In 2011, travel publisher Lonely Planet began publishing books for children with its Not for Parents series, which has been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide (a number that has exceeded any other Lonely Planet product to date). The success of that series led the company to establish a dedicated children’s imprint – Lonely Planet Kids – in 2014.
Lonely Planet Kids published seven titles in 2015, and has been accelerating that pace, with 17 titles coming out in 2016 and 24 slated for 2017, and with 40 titles a year as the ultimate goal. “This is an imprint in the middle of a very strong growth curve,” said Tim Cook, who was named publisher in April 2015. Cook began his career in foreign rights sales and brings both his background in sales and editorial to inform his new role. “I’ve been steeped in children’s nonfiction my entire career,” said Cook. “It’s a fantastic time for children’s nonfiction.”
While many people associate Lonely Planet with travel guides, Cook said that Lonely Planet Kids “doesn’t do guidebooks. We’re about inspiring kids what an amazing, incredible, unusual and fantastic place the world is.” To create the books, Lonely Planet Kids calls upon both outside authors and illustrators, as well as Lonely Planet’s extensive staff of destination editors and travel writers. “When we make these fun books they are underpinned by a layer of expertise,” Cook said.
Lonely Planet Kids is also focusing on building and promoting a list of authors and illustrators. Cook said that often in children’s nonfiction, “the contributors are incredibly talented people who have been pushed to the background. We’re going to reverse that and bring them to the front. Our authors are going to be named on the cover,” he said, citing that traditionally LP’s brand has been seen as the author. “With our guidebooks and adult trade books, we tend to have one Lonely Planet voice, even though of course there’s a team of authors behind them, and names are not featured on the cover.” By placing LPKids authors’ names on the cover, it helps to “bring their inspiration and creativity to the fore.”
The imprint’s target age ranges from five and up, though Cook said the main focus is on children between five and eight years of age. “That’s our core area. After that age, we lose them to digital,” said Cook, adding that in the future the imprint might move into younger age groups as well.
Lonely Planet Kids publishes into four basic categories: activity, large reference, high-interest nonfiction (characterized by bolder design styles and lower price point), and novelty/gift books.
Among the 2016 titles is the Let’s Explore series, covering the Ocean, Jungle, Safari (Feb, $9.99), which introduce Lonely Planet Kids’ first recurring characters, Marco and Amelia, who are “reporters that trek around the globe discovering different environments” and will also appear in other series, like the Cities books as guest characters.
Then there is the Pop-Up City series covering London, New York, and Paris (April, $9.99) that Cook said is Lonely Planet Kids’ “first real foray into novelty books in this category.” The City Trails series (June, $12.99), feature the same three cities, but for children ages 8-12, using illustrated roadways that allow readers to discover things off the beaten path. But Cook emphasizes that these titles are not guidebooks, but rather titles meant to inspire travel in children and “give them a vision of the world as a diverse place. Our primary aim is to educate kids whether they are traveling or not about the cultures of other countries.”
LPKids also started a family activity series this year, including My Family Travel Map (April, $14.99), a fold-out map to chart various aspects of travel; a vacation diary in My Travel Journal (April, $12.99); and Boredom Buster (April, $11.99), which aims to make travel interactive and keep kids entertained.
In 2017, LPKids plans to continue the Let’s Explore Series, add reference titles about animal conservation, family activity books, and a first foray into simple language books. In 2017, the imprint will also introduce its first “pure coloring” title, Lulu Mayo’s World Cutest Animal Colouring Book, and Cook hopes to eventually introduce picture books to the line-up.
According to Cook, diversity is key to the company’s mission. “It’s so ingrained in everything we do and is such an important part of what Lonely Planet is that it’s almost second nature. We start from that standpoint.” He adds that creating books for children means recognizing that they aren’t a single audience. “Children are incredibly diverse. It sounds like an obvious statement but so often people talk about them like they are one homogenous lump. We need to make sure we address all the different areas. We strive to show young readers how diverse the world is, and that means being inclusive and conscious of all backgrounds, cultures and places,” which Lonely Planet Kids hopes to facilitate with new characters Marco and Amelia in its Let’s Explore series. Additionally, LPKids sources authors and illustrators from around the world, because they “inform the creative power of these books. They come from across the globe because that’s what we’re about. We are a global brand.”
Another aspect of diversity is economic diversity, and Cook is aware that travel isn’t possible for many children. “We’re trying to give more insight into the places children go and have been and for those children who aren’t fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel,” he said. “We still want them to learn and be inspired by what an incredible, fantastic diverse planet this is.”