Peanuts Worldwide has signed a wide-ranging publishing deal with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, marking the first time in eight years that Snoopy and friends have had a master licensee in place for children’s books. S&S will create formats including 8 x 8s, ready-to-reads, storybooks, board books, and novelty titles, with content extending from original stories and adaptations of holiday TV specials to movie tie-ins. The summer 2015 launch will feature 12–15 titles.
“We’re planning a very wide and very deep list that will sell throughout the year,” said Valerie Garfield, v-p and publisher for novelty and licensed publishing at S&S, which also held the license prior to 2005. “We want hot licenses, but also things that are classic and evergreen, and we think this is a brand parents know and trust and want to share with their kids. It’s truly an all-ages property. And the gap in the market means there’s a desire and a need for it.”
“There’s a whole generation that has missed Peanuts,” added Craig Herman, who joined licensor Peanuts Worldwide last March as executive director of publishing. One of his mandates was to address concerns that the property was not reaching children through books. “Simon & Schuster brings an amazing level of creativity, a strong distribution model, and the ability to nurture the brand in a way Peanuts needs,” Herman explained. “They really know the demographic group that will become the next generation of Peanuts fans.”
Other children’s publishers that have joined the Peanuts roster in the last eight months include Regnery’s Little Patriot Press, for books on American history and government, and Andrews McMeel’s AMP Comics, which debuted its first title, Snoopy Cowabunga, this fall. Running Press, Ballantine, and Fantagraphics also are on board.
Meanwhile, Herman has been evaluating the Peanuts library to determine how to take it into the digital arena. “The comic strip is bite-sized media, which really lends itself well to the way younger generations are absorbing content now,” he said. Since November 2011, Loud Crow Interactive has achieved nearly 1.5 million downloads of four educational e-book apps based on Peanuts TV specials; other digital licensees, many newly signed, include Leap Frog, Sourcebooks, Zuuka, Story Panda, Graphicly, and iVerse.
These books and e-books come as Peanuts Worldwide prepares for the release of 500 animated TV interstitials in 2014 and the debut of a 3-D-animated feature film in 2015. The latter year also marks the beginning of the property’s 65th-anniversary celebration. These initiatives follow a number of promotional tie-ins featuring Peanuts, including the American Library Association’s READ campaign this past September. “That was the first step to gain some awareness among kids, using librarians as core influencers,” Herman explained. “Publishers reacted in a really big way.”
All of this activity not only boosts awareness but gives Simon & Schuster innovative content and opportunities to rethink its creative approach. “We can create a fresh, new story about the brand,” Garfield said. “We’re looking at this as truly a new launch and not as a relaunch.”