Three years ago, Ripley's Entertainment, which has been publishing books since 1929, mostly through licensing agreements, began handling its own publishing. Now, according to Norm Deska, v-p of intellectual property, Ripley's is about to extend its publishing program by producing its first children's book based on the writings of Robert Ripley (1890—1948). Ripley's In Search of the Shrunken Head will be published October 2 with an initial print run of 180,000 copies.
"We don't want to interfere with the annuals," said Deska, which have sold more than two million copies in the past three years and have placed among the top five on the New York Times bestseller list. "But we need other books to hit other demographics. Shrunken Heads is a totally different format from the annuals, and it's really telling people about all the fantastic things Robert Ripley was doing in the early 1900s."
The 32-page oversize book, with a trim size of 12x10, mixes text from Ripley's journals with colorizations of his sketches, 3-D images and lift-up flaps to highlight his discoveries in Australia, Peru and other countries. Ripley archivist Edward Meyer, who helped assemble the book, will tour at pub date.
At this point, Ripley hasn't decided how many additional titles it will publish or whether they will follow the same format as Shrunken Heads. However, the company will continue its partnership with Scholastic, begun in 2004, on a series of Special Edition annuals for children between the ages of seven and 12. The 2008 special edition, due out this summer, Ripley's Believe It or Not! The Remarkable Revealed, is the first to be produced by Ripley, Deska says.
Although part of the push behind the publishing effort is to bring in income at other times of the year besides the fall holiday season, another impetus is a forthcoming Paramount Pictures film on the life of Robert Ripley. The movie, which is slated for production early next year, stars Jim Carrey as Ripley and will be directed by Tim Burton. Ripley's is also readying a new Odditorium, or museum, to open in New York City's Times Square in late June.