More than six months after it was acquired by the Swedish-based Bonnier media group, the Weldon Owen Group has added a total of 25 people to its staff in San Francisco, Australia and New Zealand, and is looking to expand its product line and sales worldwide.
In addition to providing resources for expanding the staff, the Bonnier acquisition opened up opportunities for intracompany sales, said Terry Newell, who was named CEO of the American division last fall. "As we conceive a book, we know we can sell it in America, the U.K., New Zealand and Australia," explained company cofounder John Owen, who now serves as CEO of Weldon Owen's worldwide operations, focusing on long-range planning. WO also plans to expand sales of books published by its small, San Francisco—based Fog City imprint in those international markets.
In the U.S., WO is known primarily as a packager and for creating branded books with partners that include Williams-Sonoma, the Body Shop and Gymboree. WO, which has worldwide sales of more than $40 million, has sold more than 26 million copies of its Williams-Sonoma titles, with one-third of those sales through Williams-Sonoma stores and the rest in the book trade, noted Newell. WO recently published Home for the Holidays with Hallmark, its newest brand partner. To look for new branding opportunities, this past fall WO added Amy Kaneko, former executive director of marketing at Chronicle Books, as v-p of sales and business development in North America. In addition to scouting for new partners, Kaneko is working to bring WO titles into new specialty retail markets, including Urban Outfitters and Michael's craft stores. "These are channels we have not reached before," Newell said.
Owen characterized the three growth areas for the company as retail brand titles, education and children/family reference titles, including its own Fog City line, which includes The Illustrated Atlas of the Universe and My First Encyclopedia of Animals, each of which has sold over 150,000 copies. Fog City has 200 backlist titles, mostly high-end illustrated books like its Little Guides series, priced under $10 and covering topics ranging from dogs to pasta. "We've sold 2.5 million Little Guides titles," Newell said.