Snapshots of titles flying high on the charts
Winning the Reindeer Games
Like so many ribbons and bows, each fall publishing season has its share of holiday picture books. And back in October 1997, book buyers got their first look at Olive, the Other Reindeer (Chronicle), a Christmas title by J.otto Siebold and Vivian Walsh (creators of Mr. Lunch Takes a Plane Ride). In this revisionist tale, Olive, a dog, hears the favorite Christmas carol "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and pays especially close attention to the line "All of the other reindeer" (she hears "Olive, the other reindeer), which she feels is her calling to join Santa's high-flying team. Though she d sn't make a great reindeer, Olive's perseverance pays off.
Olive proved an immediate hit, with many stores selling out of their stock during the book's first holiday selling season. For holiday '98,
| SOPHOMORE SUCCESS: 250,000 copies of Olive are in print. |
Olive came flying back accompanied by a newly created sideline, an Olive doll. And the book got an ever bigger boost for the season when Waldenbooks selected it as the cornerstone for the chain's in-store holiday signage.
"Olive did terrific for us," said Judy Fox, division merchandise manager for Waldenbooks. "It really lends itself to handselling. We also worked directly with J.otto on designing the store signage and our catalogue cover. It helped us to look unique, and we felt it was much more creative than the usual wreaths and holly." Fox noted that Waldenbooks provided its stores with Olive event kits, and many locations held story hours.
In its sophomore season, Olive sold in multiples approaching dog years: to date, the book has 250,000 copies in print and now looks to have staying power beyond the holidays, remaining in high demand (and on PW's children's bestseller list) through last month.
"We're a little blown away by the bestseller list," said Chris Boral, Chronicle's children's books marketing manager. "It's encouraging to us that all market channels [independents, chains, gift stores] are having success with the book." Boral remarked that 20,000 copies of Olive were sold in the week of February 18-25 alone.
And it shows no signs of slowing down, either. A book-and-doll boxed set will be available in fall '99, housed in a box designed by Seibold. An animated television special is also in the works, while a major department store chain may adopt Olive as its holiday mascot for the '99 shopping season. And, yes, there is a sequel of sorts on the way. Penguin Dreams, starring some of Olive's supporting characters, will be published this fall, with Olive in a cameo role.
Hold the Anchovies!
Beloved author-illustrator and New Yorker cartoonist William Steig just might be the Energizer Bunny of the children's book world. At age 91, he's delivered one of his tastiest -- and most popular -- titles yet, Pete's a
|PETE'S BEEN BACK to press four times since its debut last fall. |
Pizza (HarperCollins/di Capua). Published last September , Steig's newest picture book describes a resourceful way (inspired by a Steig family game) to rid a child of a case of the grumps: turn him into a pizza. When Pete is in a bad mood, his parents playfully turn him into a pretend pie. They knead him, toss him in the air, sprinkle him with flour (baby powder) and top him with tomat s (checkers) and cheese (torn bits of paper).
The book received warm praise from critics as well as kids and parents, and landed spots on several best-books-of-the-year lists. "We use the term `national review coverage' loosely in this business, but in this case, it really applies," Virginia Anagnos, publicity director for HarperCollins Children's Books. "Bill's book was reviewed everywhere." A New Yorker cover by Steig in November was also a welcome bit of additional publicity. After a first printing of 25,000 copies, the book went back to press four times for a current in-print total of 63,000 copies.
"It was one of our favorite books of the season to handsell," said Beth Puffer, manager of Bank Street Bookstore in New York City. "It sold phenomenally well over the holidays and we could have sold more, but we ran out and Harper ran out. We're seeing very strong continued sales now, partly because it's a great word-of-mouth book. Lots of people who received it for a gift are now coming in to buy it for another child."
Anagnos said a new publicity campaign is ready to launch, painting Steig as a comeback kid of sorts. Steig hasn't exactly been out of sight; he's published several titles with HarperCollins in the last decade. But "in his 90s, he's busier than ever," Anagnos added.
