Good Night, Sales Tight
Broadway's Gypsy knows it, as do publishers of novelty books: "You gotta have a gimmick." One of Simon & Schuster's latest success stories, Good Night, Sweet Butterflies by Dawn Bentley, illustrated by Heather Calhoon, concept by Melanie Gerth (Little Simon, Mar.), features plastic glitter butterflies that peek through cardstock pages with die-cut holes. After a first printing of 425,000 copies and three trips back to press, this bedtime book boasts 700,000 copies in print.
The fanciful flight of these butterflies actually began with another success starring gentle winged creatures: Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth, illustrated by Laura Hulisak-Beith (Piggy Toes Press, 2001). Gerth is one of the principals of book packager White Heat, based in Allen, Tex. She developed the die-cut/plastic-figure format, which was then published by Piggy Toes, a division of Intervisual Books. Ten Little Ladybugs has sold more than three million copies to date.
Little Simon publisher Robin Corey has long been a fan of White Heat projects and was also aware of Ladybugs' success. Both of these things were on Corey's mind at last year's Bologna Children's Book Fair. "White Heat was one of my very first appointments," Corey said. "I saw a black-and-white dummy of the butterfly book and I fell in love with it. I said 'I'll take it. Don't even show it to anyone else.' " Corey says Gerth worked closely with her on Good Night, Butterflies and that all parties were very pleased with the results.
An eight-copy counter display and a teaser mailing to bookstores have kept Sweet front and center this spring. A similar title, Give a Little Love Butterflies by Lizzie Mack, illustrated by Julie Gorton, sporting the same die-cut design and soft satin heart balloons, will be released in January 2004.
Perhaps it's fitting that a book with the irresistibly silly title The Day My Butt Went Psycho (Scholastic, Apr.) is an import from, well, Down Under. Australian author Andy Griffiths's tribute to toilet humor for middle graders originally appeared in his homeland in 2001 as The Day My Bum Went Psycho. The book quickly racked up sales of 100,000 copies, with publisher Pan Macmillan noting, "It is one of the bestselling children's book titles ever in Australia."
Such a blowout performance caught the eye of Scholastic publisher and editor-in-chief Jean Feiwel, who happened upon Bum in a rights newsletter. "U.S. rights had not yet been sold," said Feiwel, "and the agent was listed as Jill Grinberg (whom we had worked with on Garth Nix). I loved the idea of the book. I loved the title of the book. I loved everything about it and just felt Scholastic had to have it."
All parties put their rears in gear to see Stateside publication of the paperback this April with a first printing of 150,000 copies. After three trips back to press, the total in-print figure is currently 240,000 books. Key chains, a floor display and an addictive game on Scholastic's Web site helped boost Butt's visibility. Along the way, this fast-moving title has taken a seat on several bestseller lists, too, including those from USA Today (six weeks), The New York Times (five weeks) and Book Sense (three weeks).
Though this is Griffiths's first U.S. export, he has built quite a following among young Aussies for his Just series of short story collections, among them Just Stupid! and Just Crazy! Scholastic is now officially on the Griffiths bandwagon and will be publishing Just Annoying! and Just Joking! this December. And Butt will not be the only Griffiths bottom-related title to crack the U.S market; it will be joined by the sequel Zombie Butts from Uranus in April 2004. Scholastic plans to celebrate by sending the author on tour.
Parable Proves Popular
For bestselling Christian author Jan Karon, inspiration from the Good Book yields good sales. Her Mitford series of novels for adults has earned her legions of loyal readers; more than 15 million Mitford books have been sold to date. But Karon's readers are happy to follow her when she steps outside of fictional Mitford, N.C., too. Her third picture book for children, The Trellis and the Seed: A Story of Encouragement for All Ages (Viking), a parable about patience and faith illustrated by Robert Gantt Steele, hit bookstores in April with an initial print run of 125,000 copies. It follows Karon's previous children's successes Miss Fannie's Hat, illustrated by Toni Goffe (Augsburg Fortress, 1998); and Jeremy: The Tale of an Honest Bunny, illustrated by Teri Weidner (Viking, 2000).
As testament to Karon's standing in the book world, The Trellis and the Seed debuted at #1 on the New York Times children's book bestseller list and has remained in the top three for four weeks running. Other rankings include spots on the PW and Book Sense lists. From the beginning, cross-marketing has helped fuel the book's rise. "I think her huge fan base represents the biggest percentage of takers of the book, and that they buy it for themselves to add to their Karon 'collection,' " said Mariann Donato, v-p, director of sales and marketing. "That being said, there's terrific child appeal to the book as well, so I believe that people are buying the book to read to their children too."
