New Hats in the Ring
Staff -- 7/31/00
As many publishers grow larger through mergers and acquisitions, smaller publishing ventures and imprints within larger houses continue to crop up. Here we highlight some of the launches taking place this fall.
Handprint Books | SeaStar Books | Vermont Folklife Center | Megan Tingley Books
Richard Jackson Books | Callaway Editions | Adams Media | Pinwheel Limited
Giving Birth to Handprint Books
Christopher Franceschelli first knew 25 years ago that he would establish his own publishing house one day. In fact, he even designed a colophon for that house when he was 18 or 19 years old, a drawing that still hangs above his desk. "I decided that the name of my eventual publishing house was going to be Gray Squirrel Press," Franceschelli recalled. "So three years ago, when I first began concrete plans to start up on my own house, Gray Squirrel remained my working name. At least it remained so until my first trip under Gray Squirrel colors to London, where I was met with gasps of horror and harsh chuckles. Apparently, gray squirrels had so decimated the red squirrel and other cute small animal populations in England that they currently ranked slightly below cockroaches on the critter-charisma ladder. The little gray rodent's corporate life was over."
Franceschelli couldn't have known that a new name would come to him at the same time other major changes occurred in his life. Franceschelli left his post as publisher of Dutton Children's Books in 1997, the same year his daughter Anna was born. This joyous event, he said, inspired him to finally institute his plans for a new company. Now, with Handprint Books, launching this September, Franceschelli is at last seeing a dream fulfilled. "It was almost a simultaneous birth," he said. "I knew that if I didn't make the step into the abyss before our daughter was born, I would be addicted to a paycheck from some other company." And Anna has influenced the name and look of the start-up, too. "It's literally her handprint in the logo and catalogue," Franceschelli said.
Preferring to stay close to home, Franceschelli has set up Handprint Books in the same Brooklyn brownstone where he and his family live. The company's small staff currently consists of managing editor Gina Scauzillo and two soon-to-be-hired editors. In addition, Franceschelli is "desperately looking to hire a director of marketing," though, for now, he is handling those duties himself.
The inaugural Handprint list, shipping in late August, contains a mixture of picture books, board books and pop-up/lift-the-flap titles, all primarily aimed at young children. Among the 10 new titles are A Piece of Cake: A Delectable Pop-Up by David Pelham (perhaps best known for the Dutton title Sam's Sandwich), Goodnight Piggywiggy by Christyan and Diane Fox and Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888 by Ernest Thayer, illustrated by Christopher Bing. Franceschelli plans to begin adding middle-grade and YA fiction to his list in 2001 and hopes to eventually publish 25 titles per year.
The Handprint catalogue also contains titles from Ragged Bears USA, a joint venture between Handprint and Ragged Bears Publishing in Somerset, England. "Ragged Bears is really the editorial vision of [publisher] Henrietta Stickland," Franceschelli said, "but this collaboration allows us to cherry pick which of their books will work best in the American market." Truck Jam, a pop-upby Paul Stickland, leads off the Ragged Bears fall list of 25 titles. Both Handprint and Ragged Bears USA titles are distributed by San Francisco-based Chronicle Books. In turn, Ragged Bears distributes Chronicle Books in England.
The company will post more information on its soon-to-be-launched Web site, www.handprintbooks.com.
SeaStar Books Debuts from North-South
After 16 years with Morrow Children's Books, most recently as publisher (a post he left in May 1998), David Reuther knew well the inner workings of the children's book industry. In January 1999, he got an opportunity to apply his knowledge--and a whole new approach--to the publishing program at North-South Books: Reuther took the helm as president and publisher of North-South and of SeaStar Books, a new division of the company launching this September. This change came as former North-South publisher Marc Cheshire decided to relinquish his post and concentrate on his own creative projects.
"I have always wanted to have a small list where the focus was truly on the individual titles, rather than a shotgun approach," Reuther said. "In a larger house, several hundred titles are pushed out and only a select few get attention while the others are orphaned, and that can be devastating. I have long wanted to do things differently."
According to Reuther, many of the authors and illustrators he has worked with over the years felt the same way. "When I let people know I was doing this, so many of them wanted to be a part of it," he said. Now a number of those friends are joining him in this new direction. Titles on the first SeaStar list include Aesop's Fables by Jerry Pinkney; Give the Dog a Bone, a picture bookby Steven Kellogg; and Cinderella, illustrated by K.Y. Craft. SeaStar's initial offerings span genres and formats to also encompass novels by Johanna Hurwitz and Diane deGroat and a nonfiction picture book by Seymour Simon. Several reissued titles by such artists as Molly Bang, Trina Schart Hyman and Norton Juster appear in the first SeaStar catalogue as well. Reuther has brought the Books of Wonder Classics line of titles into the fold, too (these were originated at Morrow as a co-venture with Books of Wonder bookstore owner Peter Glassman).
SeaStar garnered some attention in early June when it announced the fall debut of four Reading Rainbow Readers, published in conjunction with Lancit Media, the company behind PBS's Reading Rainbow program. Each book is a five-chapter anthology of tales by noted authors, excerpted from other books. The four books boast a combined first printing of 600,000 copies, a figure that includes trade, book club and book fair orders. Reuther says that North-South and SeaStar handle key national accounts themselves and that Chronicle Books distributes the remainder.
At present, Reuther plans to publish 25--30 SeaStar titles per year. That alone is something to celebrate, but Reuther and his staff are looking forward to an October party that will mark the company's move from 1123 Broadway in Manhattan to new office space at 11 East 26th Street. The switch from the present 5,000 sq. ft. office space to the new 11,500 sq. ft. one is a happy move, necessitated by the company's explosive growth. When Reuther first joined North-South, there were 12 people on staff. With 24 employees currently on board, and plans to hire another four by next January, quarters have become quite cramped. "We have a pretty large staff of people with lots of experience and enthusiasm," Reuther said. "There is definitely a different spirit here; we all sense it." More information can be found at www.northsouth.com.
Picture Books Bring Vermont Lore to Life
In the 1880s, a young man leaves Prussia to find his brother, who emigrated to Vermont years before. At the end of the 19th century, a resourceful African American girl, the daughter of a former slave, deals with discrimination in a small Vermont town. These are the plots of the two inaugural books in the Family Heritage Series, published by the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury: The Two Brothers by William Jaspersohn, illustrated by Michael Donato; and Daisy and the Doll by Angela Shelf Medearis and Michael Medearis, illustrated by Larry Johnson.
The narratives are shaped from true stories, gleaned from the center's archives, which include recorded interviews with the individuals whose lives the tales are based on. "Our archive contains some wonderful stories, yet they don't reach children, since kids are not likely to come in and access our archive," remarked Jane Beck, executive director of the Vermont Folklife Center. "Our hope for these stories is that they will be enjoyed and shared by readers young and old, and will also inspire families to unearth and explore their own family lore and oral tradition."
The center plans to add two titles each year to this series, each volume of which will be drawn from the organization's archive of 3,500 taped interviews. Beck, who has been associated with the center since it was founded in 1984, had for years been thinking about launching a children's series. But, in her words, "It is a long time from cup to lip." She said that the first two books evolved from oral history projects she did about these Vermont residents. "It is very satisfying to see their stories come to life as children's books. They have the essence of the oral tradition and they are powerful stories that deal with the theme of identity in a way that is very positive for children."
In addition to having written one of the picture books, Jaspersohn is also the editor of the series, which will be distributed by Independent Publishers Group. "We have marketed other books to bookstores in the past," noted Beck, "but this is certainly a much more ambitious publishing project than we've ever done." Scheduled for September release, the debut books are just off press. Beck was very gratified to be able to hand a copy of Daisy's Doll to the niece of Daisy Turner, whose life story inspired the book. "That was a very exciting moment," Beck recalled. "Daisy's niece was absolutely thrilled with it."
The center can be reached at (802) 388-4964.
Megan Tingley Books Launches at LBAfter several years as an editor at Little, Brown Children's Books, for the first time this fall Megan Tingley will see her name on the spine and title page of the books she works on. "I now know how authors and illustrators feel," she said. "You want the books to be perfect in every way--not that that wasn't a goal before, but now my name is on the book. With the imprint, I have so much more invested than ever."
The inaugural list of Megan Tingley Books is representative of what Tingley sees as the imprint's focus: a mix of continuing series, works by established authors and illustrators, song/chant titles and debuts--she hopes to have something new on every list. The fall list consists of seven picture-book titles, which is fewer than the number planned for subsequent seasons. In addition to The Book of Bad Ideas by debut author-illustrator Laura Haliska-Beith, a lead title for the imprint's fall list is Look-Alikes Christmas, part of the successful Look-Alikes series of books by Joan Steiner that Tingley edited. This fall, Megan Tingley Books will also bring out repackaged Look-Alikes titles that will include CD-ROMs, a new format for Little, Brown.
Tingley has 12 books planned for spring 2001, when she will introduce some nonfiction to her list as well, and she foresees publishing approximately 15 to 20 books annually.
For Tingley, a former preschool teacher who joined Little, Brown in 1987, one of the biggest advantages of having her own imprint is that it has freed her up from some of the responsibilities she had as executive editor (a post she held from 1998 until late 1999). "It's given me more time to develop new talent and also cultivate the artists and authors I have under contract," she said. The imprint is separated editorially from Little, Brown, and, in addition to Tingley, consists of an assistant editor and an editorial assistant.
