While traditional wisdom says it's the days leading up to Christmas that count most for publishers and booksellers, some children's book people think otherwise. The week after Christmas, according to Joan de Mayo, senior v-p, director of sales for Random House Children's Books, is now a “prime time to release big books.”
With schools on holiday between Christmas and New Year's Day, teens and tweens are often out shopping for themselves. Increasingly, they are carrying gift cards. The retail environment also becomes more accommodating just after Christmas. “We are seeing more and more fantastic display opportunities as the holiday decorations come down,” says Jennifer Haller, v-p of sales and marketing at Harcourt Children's Books.
According to the National Retail Federation, gift card sales continue to rise; they are expected to top $26 million this year. While there are no figures available on how many of those cards reside in teenagers' wallets, publishers and booksellers suggest they may be in for some post-Christmas cheer. Chief marketing officer Meg Smith noted that Book Sense card sales have gone up each year since they were introduced in 2003; last year, indies sold 274,000 Book Sense cards, valued at more than $7.3 million.
No wonder Borders has upped its production of gift cards; the chain has added 13 new gift card designs for the holiday, more than double what the chain produced last year—and they're gearing many of them to young people by adding such “frills” as little felt pouches, beaded ornaments and the like to go with them. “You're not handing somebody just a card [anymore],” said Jessica Harley, v-p of acquisitions and retention marketing at Borders.
Many in-store promotions are slated to start the day after Christmas. Harper-Collins Children's Books will be pushing new installments of two of its hottest series, Erin Hunter's Warriors and Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries. It was a relatively easy decision after watching sales for last December's Warriors title, which pubbed the day after Christmas, rise 60% over the previous book, according to senior v-p of sales and associate publisher Andrea Pappenheimer. (Tokyopop is following suit with a new Warriors graphic novel on December 26.) “We're selective, but with the right property, we're really seeing it as a big opportunity,” Pappenheimer said.
Candlewick will try its first post-Christmas publication this year, with a 300,000-copy first printing of the paperback of Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Buyers specifically asked the children's publisher to push up one of their biggest properties, rather than release it on Valentine's Day, the anniversary of the hardcover, according to Jeanne Emanuel, v-p of sales in the U.S. and Canada. The company hopes that Edward Tulane's prominent role in Dean Koontz's bestseller Brother Odd (the main character is transformed by reading DiCamillo's book) will translate to adult sales as well.
Random House is ending the year and starting 2008 with heavy hitters like Libba Bray (the concluding title in her trilogy), Louis Sachar (the paperback of Small Steps), Mary Pope Osborne (a paperback edition of her 36th Magic Tree House title) and Joanne Harris, whose Runemarks is her first book for kids. Last year Random saw strong sales for its early January release of Ann Brashares's Forever in Blue, the fourth Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book.
Not all booksellers are eager for new promotions the week after Christmas—some need a few days to catch their breath. Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., for example, is closed on December 26 and puts its energy into a storewide sale on January 1. It's still unclear whether the momentum to create a fifth season in that small window between Christmas and New Year's can gain enough traction to launch untested authors rather than big-name writers or books in established series. Kenny Brechner, owner of Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, said, “It's not a problem to put out Runemarks on January 8. But I wish I had it for the Christmas season. There's no amount of selling that will ever happen more than the last two weeks before Christmas.”
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick, paper, Dec. 26)
Blizzard of the Blue Moon: Magic Tree House #36 by Mary Pope Osborne, illus. by Sal Murdocca (Random House, paper, Dec. 26)
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (Delacorte, Dec. 26)
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (Delacorte, paper, Dec. 26)
Princess Diaries IX: Princess Mia by Meg Cabot (HarperTeen, Dec. 26)
Princess Diaries VIII: Princess on the Brink by Meg Cabot (HarperTeen, paper, Dec. 26)
Warriors: Powers of Three #2: Dark River by Erin Hunter (HarperCollins, Dec. 26)
Warriors: Warrior’s Refuge by Erin Hunter, illus. by James Barry (Tokyopop, paper, Dec. 26)
Jared Grace’s How-to-Draw Book (The Spiderwick Chronicles) (Simon Scribbles, Dec. 31)
Runemarks by Joanne Harris (Knopf, Jan. 8)
Small Steps by Louis Sachar (Delacorte, paper, Jan. 8)
How to Hook a Hottie by Tina Ferraro (Delacorte, paper, Jan. 8)