and they had a great time, clapping to the book and laughing. It’s so fun and so interactive, in a way that lift-the-flap and pop-up books aren’t. The book is all about using your imagination and getting inside the magic on your own.”
Though remarking that Press Here is an easy handsell, Atkin notes that Bookshop West Portal has a stack of the books on display at the front of the store and that it also “sells itself very well. I think this book will have legs for a very long time and be reprinted many times.”
The publisher’s marketing campaign for Press Here targets the trade, specialty, and institutional channels. Components include an activity kit downloadable online; an online trailer featuring kids responding to the book; stickers, buttons, and shelf talkers for retailers; and promotional giveaways at education and library conferences.
“This is a book you really have to experience yourself, and we’ve done all we can to make sure that we put it in front of as many people as possible,” Lauber says. And seeing readers’ reactions has been very rewarding, she adds. “We’ve seen so many adults pressing, shaking, and blowing on the book. And do you know what else they were doing? Smiling. Laughing. Turning to their companions and saying ‘You’ve got to see this.’ And really, isn’t that reaction every publisher’s dream?”
Press Here by Hervé Tullet. Chronicle/Handprint Books, $14.99 Apr. ISBN 978-0-8118-7954-5