Trellis appeared in both the children's and adult catalogues at Viking and was sold by both sales groups. Trellis's release was piggybacked with publicity for the April paperback publication of the Mitford novel In This Mountain. The Penguin adult publicity group created an "Authorless Event Kit" for bookstores that includes a videotape of the author speaking to her fans about Trellis and In This Mountain. A New York Times ad and Karon's appearance on The 700 Club TV program also provided momentum. Obviously, hopes are that sales of The Trellis and the Seed continue to blossom.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a popular motion picture is apparently worth a lot more; 175,000 paperbacks, to be exact. That's the total one-month sales tally for The Lizzie McGuire Movie , the tie-in novelization to the film of the same name (Disney Press, Apr.). The tween flick from Walt Disney Productions opened May 2 and earned more than $32 million at the box office in its first 19 days of release. But the official tie-in isn't the only Lizzie book to bask in the big-screen glow. "The movie and all the media surrounding it has helped us boost sales to 1.4 million copies for the [Lizzie McGuire] franchise in under a year," said publicity director Jennifer Levine.
Have you heard? The third Gossip Girl book by Cecily von Ziegesar, All I Want Is Everything , is out (Little, Brown, May). After a first printing of 75,000 copies, a reprint of 50,000 copies was ordered right away, according to publicity director Allison Devlin. To date, the book has 150,000 copies in print and has landed on both the New York Times and PW bestseller lists. This performance seems right in high-heel step with the first two titles in the series, Gossip Girl (175,000 in-print since April 2002) and You Know You Love Me (100,000 in print since Sept. 2002).
The series has proved so popular with a teen-and-older audience that a mass market adult edition of Gossip Girl will be published by Warner Books this October. At that same time, Little, Brown children's division will publish von Ziegesar's fourth gossipy installment Because I'm Worth It, as well as a boxed set of the first three books, for the holiday season. In the meantime, radio promotions, Go cards in key markets (L.A., N.Y.C., Chicago), and ads in hip publications like Teen People and CosmoGirl are bound to keep the core teen audience in the know. An online publicity campaign and a radio satellite tour with the author are currently in the works—just in time for those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer—and gossip, of course.
The elaborate marketing strategies are paying off for The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, a fantasy series about identifying faeries and protecting oneself from said creatures. The first two volumes, The Field Guide and The Seeing Stone (Simon & Schuster), materialized in May with first printings of 60,000 copies each and a $150,000 marketing plan that included advertising, mailings, a gift-with-purchase floor display and buttons that say "Ask Us About Our Faerie Problem." The number of curious readers has prompted three trips back to press already. The titles now each have 135,000 copies in print and have achieved placement on the New York Times and Book Sense bestseller lists. Faeries are not just a U.S. phenomenon either; rights to the books have been sold in 17 foreign countries. A film is in development with Nickelodeon Movies/ Paramount Pictures.
Black and DiTerlizzi embarked on a national tour in May that included stops in Richmond, Va., Bethesda, Md., Atlanta and New York City. They brought with them a trunk filled with faerie artifacts (a unicorn horn, leprechaun shoes, troll hair), which proved a big hit with attendees.
Seemingly riding with the swiftness of sprite wings, book three, Lucinda's Secret, will be published in October with a 100,000 first print run; book four, The Ironwood Tree, follows in April 2004. Book five is scheduled for July 2004 and wrapping up the series will be Arthur Spiderwick's "actual" field guide, planned for fall 2004.
Workman has something to crow about in Philadelphia Chickens , the picture-book-and-CD featuring an animal musical revue by author-illustrator Sandra Boynton, composer Michael Ford and many celebrity performers. The book has amassed an in-print quantity of 258,000 copies (six printings) since its October 2002 debut and has spent 28 straight weeks perched on the New York Times bestseller list. More stringent customs checks—and a humorous mix-up at customs (officials confused the books with live chickens) have made international printings interesting, but there have been no measurable delays or shortages, according to publicity director Jim Eber. "The current printing is domestic," he noted.
Young readers (as well as booksellers, teachers and librarians) are clearly in the mood for Judy Moody, third-grade star of a series of books by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter Reynolds (Candlewick). To get a sense of Judy's ascendance, the hardcover of Judy Moody was published in April 2000 with a 5000-copy first printing. The fourth Judy adventure, Judy Moody Predicts the Future, will go out this August with a hardcover first printing of 50,000 copies. A companion book, The Judy Moody Mood Journal, will hit shelves in August, too, with a 110,000-copy first printing, and a plush doll from Merrymakers is planned for fall release. "Obviously, the jump is quite extraordinary," said publicity manager Susan Hershberg. "It's a good indication of the success we're having with the series."
The paperback edition of Judy Moody Gets Famous (April 2003) has sold 60,000 copies in its first month of release. According to Hershberg, Candlewick has sold over 500,000 copies of Judy Moody books in the U.S. trade market and an additional 1.2 million copies through all other channels and markets. Foreign rights sales have also taken off, and author Megan McDonald will be promoting the books in the U.K. this summer.
Looking ahead, a fifth title, Judy Moody, M.D., rolls out in August 2004, and a sixth is under contract. Judy's younger brother Stink is getting in on the action, too. He'll star in a spinoff series for younger readers (ages 5-9), which makes its debut in spring 2005.