When publishing executives think of licensing, they usually focus on children's book characters. Yet several nonfiction book brands and authors for adult readers have extended their franchises into merchandise, boosting recognition for the books and offering cross-promotional opportunities. Most have a strong sales record in publishing and are identified with a particular topic (often cooking, entertaining or dieting but sometimes spirituality or relationships). Many benefit from exposure in other media, such as television, but books remain a key franchise component.
"One way to build a brand is to build relationships with customers," said Norman Kolpas, senior v-p of content at Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, the company charged with extending the celebrity chef and author's brand name. "You'll never make as much profit on books as you will on cookware or soup. But what a book does that an empty soup can doesn't, is it stays there and forges a lasting relationship between you and the person who buys the book."
Celebrity chefs are among the most active licensors. Licensing activity for Puck, the author of four books including Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen (HarperCollins, 1981) and Wolfgang Puck's Pizza, Pasta, and More! (Random House, 2000), encompasses a line of cookware produced by WP Productions and sold on the Home Shopping Network and elsewhere; packaged foods from ConAgra introduced this year; and a line of soups from Country Gourmet. Puck's next book is Live, Love, Eat! (Random, fall 2002), the title was contracted with Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, the corporation that controls his brand.. Puck stars in a cooking show on the Food Network and operates fine dining and casual restaurants throughout the U.S. and one in Japan.
Another celebrity chef/author is Graham Kerr, who gained fame in the 1960s as the Galloping Gourmet. He has written 21 books, among them The Gathering Place (Camano Press, 1997) and Graham Kerr's Kitchen (Putnam, 1996). Kerr titles cumulatively have sold 14 million copies, according to Michael Carlisle, a principle at Kerr's licensing agency, The Wildflower Group. Kerr stars in a TV series airing on PBS stations this year, which will lead to a spin-off book.
Kerr's books and products reflect his focus on healthy, easy-to-prepare foods. Licensed merchandise has included kitchen gadgets (some invented by Kerr), barbecue grills and utensils; he also has a branded food line with Washington State grocery chain Haggen's, which is being considered for a national roll-out. Kerr endorses products as well, using them on his show and in personal appearances and allowing his name and picture on packaging.
Mollie Katzen, whose Moosewood Cookbook was published by Ten Speed Press in 1972, is in the early stages of her licensing effort. Consumers have purchased $60 million worth of her seven books, which include The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and two children's titles, leading to a total of five million copies in print. Hyperion published Katzen's most recent book, Vegetable Heaven, and will bring out Sunlight Café this fall.
The release of Sunlight Café will coincide with the launch of the first licensed products, including a line of calendars from Mead. Licensing agency The Joester Loria Group is in talks with a home shopping network about introducing a line of cookware; Katzen plans to design high-quality items that are lightweight and suited to women. "Celebrity chefs are so important and popular now, but very few are women," said Jane Kraemer, Joester Loria's v-p of sales. "That makes her brand and name stand out." Other merchandise will include tabletop items, textiles and paper products featuring Katzen's artwork.
Authors of diet books have licensed foods, vitamins and other items that help customers follow the diet. The Atkins Center, founded by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, author of the 10-million-selling Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution (1972) and other titles, offers food and nutritional products; Avon Books published a revised edition of Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution in 2001. Meanwhile, licensing company The Cherokee Group announced in late 2000 that it would represent Pritikin Enterprises, founded in 1976 to promote the diet theories of Dr. Nathan Pritikin and his son Robert, planning products from foods and fitness equipment to cooking utensils and cookbooks.
Outside the Kitchen
Authors associated with entertaining and home decorating have made a splash in merchandising, led by Martha Stewart, the multimedia star who licenses her name into all categories of products for the home, notably through a high-profile deal with Kmart. (Clarkson Potter has been Stewart's publisher since her first book, Entertaining, published in 1982.) Barbara Smith (known as B. Smith), whose titles include B. Smith: Rituals & Celebrations (Random House, 1999), is familiar to consumers not only from her books but her restaurants and television show. Licensed products include a home furnishings program with retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond, as well as wall coverings and sewing patterns.
While cooking and entertaining have generated the most licensing activity to date, other nonfiction book titles have also extended into related products. Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (HCI, 1993) and the other 49 titles in the franchise (75 million copies sold) have attracted two dozen licensees for products such as key chains with books attached, CD compilations and "wellness music," and mugs packaged with a soup packet and a book.
"We started with the categories that made the most sense, anything dealing with the written word," said Lois Sloane, president of SloaneVision Unlimited, which took over Chicken Soup merchandising in 1997. While "social expressions" products continue to sell best, including a line of greeting cards and other merchandise from American Greetings, the program looks for opportunities for "anything that makes you comfortable," according to Sloane. Foods, such as chocolates, are a growth area.
