It’s been a year since Marianne Richmond, the Minneapolis-based self-published writer, artist, and founder of Marianne Richmond Studios, became Marianne Richmond, the author, published by Sourcebooks under its Jabberwocky imprint.
Although her studio still exists, Richmond has reduced its scope to focus on writing and illustration—and her four growing kids, whom she notes are her “daily source of laughter, inspiration, patience-testing antics and joy.” She licensed her line of greeting cards, and in 2010, entered an agreement with Sourcebooks in which they became the publisher and distributor of her book and related sidelines.
The gift books, board books, mini books, journals, and various sidelines, including jewelry and greeting cards created solely by Richmond for her studio founded in 1991, have always sold well. But now Richmond’s book sales are flourishing, thanks to Sourcebooks’ aggressive positioning of Richmond and her work in both the children’s and gift book markets.
Prior to coming under the Sourcebooks umbrella, Richmond’s products were sold only in non-bookstore outlets such as Hallmark and big box stores like Target. Now Sourcebooks is introducing both her frontlist and backlist to traditional bookstores including Barnes & Noble, children’s bookstores and other general-interest independents with strong children’s sections. Sourcebooks is further expanding her market into schools and libraries, since a number of her 68 books deal with such topical issues as self-esteem, relationships, and imagining the future.
Besides producing Richmond’s books in both print and electronic formats, Sourcebooks’ marketing strategies for both formats include releasing the hardcover print editions of Richmond’s picture books in two sizes, to better accommodate Target, which prefers to sell 8”x 8” books at $9.99, rather than the larger 10” x 10” version, which retails for $15.99-$16.99. The picture books have a 10,000–15,000-copy initial split print run. Subsequent print runs are skewed more towards the smaller format, and range from 10,000–15,000 copies and will continue to be, “as long as they keep selling in Target,” says Sourcebooks v-p and editorial director Todd Stocke. Print runs for the backlist titles, which are being repackaged in brighter colors and reissued, are “not less than” 5,000 copies, Stocke noted.
Another part of the company’s strategy is to refrain from flooding the market with new releases on top of the backlist reissues. “We want to take one magical thing and allow that to bring [Richmond] to people who might not have heard of her before,” Stocke said. But Sourcebooks is also listening to the market; Stocke disclosed that, due to customer requests, the Big Girl Potty Book and the Big Boy Potty Book will be released in spring 2012.
The strategies seem to be working. Sourcebooks’s fall 2010 release of Richmond’s If I Could Keep You Little has sold 100,000 copies to date. “It far exceeded our expectations,” Stocke said. “It outstripped what we’d seen before and what we expected.”
Melissa Posten, children’s book buyer at Pudd’nhead Books in suburban St. Louis, had never heard of Richmond, much less ordered any of her books, before Sourcebooks added her to its stable of authors. She calls Richmond’s work “perfect Grandma books” and “perfect baby shower books” with a “specific look to them” that draws in customers searching for certain kinds of books.“Marianne Richmond is the perfect handsell,” Posten said, adding that she’s had “more than one mother crying in the store” while reading If I Could Keep You Little. “She strikes just the right note.” To date Pudd’nhead Books has sold 30 copies of If I Could Keep You Little offsite, in schools; and 20 copies in the store.
Sourcebooks is bullish on maintaining momentum. “We’re not missing a beat,” Stocke said, stating that Sourcebooks toured Richmond last year, and is sending her on tour again this fall to promote her latest release, I Believe in You. She will attend the Target Book Fair in Minneapolis on September 10, as well as visit eight other cities in October, with the majority of her appearances at independent bookstores. One of Richmond’s stops will be at Pudd’nhead Books, which Posten says she is “really excited about.”