When Ronnie Sellers, founder of Sellers Publishing in South Portland, Maine, saw Tracy Raver and Kelley Ryden's photos of newborns on The Today Show last fall, he moved quickly to sign them for a spring book, nor letting the fact that their Web site and voice mail were jammed immediately after the show get in the way. He flew to Omaha, Neb., and was at their studio by 11:30 the next morning. By 9 p.m., he had an exclusive contract as their worldwide publisher for books, calendars, and stationery. Now Sellers's decision to crash an oversize photo book, Sleeping Beauties: Newborns in Dreamland ($29.95, Apr. 8), is starting to pay off.
The 12" X 10" hardcover has already sold out its first printing of 50,000 copies and has gone back to press for another 50,000. Thanks in part to the press' publicity coup--a Today Show appearance coupled with a feature in People magazine at pub date--the book was in Amazon's top 100 last week, a company first, said publicity and marketing manager Andy Sturtevant. In addition, the 2011 Sleeping Beauties calendars due out in four formats--wall, mini, box daily, and engagement--are also breaking company records. They are Sellers Publishing's bestselling new titles to date and the orders have been the largest quantities they've seen for a new title, according to calendar sales director Melvin Weiner. The company already has orders for 40,000 calendars and anticipates another 20,000.
Sellers's decision to move quickly on Sleeping Beauties was based on his gut reaction to the photos. "We get thousands of submissions each year from photographers, artists, and illustrators. Many are baby related. Still, the images of newborns taken by Raver and Ryden stopped me in my tracks when I first saw them on The Today Show. In all my years of publishing, I had never seen images that captured the essence of babies as purely and as organically as those taken by Tracy and Kelley," he said.
The sisters' describe their secret to posing newborns as simple. They crank up the heat in the studio to 85 degrees so the babies will be comfortable. They also ask that parents feed the babies before loading them into their car seats to drive them to the studio so they're already sleepy. Sellers Publishing hasn't had to do much coaxing either to get bookstores or media to take notice of their baby portraits. Ryden and Raver are on a five-city tour, which includes stops in Houston at Katy Budget Books, as well as appearances in Chicago, Omaha, and Sioux City before returning for more New York media and BEA. For Mother's Day, Barnes & Noble, Hastings, and Books-a-Million will do table displays. Sleeping Beauties stationery will be available in May; it will be officially introduced at the Stationery Show.
However cute, babies aren't the only focus of Sellers Publishing this season. James Y. Bartlett and the Professional Caddie Association's Think Like a Caddie... Play Like a Pro (March), with a foreword by Arnold Palmer and a preface by Ben Crenshaw, just went back to press for another 10,000 copies after selling out the first printing of 20,000.