Imprint Adds ‘Project MC2

Imprint, part of the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, has signed on as the master publisher for Project MC2, a tween-focused doll-and-content property with math and science themes. MGA Entertainment is the licensor. This is one of two initial licensing deals signed by the newly formed Imprint; the other, with Genius Brands International’s SpacePop, was announced last week.

“I loved the [Project MC2] brand and the story,” says Erin Stein, Imprint’s publisher. “It’s about girls doing science and being really smart, and I’m looking to do very pro-girl stories and breaking down those gender walls. But the show is also fresh and timely and fun to watch, and the line of dolls is great. It encourages girls in math and science and it makes those topics fashionable.”

The Project MC2 TV series airs on Netflix, with additional content on YouTube and on a dedicated website. Each doll comes packaged with an experiment, and the toy line includes separate science kits in addition to the dolls. The middle-grade TV novelizations will also feature experiments for girls to try.

The first book, Project MC2: Smart is the New Cool by Jade Hemsworth, releases in hardcover and e-book formats in spring 2016, with a second to follow in fall.

Sourcebooks Soars into Sports with Hawk’s Nest

Sourcebooks has partnered with Hawk’s Nest Publishing, a 10-year-old publisher of regional activity books under license from Major League Baseball. Sourcebooks will handle production, distribution, sales, and other business functions for the Hawk’s Nest series of books, as well as expanding the number of titles and adding new licenses. Hawk’s Nest founder and president Peg Connery-Boyd will focus on the creative aspects.

“It’s been very difficult to be a little guy in this publishing world,” Connery-Boyd says. “I got it to a certain level but it took everything I had. Sourcebooks is taking all the business stuff off my shoulders, and I get to do what I want to do. I also wanted to expand, and this is an opportunity to do more books.”

Todd Stocke, v-p and editorial director, says the partnership made sense to Sourcebooks for two key reasons. First, the company has become known for its regional publishing, notably with its Santa Is Coming to… series. “We’ve built the mechanism to do regional publishing, on the production and editorial side and particularly on the sales, marketing, and publishing side,” he says. “We’re pretty efficient at putting the right title in the right stores.” Hawk’s Nest’s baseball titles, which are team-identified, fit with that model.

Second, the company wants to capitalize on opportunities to work with self-published authors, as it has with Marianne Richmond. “These successful entrepreneurs wanted to write, draw, and illustrate, but now they’re packing boxes and doing accounts receivable,” Stocke says. “We’re a good home for those kinds of folks. We gave Peg an editor and allow her to create.”

The partnership also helps Sourcebooks expand into sports licensing. It has expanded Hawk’s Nest’s MLB license to include more teams, as well as signing with the Collegiate Licensing Company for about 20 colleges, half for football titles and half for basketball. The licenses include both print books and Put Me in the Story personalized versions. The first collegiate football books will debut in August, followed by basketball titles in November. The Hawk’s Nest MLB titles will relaunch in April with a refreshed design and six new teams.

Random House Snuggles Up to Stampy Cat

Random House Books for Young Readers is publishing Egmont Publishing’s two activity titles by YouTube celebrity and Minecraft gamer Joseph Garrett, a.k.a. Stampy Cat. Stampy’s Lovely Book, which includes games, activities, jokes, and information about Stampy for ages 7-10, was released in North America on January 5 (after an October 22 release by Egmont in the U.K.). A second title will follow in spring 2017. Random House worked with Egmont’s sub rights team and Maker Studios, which handles Stampy’s brand-extension activities.

Mallory Loehr, v-p and publishing director at Random House/Golden Books, says Michelle Nagler, associate publishing director, was well acquainted with the character through her son. “She [Nagler] was obsessed with Stampy before this crossed our desk, so when the sub rights manager at Egmont sent it, it was in the zeitgeist here already and we jumped at it.”

Loehr notes that book buyers without kids in the right age group were not always familiar with the character. But the company’s previous successes with YouTube celebrity books helped the sell-in process, especially The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire by YouTubers Dan Howell and Phil Lester. “The Amazing Book was already selling like crazy when we went in with Stampy, so if they didn’t know Stampy, we could point to that book’s success,” Loehr says. “We printed 150,000 copies, which tells you the level of encouragement we had. And the mommy bloggers were all over it.”

Loehr cites an additional benefit of YouTube celebrities. “We’ve found that the audience for these properties will go to the bookstore,” she says. “With The Amazing Book, booksellers are seeing people come into the store that they’ve never seen before.”

Bendon Crafts Shopkins Titles

Bendon Publishing has signed on as the U.S. and Canadian coloring and activity publisher for Shopkins, a collectible toy brand licensed by Moose Toys of Australia and its North American rep, The Licensing Shop.

