A first printing of one million copies telegraphs a lot of confidence that the book in question is a bestseller in the making. So Scholastic’s announcement earlier this year that it would print that many copies of Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas, the fifth installment in Dav Pilkey’s graphic novel series, acknowledged the obvious: they have a big hit on their hands.
But now Scholastic has reconsidered. Instead of one million, the company plans a first printing of three million copies. Lord of the Fleas will publish simultaneously in the U.S., Canada, U.K., New Zealand, and Australia on August 28.
“We don’t often have three-million copy print runs, but the enthusiasm in the market is unbelievable,” said Ellie Berger, president of Scholastic Trade. “It is absolutely our biggest book right now. Kids can’t get enough of Dog Man.”
(Before you ask, Scholastic may also hold the record (with Bloomsbury U.K.) for the largest first printing of any book: 4.8 million copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)
“I feel incredibly lucky that I have such wonderful support from kids and teachers and booksellers and librarians and most of all, Scholastic,” Pilkey told PW. “I think a lot of people are starting to see that whatever gets kids to associate reading with fun is a good thing.”
To promote the book, Pilkey will embark on a “Howl with Laughter” tour across the U.S. and Canada this fall, appearing at large-scale events and community-wide reading celebrations. (See the tour schedule here.) Pilkey’s willingness to travel is a key part of Scholastic’s confidence in the book’s sales potential. “When he’s out of the road, the audience inspires him and he inspires the audience,” Berger said. “That’s our biggest marketing weapon right there.”
Dog Man, which follows the adventures of a lovable canine superhero who’s part dog and part policeman, debuted in August 2016 under Scholastic’s graphic novel imprint, Graphix. It was an instant bestseller, a hit with kids and with critics. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus.
The most recent installment, Dog Man and Cat Kid, published last December, debuted at #1 on the Publishers Weekly, New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.
It’s a heady feeling for Pilkey, who is frank with readers about his own struggles as an elementary school student. “I spent a lot of time in the hallway and the principal’s office,” he says. The heroes of Dog Man—the titular character and his nemesis, Petey, an evil cat, represent feelings Pilkey had as a child.
“Both Dog Man and Petey are versions of myself,” he said. “Dog Man wants to be good but always messes up and makes big mistakes. That was totally me. I felt like a failure. I wondered if I was bad. Thank goodness my mom believed in me and always told me to work toward being a better version of myself.”
The attention for Dog Man comes at a (another) big moment for Pilkey’s breakout work: Captain Underpants, a series which currently includes 22 illustrated titles and spin-offs, which have sold more than 80 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 25 languages. This month, DreamWorks Animation launched a new TV series based on the books, The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants, which is airing on Netflix.
“They sent me 10 episodes about a month before the premiere and I intended to watch just one or two but instead I binge-watched the entire thing,” Pilkey said. “It is so creative and clever and so much better than it needs to be. I really felt the love they had for the stories.” Netflix has committed to at least two seasons of the show.
The Captain Underpants series is also now available in audiobook format for the first time ever.
Berger says the plan is to publish two Dog Man books a year, all edited by Ken Geist, v-p and publisher, Scholastic Picture Books and Pilkey Publishing. The sixth installment, Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild, goes on sale on December 24, a date guaranteed to mean a lot of parents will still have to do a little shopping on Christmas Eve.
Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas by Dav Pilkey. Graphix, $9.99 Aug. 28 ISBN 978-0-545-93517-3