A new licensing effort is inspired by Jill Conner Browne's Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love (Three Rivers Press, 1999) and God Save the Sweet Potato Queens (Three Rivers, 2001), which together have sold 750,000 copies, according to Fred Paprin, principle and cofounder of The Wildflower Group, which licenses this property as well as Kerr. Greeting cards and other social expressions (calendars, mugs, etc.) will form the core of the program and capture the author's "irreverent humor and view of life," Paprin said. The first merchandise is expected in stores in spring 2003, just after the publication of The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner.
Sonny Barger, author of Hell's Angel (Morrow, 2000) and Ridin' High, Livin' Free (Morrow, April 2002), oversees one of the more unusual book-based product marketing efforts. Zeta Music Systems is releasing a limited-edition Sonny Barger signature guitar, which has the second book's title incorporated into the fingerboard and a likeness of Barger and his motorcycle on the back. The author also markets his own beer, Sonny Barger Premium Lager, and sells products such as T-shirts, pins and stickers on his Web site.
John Gray's Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (HarperCollins, 1992) has also inspired merchandise, including three board games from Mattel; aromatherapy, collectibles, music and foods are planned. Meanwhile, Faith Popcorn, author of Dictionary of the Future (Theia, 2001) and Clicking! (HarperBusiness, 1996), targets the home office with her licensing effort, overseen by her Popcorn Products division.
Publishers whose authors extend their names, logos and likenesses into nonbook products benefit from increased brand awareness, cross-marketing opportunities and new distribution channels. Morrow, for example, sold Hell's Angel in truck stops and music stores and is looking to distribute Ridin' High, Livin' Free in outlets where the author's beer and guitars are available, according to Kristen Green, associate director of publicity for Morrow and Avon. Similarly, Avon plans to display Dr. Atkins's newly revised book next to his health bars and shakes in Wal-Mart, Target, Albertson's, Kroger, Stop & Shop, Walgreens and Eckerd stores.
SloaneVision is in talks with an operator of mall kiosks about setting up a series of freestanding Chicken Soup retail locations that would sell both merchandise and books. It is also seeking further promotional opportunities for the franchise; in 2000, retailer JCPenney ran a chain-wide Mother's Day promotion during which customers who purchased $50 or more in merchandise at a JCPenney store received a free copy of Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul. The retailer initially ordered 800,000 copies, which disappeared within a few days, according to Sloane.
Joester-Loria's Kraemer said if Katzen-licensed cookware is sold through one of the home shopping networks this fall, as hoped, the show will most likely feature her books as well, either as an upselling opportunity or as an added-value giveaway to consumers who purchase cookware.
Author appearances in support of licensed or endorsed products offer a chance to sell books. Kerr often holds cooking demonstrations or other live appearances for companies he endorses. These events usually include book giveaways or sales and signings, according to Carlisle, as is the case when Kerr is featured at Haggen's new-store openings.
"Most of the [Atkins] products somehow promote the books or drive traffic to the books," said Rob Stone, president of Stone America Marketing, a trademark licensing company specializing in brands and personalities that represented Atkins during its product launch. While book sales rose during that period, Stone admits, "It's hard to evaluate that. Sales do go up and some of that is probably attributable to the licensed products driving people back to the books, but it's hard to say how much."
In fact, much of the benefit to publishers from product licensing is indirect. Licensed merchandise packages typically mention the URL of the author's or brand's Web site, for example, where the book is publicized or sold. Products increase visibility for the brand as a whole, which leads to more book sales; all the facets of the brand, including the books, promote each other.
Kolpas pointed out that the title of Puck's next book, Live, Love, Eat! (which is also the chef's motto) is printed on the back wall of the production set for his television show and appears on merchandising materials and menus in the more than 30 Wolfgang Puck Cafés and Wolfgang Puck Express restaurants. Puck's TV show sends viewers to his Web site for recipes; the company plans to prominently feature his books on the site and set up affiliate programs with online booksellers so customers can click through and buy. Puck's Pizza, Pasta, and More! was featured on the Home Shopping Network during half-hour programs focusing on the chef's cookware, and the company is exploring other cross-merchandising opportunities with the cookware and licensed foods. WPW is also in talks with Random House about offering books for sale in Puck's Cafés and Expresses.
"We have a multifaceted organization that allows us to link [Puck's] books with his cafés and with his cookware," said Kolpas. "The books have the backing of the entire organization."
This article contains two corrections posted after the print version appeared.