Scholastic and American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel, have entered into a publishing partnership: beginning in January 2017, Scholastic will publish in print and digital formats books based on American Girl characters as well as launch several new series, while American Girl plans to continue publishing advice and activity titles, as well as historical fiction in its BeForever line. This is the first time that American Girl has licensed the rights to publish books based on its characters. Scholastic will publish 18 American Girl books in 2017 and will assume responsibilities for distribution as well.
The Scholastic/American Girl titles will target female readers ages five to 12 and will include the Girl of the Year line of books that have been published each year since 2007 in conjunction with a doll that is sold for a limited time. Currently, American Girl publishes three titles to accompany each Girl of the Year doll; Scholastic will reissue backlist and expand upon the line, beginning with a fourth title for Lea, 2016 Girl of the Year and for Grace, 2015 Girl of the Year. “We will hopefully work our way back to earlier [Girl of the Year] characters,” Debra Dorfman, Scholastic’s publisher for licensing, said of Scholastic’s plan to add a fourth volume to each Girl of the Year series.
“American Girl wants us to really expand the publishing they’ve already done and dive into the girls’ backgrounds,” Dorfman explained. American Girl will continue to conceptualize all characters – both historical and contemporary – but will bring Scholastic into the process early on, to “work closely” on creating backstories for characters, as well as to “approach authors [and] assign authors” to the projects.
Scholastic will also build upon American Girl’s BeForever line of historical fiction titles by launching in 2017 a new series of historical nonfiction chapter books for intermediate readers.; it will also launch a contemporary series of middle grade, chapter books, and readers “with diverse characters.” Scholastic will also publish American Girl-branded novelty books, such as treasury books, journals, and yearbooks featuring activities and quizzes.
According to American Girl’s director of content Jodi Goldberg, the partnership with Scholastic will allow American Girl to expand in various areas of its proprietary publishing program, which includes its BeForever historical fiction line and the Care & Keeping of You line, and other advice and activities titles, as well as American Girl magazine and the AG Life YouTube series. The company intends to focus as well upon expanding “events and experiences” at its 20 American Girl Place retail stores around the U.S., Goldberg said. In February, American Girl partnered with Amazon and Amazon Studios to air four live-action specials and multiple seasons of television series featuring American Girl characters.
“Scholastic is coming to partner with us on the publishing only,” Goldberg said, “We’re looking to outside partners because we want to expand. [Scholastic and Amazon] are going to further our storytelling.” Scholastic will publish and distribute American Girl books simultaneously in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.
According to Dorfman, this was a natural evolution in a long relationship between the two companies, cemented by Scholastic’s tradition of buying American Girl’s historical fiction titles for book clubs and book fairs. “They were publishing books we wanted to publish,” Dorfman said, disclosing that discussions of a partnership between the two began in the fall 2014 and that Scholastic recently hired a new editor to oversee American Girl projects, among other responsibilities. “This is the perfect marriage. Our goals are aligned.” Goldberg added, “Scholastic’s power of publishing is unbeatable. We couldn’t be in better hands.”
Since its launch in 1986, 153 million American Girl books have been sold in the last 30 years, as well as 29 million dolls. Company founder Pleasant Rowland sold the company to Mattel in 1998.