Where the Boys Are
When fanzine-style books about film star Leonardo DiCaprio started selling like crazy nearly three years ago, publishers were just beginning to tap a burgeoning teen market (primarily teenage girls) hungry for books about favorite celebrities. Bestselling titles about the band Hanson followed in 1997 and early 1998 and now, in early 1999, the dreamboat-biography genre seems to be exploding.
The latest subjects to find favor with teen readers are the pop "boy bands" the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. No fewer than 10 books about these two platinum recording acts are currently doing brisk business in bookstores.
Scholastic's 'N Sync: Backstage Pass by Michael-Anne Johns leads the pack with a staggering 810,000 copies in print after a February '99 release.
| TWO TEEN BANDS score big with readers. |
Scholastic has also drawn in a hefty readership for Hangin' with the Backstreet Boys by Johns (September '98), with 414,000 copies in print, and Backstreet Boys: Backstage Pass by Lauren Alison (September '98), with 424,000 copies in print.
Dell's 'N SYNC: The Official Book now has 500,000 copies in print, after coming out of the gates with a 75,000 first printing (which sold out in one day) in November '98. The publisher plans to return to press for a ninth printing soon. The only authorized book on 'N Sync, this title spent 12 consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has also been supported by continuing advertisements in teen magazines and by the band's television appearance on The Rosie O'Donnell Show in mid-February. According to Judith Haut, director of publicity for Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, "Sales really aren't falling off."
Pocket/Archway is also having a lot of success with its band books. 'N Sync: Tearin' Up the Charts by Matt Netter was released in December 1998 and now has 230,000 copies in print; two books on individual 'N Sync band members, 'N Sync with J.C. by Nancy Krulik and 'N Sync with Justin also by Netter, go on sale this month, with first printings of 87,000 and 85,200 respectively. Backstreet Boys with Aaron Carter, about the younger brother of one of the bandmates, was published in January and boasts 115,000 copies in print. Brothers aren't the only supporting players getting in on the act, either. Who knows a band member better than his mother? The Heart and Soul of Nick Carter by Jane Carter (Berkley, Dec.), features family anecdotes about the BSB heartthrob and currently has 270,000 copies in print.
"We really have expanded our music bio list," said Jane Ginsberg, marketing manager at Pocket/Archway. "We're always on the lookout for the next big thing." Pocket, like several other publishers, is hoping that the next big thing will be the bands Five and 98 Degrees. Five is set to be the opening act for 'N Sync's "Boys of Summer" tour and 98 Degrees was featured on Disney's Mulan soundtrack.
According to Walter Halee, publicity manager for St. Martin's paperbacks, his company has increased its celebrity biography list in the past year or so. "We used to do several in a year," he said, "and now we're doing two every month." Among the recent hits are Backstreet Boys, which was released in June '98 and has 65,000 copies in print so far. Forthcoming books include 'N Sync (March) and 98 Degrees and Five (both April); all three will have 50,000-copy first printings. Scholastic also has books due on 98 Degrees (April) and Five (August).
Watson-Guptill's Billboard imprint is living up to its name as home to chart-topping titles with 'N Sync by Angie Nichols, which boasts 100,000 copies in print since shipping in January, Backstreet Boys: Confidential (January '99), with 75,000 copies in print, and Backstreet Boys: The Unofficial Book, which has 150,000 copies in print and shipped in February '98. Watson-Guptill released a 45,000-copy first printing of Five last month and will publish a biography of 98 Degrees in May as well as 'N Sync Confidential in June.
Though these books already have a built-in audience in the bands' music fans, most publishers still design publicity and marketing efforts to give the titles an extra boost. Common approaches include print ads in teen magazines and various radio spots. "We've done lots of radio promotions, supported our retail accounts with co-op advertising and even worked directly with the bands in some cases," said Harriet Pierce, v-p marketing and associate publisher at Watson-Guptill. "I believe you can always make a good-selling book sell better."