Scholastic Adds Licensed Biographies, Nonfiction

Scholastic is bringing some of its licensed brands into two new-for-licensing formats: character biographies and informational nonfiction.

Backstories is a middle-grade series of 120-page biographies delving into the lives of superheroes and villains. “It came about when we were having a brainstorming meeting,” says Debra Dorfman, v-p and publisher at Scholastic, who notes that biographies such the company’s I Am series have a good track record. “We thought, we should do a biography series of fictional characters. How fun would that be?”

Scholastic approached longtime licensing partner Warner Bros. about using the DC Comics characters. Warner loved the idea, and the first three titles, focusing on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, will be published in March, in time for the release of the film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice on March 25. “We’re using writers that are already immersed in these worlds, and we’re getting to dive into the archives of these characters,” Dorfman says.

More titles are coming in summer and fall, with DC’s Harley Quinn and Super Girl, along with Disney/Lucasfilm’s Princess Leia and Darth Vader up next. Scholastic is in talks with other licensors about doing Backstories titles based on their characters as well. “We’re getting great feedback from our accounts,” Dorfman adds. “Every account is taking these.”

Meanwhile, in the nonfiction arena, Scholastic is marrying the informational book format with licensed character art for the first time, using LEGO mini-figures to introduce factual content with a sense of humor. The nonfiction books are part of the recent renewal and expansion of Scholastic’s ongoing licensing deal with LEGO.

Scholastic has had success combining fictional character art from its own franchises with nonfiction topics and photography, such as with the Fly Guy Presents and Magic School Bus Presents series. “LEGO is just the perfect property for this,” Dorfman says. “We knew kids would love to explore the real world with LEGO.” Initial titles in summer 2016 will include two 6x9 readers, Deep Dive and Dino Hunter; and two titles for ages 7-10 with slightly larger trim sizes, Planets and Knights and Castles. The LEGO Factastic Ultimate Fact Book will follow in the fall.

Grand Central Adds Candy Crush

Grand Central is bringing Candy Crush books into the U.S. for the first time, under license from King Digital Entertainment. The collection will launch with The Official Candy Crush Saga Top Tips Guide and The Candy Crush Coloring Book.

The deal came about when Adam Strange, nonfiction publishing director at Little, Brown U.K.’s Sphere imprint, approached Grand Central to help make a global offer to King Digital, according to Brittany McInerney, editor at Grand Central Life & Style. “We knew the brand had millions upon millions of dedicated fans, so it felt the project had tremendous potential in the U.S. market,” she says. “Candy Crush has been downloaded more than a billion times since it was launched in 2011. A billion times! It’s a brand with massive global recognition, dedicated fans, and a creative platform with a lot of room to explore book opportunities. Entering into a license felt like the best approach for all parties. It gave everyone room to brainstorm ideas, poll the fan base, and analyze the market.”

The decision to start with gaming tips and adult coloring came about collaboratively. “We worked closely with the U.K. editorial team to determine the formats we’d like to explore,” says McInerney. “We relied heavily on King’s expertise in the space to help us better understand what their fan base would look for in a book.” Two more titles are expected in 2016, with more potentially to follow. “There are so many different directions we can go.”

Grand Central has done other licensing deals, mostly with film and television properties, working with licensors such as NBC and Marvel. “Our goal is to capture fans’ attention in a new way, with a new format, and broaden their experience,” McInerney says.

More Licensing News from the Adult Coloring Realm

As is evident from a look at the bestseller lists in recent weeks, licensed properties have come to the adult coloring book category in a big way. In addition to the Candy Crush title noted above, a smattering of examples includes Star Wars and Disney Princess from Disney Editions, Game of Thrones and Outlander from Bantam, Harry Potter from Scholastic, Dr. Who from Price Stern Sloan, and Sherlock from Harper Design.

As the market becomes more crowded, publishers are starting to experiment with new strategies to stand out from the pack. Last month Crayola announced that it had partnered with Brit + Co. for a crowdsourced coloring book called Pattern Play, which includes illustrations from 50-plus artists. Brit + Co. selected the contributors through a contest on 99designs, a marketplace where companies with design needs (such as logos) solicit submissions through design competitions. The book is launching exclusively at Target.

Meanwhile, U.K. magazine publisher Redan, known for its licensed children’s titles, introduced CALM Colour Create, an adult coloring magazine that is its first publication for older consumers. Each monthly issue has a different theme, and the spreads not only offer black-and-white line art, but also some blank areas to allow users to create their own designs. A value-added item, such as a box of colored pencils, is affixed to the cover. Redan’s outbound-licensing division, Redan Alchemy, is also offering the CALM Colour Create brand and artwork to licensees for other categories.

A-Z Guides: Creating a Design Brand

A-Z Guides is a British map brand that has racked up sales of 100 million copies since its 1936 introduction, through retail outlets across the U.K. ranging from booksellers such as W.H. Smith to petrol stations. Since retaining Rocket Licensing as its agent in 2012, it has been transforming itself into a design and lifestyle brand. “It’s very British and graphically very strong,” says Rob Wijeratna, Rocket’s joint managing director. The imagery encompasses a variety of colors and eras from which licensees can choose.

New initiatives for 2016 will range from a collaboration with the high-end Ben Sherman fashion label, which will produce a capsule collection featuring map designs from neighborhoods where it has stores (e.g., Carnaby Street and Portobello Road), to a wide range of paper goods and journals featuring map designs in blue, from the U.K. stationery chain Paperchase. A-Z licensed products available to date include wall art from Pyramid International, novelty apparel from Smiffy’s, and other items from home products to gifts.

In Brief

Simon & Schuster Children’s Books released eight titles tied to The Peanuts Movie.... Painting Lulu, which makes physical-to-digital augmented-reality coloring books, acquired licenses from Rovio (Angry Birds) and Hasbro (My Little Pony, Transformers Rescue Bots, and Tonka).... Merriam-Webster and its licensing agent JRL Group signed Elm Education Marketing for Word Teasers educational card deck content. JRL also granted rights to GeoToys for a line of Encyclopaedia Britannica and Britannica Kids educational puzzles and games.... Dark Horse is publishing How to Train Your Dragon comics books starting in 2016, under license from DreamWorks.... Rainbow partnered with PubCoder for a new series of 10 Winx Club Read&Play interactive e-books in English and Italian.... Hot Topic is offering a Boom! Comics title featuring Marceline, a breakout character from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, as a gift-with-purchase to accompany $25 in Adventure Time products. The initiative is part of a broader retail program featuring Steven Universe and Adventure Time.... The Victoria & Albert Museum signed Penguin Random House Children’s Books U.K. for a range of children’s titles including craft and activity and storybooks, to launch by 2017.... Ape Entertainment is introducing its first Sesame Street e-books, along with three new print comics.... Quarto Publishing Group USA has acquired the rights to the candy brand Peeps for a cookbook featuring Peeps-inspired recipes, with the launch timed for Easter 2016.... Penguin Ventures has granted rights to artwork from classic Ladybird Books titles to Liberty Art Fabrics Interiors for fabrics and wallpapers, Lagoon Group for games and puzzles, Portico Designs for stationery and gifts, Designed in Colour for mugs and tea towels, and Kim & McGraw for art prints and posters.... DHX Brands licensed Teletubbies to Egmont for a range of children’s books and magazines to debut in spring/summer 2016. The company has international rights for story, coloring, sticker, activity, and sound books, along with annuals.... Kids’ CBC in Canada has greenlit an animated TV series based on Randi Zuckerberg’s Dot., produced by Industrial Brothers and Jim Henson Productions. Henson handles global licensing for Dot.... Edward Stanford Ltd., a publisher of maps and travel books, is offering its signature brand and logo and its digital map archives for licensing for the first time.... Atlantyca Entertainment formed Atlantyca Live! to develop stage shows based on its properties, starting with Geronimo Stilton: Mouse in Space, debuting at The Oregon Children’s Theater in 2016.