In a new partnership, Open Road Digital Media and Annick Press will release e-book versions of 34 of the Toronto-based publisher’s most successful titles: 20 Robert Munsch books, all 10 volumes of Roslyn Schwartz’s Mole Sisters series, plus four additional picture books.

The two companies began exploring the idea of a joint venture last year at BEA, when Open Road advisor Barbara Marcus stopped by the Annick booth. The timing was right, says Rick Wilks, Annick’s co-founder and director, adding, “We’d been having e-book discussions internally for a year and a half.” The 37-year-old independent press had already entered the digital arena via TumbleBooks’ library subscription service and other avenues, and was eager to beef up its visibility. “We’re fine with the technology,” Wilks says. “The issue is marketing, and Open Road is brilliant at that.”

Marcus says that Annick’s catalog fits right in with Open Road’s strategy to promote strong backlists. “When we look at publishing partners, we look at publishers whose lists really resonate with classics, with titles that have flourished over time.” Munsch’s books – The Paper Bag Princess, Thomas’ Snowsuit, and Stephanie’s Ponytail among them – first caught Open Road’s attention (the author’s best-known work, Love You Forever, was published by Firefly Books, and is not included in the deal). “But once we started talking to Rick,” Marcus says, “we realized they had other rich titles,” including Red Is Best by Kathy Stinson, and the “startlingly charming” Mole Sisters.

Open Road promotes its e-books year-round, using what the company calls “mash-up” videos targeted to specific events: anything from Banned Book Week to Black History Month to Easter. When the company acquires a new list, Marcus says, “we interview the writers for about four hours, not just about their books, but about their writing process, favorite foods, favorite holidays – a range of topics.” Then Open Road cuts the video into two-minute segments, and tags each piece to be used later. “We plan on a year, two, three years of promotion,” she says. “So much of it is driven by the writers themselves.”

As with all of its collaborations, Open Road plans to release timely video content as well as original writing by Annick authors to blogs, social communities, e-tailers, and news organizations. “Open Road has so many innovative ideas to get the books out there,” Wilks says. “Studies I’ve read show that e-books do not cannibalize print editions – they enhance them. So this will really promote our print books as well.”

Open Road continues its prolific marketing efforts in a new relationship with Girls Write Now, the creative writing and mentoring organization for at-risk and underserved New York City high-school girls. The digital media company is sponsoring Chapters 2012, a reading series showcasing the work of Girls Write Now students over four months; among the keynote speakers are Alix Kates Shulman and Andrea J. Buchanan, two Open Road authors.