Penguin and National Geographic Board the ‘U.S.S. Enterprise’

Penguin’s Price Stern Sloan imprint and National Geographic are the two newest U.S. publishers for Star Trek. They are among a long list of licensees signed by CBS Consumer Products leading up to the property’s 50th anniversary. The original Star Trek TV series premiered on September 8, 1966; all told there have been six television series and 13 movies.

Penguin’s titles for this spring include Star Trek Mad Libs; The Star Fleet Logbook, a prompted journal; and What Would Captain Kirk Do?, a humorous book of wisdom. “We thought some of our formats were perfect for Star Trek and that we could capture new fans and appeal to the original fans of the series,” said Sarah Fabiny, Penguin’s editor-in-chief, licenses and series. The publisher is also developing similar formats for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year.

Meanwhile, National Geographic is offering The Star Trek Guide to Our Universe. “National Geographic is a bastion of real science,” said Liz Kalodner, v-p and general manager at Star Trek licensor CBS Consumer Products. “This is a nonfiction guide to the universe, using Star Trek as a lens.”

Other publishers on board include longtime licensees IDW for comics and Simon & Schuster for novels. The latter publishes 10–12 books a year and is releasing Strange New Worlds, a collection of fan fiction, this fall. DK is adding a nonfiction title about technology in its Big Ideas Simply Explained series; it also offers a Star Trek Visual Dictionary. HarperCollins is launching the first update in 20 years of its 1,100-page Star Trek Encyclopedia, while Insight Editions is publishing Hidden Universe: A Travel Guide to Vulcan, as well as the satirical Star Trek: Redshirt’s Little Book of Doom. Running Press, Titan, Eaglemoss, and Cider Mill Press round out the list.

A big part of the licensing activity surrounding the anniversary has revolved around live events, such as a touring science exhibit, concert tour, traveling art exhibition, and several fan expos. “These are places that encourage the fans to gather and celebrate the anniversary,” Kalodner said. “We are very much focusing on the fans for the 50th. It was the fans that saved the show originally and have supported it all these years. They’re in our minds across the board.”

Angry Birds Licensor Rovio Spins Off Publishing Unit

Rovio Entertainment, the publisher of the Angry Birds mobile gaming franchise, has launched Kaiken Publishing, a separate but affiliated company that will serve as the global master licensee for Angry Birds, as well as develop publishing content in-house and acquire outside brands for publishing.

Laura Nevanlinna, president and CEO of the new company and Rovio’s longtime publishing director, said a more independent structure made sense from a publishing point of view. The division has already launched internally developed publishing properties such as Freya and Storm Sisters (with Macmillan/Imprint and Bastei Lübbe, respectively, on board in the U.S.). “Rovio has had a publishing business since 2011, and [publishing] has always followed its own path,” Nevanlinna explained. Meanwhile, “Rovio is concentrating on its major focus, which is games and media. Publishing is part of media, of course, but it is not in the nucleus of the media business.”

For Angry Birds – which will be a focus for Kaiken this year, with Angry Birds: The Movie coming out in May – the publisher both develops content in-house, offering rights to publishers around the world, and works with publishers in a more collaborative licensing model. Harper Collins is a brand-new licensee for Angry Birds: The Movie, while existing licensees in the U.S. include Penguin, National Geographic, and IDW.

Acquiring children’s properties from outside the company is a new business for Rovio and Kaiken, although its experience with Angry Birds will serve it well, according to Nevanlinna. “We’re looking for brands that have a story to share, even if it isn’t developed yet,” she said. “We also want brands that have the potential to work on a global scale, but it doesn’t need to be instant. We want to partner to help build the brand.”

One for the Record Books: HarperCollins Ties in with Guinness

On February 2, HarperCollins launched its first list of photo-heavy books under license from Guinness World Records, including two I Can Read! titles, on animals and land vehicles; two chapter books, on the human body and animals; and three middle-grade compilations, