Imprint, a new imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, has acquired the global master publishing rights to SpacePop, a series of digitally distributed animated shorts, from Genius Brands International. Imprint will publish original middle-grade novels authored by Erin Downing and illustrated by Jen Bartel.

“When we look at a license, we want to be in on the ground floor of something and be part of the creation of it, and/or have the ability to do something really creative,” says Erin Stein, Imprint’s publisher. “SpacePop is just that very thing I was looking for.” She notes that developing Monster High and Ever After High with Mattel during her time at Little, Brown was similar to the process for this property.

SpacePop, about a group of five teenaged “galactic space princesses” who form a band, consists of three- to four-minute vignettes that are centered around a musical performance and end with a cliffhanger. Distributed on a dedicated YouTube channel, the series will launch in early summer with six to eight episodes, followed by one to two additional editions per week until the entire 104-episode story arc is complete by spring 2017.

Stone Newman, GBI’s president of global consumer products, says the company identified a gap in the market for character-based properties for older tweens. It hopes to appeal to girls ages seven to 12 with a music- and fashion-driven storyline, enlisting noted music producer Ron Fair to oversee the music and write original songs and designer Han Lee to create the characters’ fashion sense. “We felt it was important to give these characters a look that’s aspirational and relatable,” Newman explains. “But this is really all about the music.”

Each book will include two graphic novel inserts to better capture the essence of the musical performances that are so integral to the storylines. “It’s always a challenge to translate something musical into book form,” Stein explains. “Part of the appeal of the property is the amazing songs. This was a way to make it visual and more exciting, instead of just reading about a music performance.”

Stein did not view SpacePop’s digital-only distribution strategy as a disadvantage. “I’m not as concerned about discoverability as I was in the past,” she says. “The media landscape, even for kids, is more fragmented, and kids, like adults, are finding their content in different places. I also think the book stands on its own, and the brand is a bonus.”

“This is how tweens are consuming music and entertainment,” Newman adds. “To do it the old way is a little like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” That said, “The publishing is as integral to the IP development as the videos are,” he notes. “We can go deeper into the IP than we can with just the music and the vignettes.”

The first book, Not Your Average Princesses, will publish in July 2016, about a month after the debut of the first episodes, followed by Rocking the Resistance in January 2017. Consumer products such as apparel and accessories will debut in fall 2016.