The brand has become a global hit. More than 207 million Shopkins figures have been sold worldwide, 199 million of them in the U.S. since its June 2014 introduction. Retail sales of licensed goods surpassed $100 million in the U.S. and Canada alone in 2015, according to the licensor, and the NPD Group cited Moose Toys’ Shopkins 12-pack as the top-selling toy of 2015 in the U.S.

Bendon launched a limited assortment of titles in the fourth quarter of 2015, with a focus on activity books, kits, and sets, and plans to introduce more at New York International Toy Fair next month. “We love girl brands,” says Ben Ferguson, Bendon’s president and CEO. “They do very well for us. And we loved the color palette; that really does make a difference.” The popularity was important, too, of course. “Product turns so quickly compared to 15 years ago. We have strong distribution in the planogram and it’s our responsibility to our retail partners to keep the best of the best in their racks. So the demand for Shopkins made it a no-brainer.”

Bendon is following in the footsteps of Scholastic, which was one of the first licensees to sign on, back in October 2014. Scholastic released five titles last year, including a collectors’ guide, storybook, reader, collectible poster book, and sticker book, and plans 10 to 12 additional titles this year, according to The Licensing Shop co-founder Nancy Fowler. “Scholastic saw the potential before so many others,” she says. “They had heard from their retailers how well the toys were doing.”

Moose Toys and The Licensing Shop have been careful about managing the flow of licensed products, waiting to sign Bendon until later in the process, for example, because of its younger target audience, and holding key categories such as footwear and dresses until this year. “We have 51 licensees, but we could have had 200,” Fowler says.

Green Kids Club Enters Licensing with YooHoo & Friends

Green Kids Club is an Idaho-based publisher of books and other products about environmental topics such as global warming, poaching, gorillas in Rwanda, drought, and shark finning, which have been endorsed by the likes of zookeeper Jack Hanna and conservation group Elephants Without Borders. It recently signed its first license, with YooHoo & Friends, a line of endangered-animal plush toys from Korean toy company Aurora World.

“Getting brand recognition takes time,” says Sylvia Medina, Green Kids Club’s founder. “Working with YooHoo & Friends will hopefully help get our name out there.” Green Kids Club’s core line of books are sold in bookstores, zoos, mom-and-pop shops, and on Amazon, and have been in demand from educational channels in Rwanda, Idaho, and elsewhere.

Under the new license, GKC will publish three to five co-branded books to start, with each featuring one of the Green Kids Club characters and one of Aurora’s animal characters as they go on quests around the globe to protect animals and their habitats. A plush key chain will come with each title.

Medina is in talks with other licensors as well. “We are approached quite a bit because of our green theme,” she explains.

In Brief

Demdaco is translating Nancy Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born into plush toys, baby room décor, and gifts. The deal was brokered by Tillman’s licensing agent, JLK Brand.... NorthSouth Books’ The Rainbow Fish is expanding into plush, gift sets, melamine and ceramic products, and some apparel and accessories, with licensee Stephan Baby. RJM Licensing handles licensing duties for NorthSouth.... Parragon has expanded its licensing agreement with The World of Eric Carle, represented by the Joester Loria Group, adding the U.K., Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Southeast Asia to its original U.S. and Canadian distribution. Products include novelty stationery, activities, and gift sets.... Scholastic and Titan Books are publishing tie-ins for the Warner Bros. film Batman v. Superman. The former is releasing a behind-the-scenes film guide and junior novel, and the latter an “art of” title, technical manual, and the official souvenir magazine.... Scholastic is adding eight Harry Potter coloring books to its roster this spring, following the release of Harry Potter: The Official Coloring Book in November.... Dark Horse is launching an illustrated hardcover series about the history and lore of Warcraft, starting with World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1 in March, under license from Blizzard Entertainment.... Egmont Publishing is releasing two books based on 343 Industries’ interactive game Halo, starting with Halo Mythos: A Guide to the Story of Halo in October 2016.... VIZ Media partnered with e-commerce company Generator to launch an online Naruto store for the U.S. and Canada.... A number of literary licensing deals to report from the U.K.: Macmillan Children’s Books acquired worldwide publishing rights to Dinosaur Roar from rights owner Nurture Rights. It will take the book, which has sold more than five million copies globally and is written by Paul and Henrietta Stickland, into new formats and series.... Macmillan also acquired rights to the Moomins from Bull’s Licensing and Caroline Mickler, for gift titles.... Dear Zoo, a picture book by Rod Campbell, will be featured on a collection of baby layette products at U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer.... Coolabi has signed J.J.A. Licensing and The Evolution of Licensing as the first two European licensing agents for its children’s fantasy book series Beast Quest.