As Albert Whitman approaches the centenary of its founding in 1919, it continues to expand its reach into the children’s book market by launching its debut list of paperback reprints of its fiction titles.
Albert Whitman, best known for its Boxcar Children series of 139 middle-grade books that have sold a total of 60 million copies worldwide, is releasing 15 early readers, middle-grade fiction, and YA novels in paper format this spring, in addition to its 26 hardcover releases that include 12 picture books. Sales and marketing director Mike Spradlin explained that the company wants to “make the child the consumer here” by providing books in paper. When a hardcover book is priced at $15 and up, Spradlin added, the parent or adult caregiver is the consumer; when a book is priced below $10, a child is more apt to purchase it, especially teen readers. While Albert Whitman’s hardcovers are typically priced at $16.99, the paperback releases range in price from $4.99 for early readers to $9.99 for YA novels.
Spradlin added that part of the strategy behind the entry into the paperback market is to “help spread the word that we’re doing YA fiction and all kinds of fiction.” The company has previously reissued books in paperback format on a limited basis, including its two bestselling YA releases, The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal (2012), which has sold 25-30,000 copies total, and Being Henry David by Cal Armistead (2013), which has sold about 45,000 copies total.
“We felt that with our list becoming more and more trade-oriented, it was time for us to make sure that our fiction for all ages became more widely available,” Spradlin said of the company, which has traditionally focused on the library market.
While Spradlin declined to disclose print runs for Albert Whitman releases in either hardcover or paper, he did note that Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan, one of the lead titles among this spring’s paperback releases, a YA novel about a 16-year-old boy with an eating disorder, has a 7,500-copy first printing.
Albert Whitman will publish in paper, according to Spradlin, “basically all the fiction that we do.” Early readers and middle-grade fiction will be released in paper six months after their initial release in hardcover, and YA novels will be released in paper one year after their initial release in hardcover. Albert Whitman introduced its line of YA fiction in 2012. In an interview with PW last summer, John Quattrocchi said that company revenues reflected the success of the expansion into YA, as revenues were up 12% last fiscal year and are expected to be on par this fiscal year.
An earlier version of this story stated an incorrect figure for the combined hardcover and paper sales figures for The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal. This YA novel has sold a total of 25,000-30,000 copies.