Who Wants to Be a Secret Millionaire?

Downtown Bookworks has secured the rights to Secret Millionaires Club, a financial literacy-themed online and TV series starring an animated Warren Buffett, from Genius Brands International. The first book, How to Grow Your Very First Business, will be published in summer 2015, with distribution through Simon & Schuster.

“Financial literacy for kids is an important and under-published area,” says Julie Merberg, president of Downtown Bookworks, which is taking a similar approach with this property that it has done with its existing licenses, PBS Kids and DC Comics. “We feel very strongly that there should be an educational component to everything we do, but in a fun way and not heavy-handed.”

GBI’s approach to creating entertainment is similar. “We have a mission to create what we term ‘content with a purpose,’ ” says president Amy Moynihan Heyward. She notes that Secret Millionaires Club “is not about money or about getting rich. It’s about forming healthy habits from a young age.” The forthcoming book, she explains, is based on the 26 lessons Buffett provided as the basis for the franchise, which includes webisodes, half-hour TV episodes airing on Discovery Family, and a business challenge contest in 100,000 schools and after-school programs. “It all goes back to that original content Warren developed for us. It’s down to earth, practical guidance.”

“We’re including the same lessons, but it’s greatly expanded,” Merberg adds. The book will have a value-added component and is interactive, with write-in sections to guide readers as they generate ideas for their own business, assess their strengths, and learn about profit and loss and responsibility. “We’re holding their hands as they learn how to operate a business, which is fun for them and useful later in life.”

GBI is in talks with a retailer about launching Secret Millionaire merchandise in a boutique featuring the book, as well as DVDs from Cinedigm and activity kits from Oriental Trading, at the start of summer 2015. “How to Create Your Very First Business will be the heart of it,” Heyward says. “This is the foundation of a big program that’s building.”

The new book will target a different consumer from Wiley’s Secret Millionaires Club: Warren Buffett’s 26 Secrets to Success in the Business of Life, which is shelved with the business books and is directed at parents and families.

Britannica Kids Enters the Animal Kingdom

Britannica Kids, the umbrella for Encyclopaedia Britannica-branded products for younger children, has signed Phoenix International Publications to create a line of interactive reference books. Phoenix was formerly the children’s division of Publications International, which was purchased by Chinese publisher Phoenix Media last May. The first release is the Britannica Kids Interactive Animal Library, an eight-book boxed set packaged with an interactive pen that allows readers to take quizzes, hear words aloud, and perform other functions.

The deal, brokered by Britannica’s licensing agent, JRL Group, is one of the first for the Britannica Kids program. Initial results have been positive at retailers such as Toys “R” Us, reports Andrew Lieb, JRL’s president. “This is a brand that’s over 240 years old, that is used in schools from preschools up through universities and research centers,” he explains.

“It’s credible information for parents, teachers, and kids, and any licensee can tap into that content,” Lieb continues. “Every subject is in play. There are opportunities for us to do something with whatever subjects are trending, whether it’s the weather or dinosaurs. But there’s always an educational play around Britannica and its trusted content. Everything we do goes through that filter.”

Phoenix joins other Encyclopaedia Britannica and Britannica Kids licensees including Publications International for the Encyclopaedia Britannica Interactive Science Library, a six-title interactive book set that is in its fifth year and sells out annually at Costco: Tek Nek for talking puzzles and Allied for traditional puzzles; and Medl Mobile for a Britannica Kids U.S. Presidents app.

Put Me in the Story, Put Me in the Gifts

Put Me in the Story, Sourcebooks’ personalized book initiative, added a series of personalized and bundled gifts in the fourth quarter, including items tied to artist and author Sandra Magsamen, a first-time partner for both books and gifts. Other products feature the art of Marianne Richmond, whose books have been among the platform’s top sellers, and Sourcebooks’ proprietary Santa Is Coming… series.

“Books as gifts make up a huge percentage of our purchases,” says Lyron Bennett, Put Me in the Story’s business manager. “This allows the authors’ beautiful artwork and message of love to be delivered to their fans in different ways, and it allows consumers to bundle multiple products. Sandra and Marianne are two of the best children’s authors in the world at expressing that message of love, and their books are so giftable, both at retail and in the personalized space.”

Thirty products are available initially, ranging from puzzles and placemats to lunch boxes and wall art, as well as some non-personalized plush that can be bundled with book purchases. “One of the things that gifts let you do is look at different price points,” notes Bennett. While the books are all priced at $24.99, the gifts range from low-cost items such as an $11.99 placemat to higher-end items such as $89.99 canvas wall art.

In addition to working with authors on gift programs, Bennett is in talks with some of the entertainment licensors that are on board for books, about the possibility expanding into gifts as well. It tested a bundle of a Sesame Street personalized book with a plush Elmo in pajamas, supplied by Sesame Street licensee Gund, with encouraging results, Bennett says. Although contract negotiations can be tricky with licensors, which often have licensees in gift categories already in place, he believes that will not be a barrier, since there are many ways to work with licensors and their licensees. “We want what’s best for the customer and the gift giver. Once we agree on what the experience will be, everything else will fall into place.”

Put Me in the Story also plans to experiment with more gift items, beyond the initial range. “We have a nice test with this group of products, but we intend to continue to innovate, as well as take the products that are successful and add more licenses,” Bennett says. “There are lots of opportunities for us to try new things that we didn’t try this time. The books remain the core and the driving focus. But we can help build the experience for the customers so they can get even more out of that message of love.”

In Brief

Chronicle Books is releasing a book and wall calendar based on From Frank, a greeting card and humor lifestyle brand licensed by Genius Brands and its subsidiary A Squared Entertainment.... Five Mile Press is the new global publishing partner (excluding U.S. and Canada) for Metro Trains Melbourne’s cutely macabre viral public service announcement series, Dumb Ways to Die, licensed by Evolution. Plans include storybooks, activity books, novelty books, and stationery, starting with the Australia/New Zealand market. Two game apps based on the property have generated more than 100 million downloads globally.... IDW is publishing comic books tied to Jem and the Holograms, the 1980s toy and cartoon, in an expansion of its longtime licensing deal with Hasbro.... Sesame Workshop and StoryToys are releasing the first Sesame Street interactive pop-up book, based on Elmo Loves You!, one of the most popular Sesame Street book titles.... Merriam-Webster and its agent JRL Group signed Publications International for a line of licensed large-print puzzle books, including crosswords, word search, and other formats.