On its fifth anniversary, Running Press Kids is celebrating its successes in several genres relatively new to its list, including young adult fiction and licensed series. The imprint’s annual output has increased considerably over the past two years, growing from 30 to 50 titles. To mark its five-year milestone, the publisher is giving the list an updated look, creating five new logos to delineate the categories of books that comprise the list.
The logos belong to RP Kids (preschool titles, novelty board books and picture books), Kids Kits, Mega Kids Kits, RP Teens and RP Kids Classics. Jon Anderson, publisher of Running Press, says the new logos “will give the distinct parts of Running Press Kids their own identities.”
Falling under RP Kids are two series that represent the company’s first foray into licensed publishing. John Deere books, published in a variety of formats, depict vehicles as cartoon characters and have sold more than 750,000 copies since debuting two years ago.
Running Press also acquired the Peanuts license and has released new versions based on the TV holiday specials starring Charlie Brown and pals as well as novelty books drawing on themes and story lines from Charles M. Schulz’s comic strips. Released last fall, the first two Peanuts titles--It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas--have together sold more than 100,000 copies. “We are very careful about what licenses we take on,” Anderson says. “We are not interested in flash-in-the-pan licenses, but look to acquire evergreen licenses or new licenses that we believe will have a long-lasting life.”
Launched in 2007, the Kids Kits and Mega Kids Kits programs exemplify what Anderson describes as the company’s goal “of expanding carefully by building on things we have done well.” These lines grew out of Running Press’s success with its adult Mini Kits, which have had sales of 25 million copies since debuting in 2000. Striving to find innovative book-plus packages that do not duplicate those already in the market, the publisher has created such kits as TheHummingbird Feeder Kit, Let’s Hula! Learn to Sway the Hawaiian Way and Stonehenge: Build Your Own Ancient Wonder.
Also along these lines, Change the Way You See Everything for Teens Through Asset-Based Thinking by Kathryn D. Cramer and Hank Wasiak, due in spring 2009, is a guide based on these authors’ Change the Way You See Everything Through Asset-Based Thinking and its follow-up, Change the Way You See Yourself Through Asset-Based Thinking. And several adult cookbooks that Running Press has published in conjunction with City Tavern, a historic Philadelphia restaurant, inspired a children’s picture book, City Tavern, by owner Walter Staib and Jennifer Fox, a fall 2009 title.
Running Press for Kids scored a big hit in fall 2006 with its first novel and debut YA title, Cathy’s Book by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman. This story with multiple interactive angles, which has 120,000 copies in print, caused a bit of a stir in the media for its product placement references to CoverGirl cosmetics. (Those references have been removed for the paperback edition, which pubs this May.) A sequel, Cathy’s Key, is also due in May, with a 100,000-copy print run, and Cathy’s Ring will follow next spring.
“The success of Cathy’s Book was very exciting for us, and we are definitely looking to publish more fiction,” says Kelli Chipponeri, associate editorial director of Running Press Kids. She has high hopes for Creepers by Joanne Dahme, a first novel that she describes as “a real find,” scheduled for August. Dahme’s second novel, The Plague, is due next spring, as is the first volume of Saddle Wise, a horse-themed series for middle graders.
Other highlights include two fall titles with celebrity authors. The press is releasing a 35th anniversary edition of Marlo Thomas’s Free to Be You and Me, to which the company has owned rights for a decade. The book includes new art by a number of well-known illustrators and a new cover by Peter H. Reynolds. A 100,000-copy first printing is on order for the anthology, which is packaged with a CD containing four songs. And Dionne Warwick has written an autobiographical picture book, Say a Little Prayer, which comes with a CD featuring Warwick reading the book and singing the first song she ever performed, “Jesus Loves Me.” Featuring art by Soud, the book will have a 75,000-copy printing.
Looking ahead, Craig Herman, v-p and associate publisher of Running Press, anticipates that the company’s children’s list “will include more high-profile projects in terms of author names. We are looking to grow our children’s program where it makes sense, but to expand gradually and steadily increase our presence in the marketplace.”