An Introduction to the World of Warcraft

The bestselling videogame franchise World of Warcraft, with its detailed plotlines and mature themes, appeals largely to gamers ages 18 to 36. But in November, fans will be able to buy the first children’s book based on the property, when Snow Fight: A Warcraft Tale debuts at the BlizzCon fan gathering.

“We always come up with a slew of products to put into our BlizzCon store as part of the show,” said Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s senior v-p of story and franchise development and the book’s co-author, with Blizzard artist Wei Wang. “We try to think of goofy, pop kinds of things fans would get a kick out of, sometimes the weirder the better. Warcraft has been in the marketplace nine years and lots of our original gamers have grown up and have rugrats of their own. This is a way to share our geekiest nature with our kids.”

The story shows how the franchise’s three leading characters might relate to each other as children, through the context of a snowball fight. “It’s not about the plotlines, but it’s got the vibe and the fun of Warcraft,” said Metzen.

The book was announced at San Diego Comic-Con this summer during an annual panel about Blizzard’s upcoming licensed merchandise. “When the slide was coming up, I thought, here we go. They’re going to say we jumped the shark,” Metzen recalled. “But the room went crazy. I was very relieved.”

More children’s books may be in the future, depending on the reception for the first title, which could help keep the game’s fan base strong over the long term. “With a lot of venerable franchises, like Transformers, the ideas change and morph over time and new generations find them in their own way,” Metzen said. “We’ve been thinking about how we can do that with Warcraft.”

Regardless of whether early success spurs interest from children’s publishers – Simon & Schuster sells Warcraft novels for older readers – creating the book was a worthwhile exercise, Metzen said. “If people like it and share it with their kids, that moment is really what we want.”

‘The Wizard of Oz’ Marks 75 Years on Film

Booksellers will have plenty of opportunities to promote L. Frank Baum titles this fall, along with movie tie-ins, as Warner Bros. marks the upcoming 75th anniversary of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz with a $25 million advertising, marketing, and promotional campaign.

The property has more than 80 licensees, led by toymaker Jazwares. New companies on board include Dylan’s Candy Bar, Philosophy, PaperStyle, Julep, The Noble Collection, and NECA, while ongoing licensees include Mattel, Rubie’s Costume, Steiff, and Madame Tussauds.

On the marketing side, QVC will celebrate the anniversary this month with a range of commemorative products, including books. Other promotional partners range from Amtrak and Food Network’s Cupcake Wars to Gourmet Trading Company (for a fresh asparagus promotion) and home goods retailer One Kings Lane.

The anniversary is just one component of a mini Oz craze. A film called Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, based on the books of Roger Stanton Baum (L. Frank Baum’s great-grandson), is currently set for a May 2014 release from producer Summertime Entertainment and distributor Clarius Entertainment, with the licensing program handled by agency Evolution. That movie follows the Disney film Oz the Great and Powerful, which was released earlier this year with some licensing support through Disney Consumer Products.

Are You Ready for Some Football Board Books?

Just in time for the start of the National Football League season, Michaelson Entertainment is debuting board books for five more NFL teams, completing a two-year rollout of all 32 under its most recent sports licensing deal. The 10-year-old company also publishes board books for the 30 Major League Baseball teams and 45 colleges. “The books create that great bonding moment,” said publisher Brad Epstein. “They’re for fathers, as well as mothers, grandmothers, and grandfathers – but mostly fathers, share what they love with their kids.”

The signature “101” format introduces children to the sport and the team. Newer formats include counting books for colleges, alphabet books for 10 MLB and 8 NFL teams, and a few league-wide titles, including MLB and NFL color primers. “We’ve added the ABCs and the 123s and they sell just as well as the 101s,” Epstein said. “They don’t cannibalize from each other.”

Bestselling teams are those from large markets as well as those with strong regional fan support, with examples including baseball’s Yankees, Cubs, Cardinals, Tigers, and Red Sox, and the football Steelers, 49ers, Packers, Bears, Vikings, Lions, Cowboys, and Giants. Sales of other titles, such for the Philadelphia Phillies, rise and fall depending on the team’s win-loss record. There can be surprises, too; for example, the University of Iowa is the top-selling college. “Most other licensees wouldn’t say that,” Epstein noted.

Toy stores and baby stores – e.g. Babies “R” Us and Buy Buy Baby – have proven to be among best sales channels, although distribution is broad, ranging from hospital gift stores to upscale indie outlets. “Bookstores do well with them but not as well as they should,” Epstein said. “These books can be community-building. They can help indies and chains differentiate themselves from mass and online channels, and get people into the stores.”

Team and stadium stores have also been challenging, due to the lack of shelf space in the former and the higher price point requirements of the latter. The company is addressing stadium stores this year with a channel-specific pricing structure, according to Epstein: “We want to be in that business.”

In Brief

HarperCollins and the Jim Henson Company have signed Yottoy (plush) and Clothworks (fabrics) as the first licensees for Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad; Harper also retained Cosmo Merchandising to represent the property in Japan.... In other HarperCollins news, the publisher has licensed Zoobies for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book-buddy plush, Creative Education of Canada for Fancy Nancy dress-up and role play and Piggy Paint for Fancy Nancy nail polish, and Out of Print for Goodnight Moon adult and children’s tees and infant playsuits.... Genius Brands signed Graphicly to format and distribute 20 Baby Genius books for most digital platforms.... Big Idea, a division of Dreamworks, signed Cupcake Digital to produce VeggieTales enhanced e-books. First up is a holiday title.... Penguin and Boom!, licensees for Adventure Time children’s books and comic books, respectively, are both adding another Cartoon Network program, The Regular Show, to their rosters.... Upstart, a publisher of library materials, is producing an early literacy program tied to The World of Eric Carle, licensed by The Joester Loria Group.... Sesame Workshop licensed several Sesame Street stories to PlayTales for a multilingual story collection through its interactive e-book app. It also partnered with the Success for All Foundation to provide curriculum-based Sesame Street content to preschool children in Success for All schools.... Chronicle Books is publishing a cookbook based on the HBO series Treme.... Lion Forge Comics is releasing an e-comic starring Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, a mixed martial arts fighter in the Bellator league. Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier is available through iVerse Media’s Comics Plus application.... Scholastic UK secured the rights for books for girls 4–8, including sticker, novelty, and search books, based on Kimmidoll, licensed by DRi.... LeapFrog will bring Random House children’s audio books to the LeapReader platform.... Random House UK will publish picture and activity/sticker books tied to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Other publishers on board include Penguin UK and Octopus; both are releasing nonfiction titles.... Hodder Children’s Books is going into reprints on its first four My Cat Pip preschool titles and is launching more books for the youngest readers. Licensing agent JELC plans to build on the publishing success to launch a preschool licensing initiative for the UK-based art brand, which got its start in greeting cards.