There is cause for celebration on Publishers' Row. Babar is turning 80, The Phantom Tollbooth has spent five decades in print, and the Magic School Bus has been zipping along for a quarter-century. These are just three of the iconic picture-book characters, modern classics, or popular series that are marking milestones in the months ahead. Here's a sampling of anniversary observances in the works, as well as some marketers' input on making the most of publishing anniversaries.
Releasing anniversary editions of strong sellers is an obvious way to boost sales. "A new edition can give a book frontlist status and gives booksellers an impetus to reorder and reposition the book," says Linda Magram, v-p and director of children's book marketing at HMH. She also mentions the benefit of offering popular books in a repackaged format, as her company did last year with The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 70th Anniversary Edition and will do in the fall with Martha Speaks Story Time Collection, a roundup of this talking dog's original adventures.
Anniversary editions also provide an opportunity to update the look of a book, several publishers observe. "If it is an important book on our backlist, we'll try to do an anniversary edition," says Susan Van Metre, senior v-p and publisher of Abrams Books for Young Readers. "It's a chance for us to refresh the design of a book in hopes it will get more prominent placement on the shelf." Event kits are also a plus, she adds, as "they can help bookstores get behind anniversaries."
The marketing mileage anniversaries provide is somewhat dependent on the number of years being observed, notes John Adamo, senior v-p of marketing and communications for Random House Children's Books. "The big milestones—50, 75, 100—tend to resonate more with retailers and consumers. That, coupled with the nostalgic factor for a beloved book, makes our job much easier." He also points out the advantage of adding extra content—an interview with the author, material on the book's back story—to "add value and create a richer package. This can be a great anniversary hook."
'The Phantom Tollbooth' Turns 50
More than a half-century ago, Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer met while sharing a Brooklyn Heights apartment. They became fast friends and collaborated on a book that has gone on to sell close to four million copies for Knopf. In October, the publisher will release The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition, which includes a preface by Juster; brief essays of appreciation by authors, educators, and artists, among them Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, and Mo Willems; an essay Maurice Sendak penned for the novel's 35th anniversary; and photos of Juster and Feiffer, past and present.
Also in October, Knopf will bring out The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, featuring an introduction, notes, and commentary by Leonard S. Marcus; selections from interviews with Juster and Feiffer; and excerpts from Juster's notes and drafts. And to coincide with the anniversary, Knopf will also release Neville, a new picture book by Juster about a boy who finds an unusual way to make friends in his new neighborhood, featuring illustrations by G. Brian Karas.
An 80th Birthday for 'Babar'
Jean de Brunhoff first brought Babar to life in 1931 in The Story of Babar, which was inspired by a bedtime story created by his mother, Cecile de Brunhoff. The creativity remained in the family when their son, Laurent, picked up the pen after Jean's death and continued Babar's legacy. There are currently 10 million copies of Babar books in print in the U.S. alone—a figure that encompasses tales published by Abrams and Random House. On the 80th anniversary of Babar's debut and in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics, Abrams is publishing Laurent de Brunhoff's Babar's Celesteville Games. Due out this month with a 50,000-copy first printing, the book reveals elephants and other animals competing in a host of athletic competitions.
Howard W. Reeves, editor-at-large for Abrams Books for Young Readers, acquired the rights to Laurent's backlist in 2001. "As a child I had been captivated by the Babar stories, and so was delighted to become Laurent's new editor and publisher, bringing the Babar books into the 21st century and to a new generation," he says. Abrams is touting Babar's birthday with a media promotional push and a national bookstore tour of a new Babar costume. In December, the Toy Gallery at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris will host an exhibition of Babar memorabilia and contemporary licensed products.