Tingley's enthusiasm is obvious. "This is incredibly exciting," she said, "and it's something I never expected would happen to me!"
Richard Jackson Books RelocatesAt an age when, as he says, "most people would be thinking of retiring," Dick Jackson is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, as Richard Jackson Books joins Simon & Schuster this fall as part of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Jackson co-founded Bradbury Press in 1968, and moved to Macmillan in 1982 when Macmillan bought Bradbury. In 1986, he launched Richard Jackson Books when Orchard Books was founded, and he moved his imprint to DK in 1996.
Because S&S acquired Macmillan in 1994, Jackson is now reunited with many of the titles he published at Bradbury Press. Many of those books are being reissued to include afterwords by Jackson, who will provide commentaries on his current perceptions of books he edited years ago. The first list of reissued Bradbury books will come out this fall: Hatchet, Dogsong and Tracker, all by Gary Paulsen; A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant; and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume.
Asked where his professional passions lie these days, Jackson said, "I'm interested in the distinction between the younger books and the older books, and in the wider possibility of teenage books." He continued, "I'm always interested in something I haven't seen before, and like to attempt new forms--sometimes just to see if I can get away with it, really." Nonfiction picture books and books for older readers that maintain a visual focus are also forms Jackson intends to pursue.
In his new capacity, Jackson plans to bring out three to five books each season. This fall, he will publish The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle, a YA novel, and The Christmas Rat by Avi, a middle-grade novel. Next spring, Jackson will publish picture books by Chris Raschka and Peter Catalanotto; future lists also include books by Paul Goble, whom Jackson first published many years ago, and The Good Dog by Avi.
In addition, Jackson has signed two new novelists: Roderick Townley, first-time children's author of The Great Good Thing, and Henry Garfield, who is new to the YA field. "One of my assignments for this position at S&S was to find new talent," Jackson said, and he finds that he gets writers from writers, as they are often the best source for referrals.
Obviously not in the least interested in retiring, Jackson said, "When Brenda Bowen hired me, I was told to do my thing--and that's what I'm doing. And I'd like to express an old man's gratitude that he's still welcome."
Callaway Set for First Season as Publisher
The first year of this millennium marks Greenwich Village-based Callaway Editions's 20th anniversary as a producer of illustrated books as well as its foray into the publishing business. Of the 20 titles on the company's debut fall list, distributed by Simon & Schuster, are six children's titles, including a "two-books-in-one, flip-flop" version of When I Have a Little Girl and When I Have a Little Boy by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Hilary Knight.
Nicholas Callaway, the company's president and editor-in-chief, explains that the volume combines two individual titles, published by Harper & Row in the 1960s, which have been long out of print. "We commissioned Hilary Knight to rework the illustrations in color, since he first drew them in black-and-white," he explained. "And we decided that the books are so appropriate as a pair that we'd put them together in one volume. We believe that, though these were written more than 30 years ago, their message is perennial and just as applicable for this new generation. We're calling this the first gender-neutral baby-shower gift book."
Though his is a media company that has produced software, toys and consumer animation for film, television and the Internet, Callaway described the new book-publishing division as "the linchpin and core of our business." No stranger to children's books, Nicholas Callaway paired up with David Kirk (of Miss Spider fame) to form a partnership in 1997 to produce, in his words, "all intellectual property that comes from David Kirk's imagination in all media, including books." Scholastic will continue to publish (under a joint imprint with Callaway) the Kirk uvre, including a new series, due next spring, entitled Biddle Books.
Callaway anticipates that children's books will eventually constitute half of the company's annual title output. Among the other fall releases are Start Your Engines: A Countdown Book by Mark Todd, Visit to Another Planet by Jean-Philippe Delhomme and Mumbo Jumbo: The Creepy ABC by Michael Roberts. The last-mentioned author, visual fashion director of The New Yorker and author of The Jungle ABC (a 1998 Hyperion release that was originally packaged by Callaway), has contributed writing, photographs and illustrations to a variety of magazines. "Roberts, like David Kirk, who was a toy maker for 15 years before writing children's books, is a visual artist whom we were very interested in bringing into the book genre," Callaway said. "Our goal is to introduce a new generation of children's book writers and artists from a wide variety of visual disciplines."
From Adams Media, More of Everything
Having sold more than two million copies of its Everything series for adults since the line's 1993 debut, the folks at Holbrook, Mass.-based Adams Media had a hunch that curious younger readers may also want to know about everything. So in the spring the company launched a children's counterpart, Everything Kids. Booksellers' reception to the three inaugural volumes, The Everything Kids' Nature Book by Kathiann Kowalski, The Everything Kids' Money Book by Diane Mayr and The Everything Kids' Puzzle Book by Jennifer Ericsson and Beth Blair, has proven that hunch correct. All three have advanced well and the last-mentioned title, reported director of publicity Carrie Lewis, has sold more than 12,000 copies since its May release.
Cheryl Kimball, a freelance editor who oversees the new series, views Everything Kids as a "natural extension of the adult Everything titles," which offer information on such diverse topics as planning a wedding, training a dog and buying a home. Kimball noted that the editors at Adams had been discussing starting up an analogous series for children before she began working for the company and, with her arrival, "it appeared to be the right time to do this. I have a background in bookselling and in educational book publishing and was very interested in working on such a series. So it all came together quite nicely."
Adams, with its commissioned reps and in-house sales reps who sell the company's publications to the trade, plans to release four to six Everything Kids titles annually. Due this fall are Kowalski's The Everything Kids' Space Book, The Everything Kids Online Book by Rich Mintzer and Carol Mintzer, and (sounding especially appealing to aspiring Hogwarts students) The Everything Kids' Witches & Wizards Book by L.T. Samuels. Partially due to the success of Puzzle Book, subsequent Everything Kids titles will include puzzles created by Blair that tie into each book's theme. The goal, Kimball said, "is to make this a series that not only provides information, but is activity-oriented as well. We want each of these books to be interactive." Thereby giving kids plenty--if not everything--to do.
Pinwheel Begins Spinning at Sterling
Books with fuzzy puppets hiding inside, bedtime tales that contain fluffy pillows and board books with slipcases that are clothes hangers shaped like animals are some of the inventive formats that Sterling will issue this fall under its new Pinwheel Publishing imprint. Under an agreement with Pinwheel Limited in the U.K., Sterling will publish 20 Americanized versions of Pinwheel titles each year.
Frances Gilbert, children's acquisition editor, noted that "we were looking to aggressively expand our children's program and our presence in the preschool market, and knew that Pinwheel was doing some of the most interesting publishing for this age group that we'd seen. This line is really pushing the boundaries in terms of formats, which is one of its most appealing aspects. The Pinwheel editors, especially Sarah Fabiny, who is the creative force behind the books, have a good eye for innovative design."
Sterling/Pinwheel releases are aimed at a slightly younger audience than the company's Balloon Books imprint, launched three years ago, which represents a similar partnership with Belgium's Balloon Books. "This line is very strong for us," reported Gilbert, who cites as a particularly successful title Benjamin Tells Time, which has sales in excess of 100,000 copies.
Gilbert, who expects the Pinwheel releases to do well in the gift and toy markets as well as in book trade outlets, said that a strength of this line is that the books, in her words, "address the developmental needs of babies and toddlers as well as offer charming stories and colorful art that appeals to parents as well." In addition to the formats mentioned above, the imprint's inaugural 10 releases include Bright Starts: I Love Colors and I Love Shapes, which package together six miniature concept books illustrated by Anna Hopkins; Book Cubes: Animal Friends and My Things, illustrated by Patti Jennings, each of which offers four board books arranged around a touch-and-feel block.
"The preschool market is an extremely competitive one, and the Pinwheel books really stand out," Gilbert remarked. "We're looking forward to a long and successful future with this imprint."
Two-Can Shows What One Can Do
A division of London-based Zenith Entertainment, Two-Can Publishing has recently rolled out the inaugural list of children's titles and book/CD-ROM packages published under its own imprint. For the past 13 years, the company has licensed its products to other publishers, primarily World Book, for whom Random House until recently served as distributor.
"When Random House canceled its third-party distribution agreement," explained Allan Lang, Two-Can's publishing director, "Two-Can decided to set up its own company and we took over publication rights to most of the material we had licensed to World Book. This body of work forms the bulk of our backlist." Since last February, the company has reprinted 120 of its previously published books, which now bear the Two-Can logo, and 70 more are scheduled for fall release. In addition, by fall 90 of these backlist titles will be available in either French or Spanish translations. Lang noted that the company, whose offices are located in Princeton, N.J., expects to publish some 100 new titles annually.
Among Two-Can's top selling books are those in the Make It Work! series, which boasts worldwide sales of two million copies since its 1995 debut; and the Interfact series of books and accompanying CD-ROMs, which debuted a year later and has sold 700,000 copies in North America alone. Scheduled for January release, Flight and Bridges are the newest Make It Work! titles; and Air, Coral Reefs, Storms and Weather will join the Interfact lineup in the fall, with Hurricanes and Tornad s due in the spring.
Other highlights of the fall list are 50 States and The Presidents of the United States. The latter title, which will include a spread on the 43rd President, g s to press on election night, and will ship a week later. Lang observes that his company's primary markets are both trade and educational, and reports strong sales to parents who homeschool their children. In his words, "Our books are created for that niche where the family meets the school gate. Two-Can books are filled with information and have high-quality illustrations and photographs. They are, in fact, good examples of the 'edutainment' publishing concept." The company can be reached at (609) 921-6700.
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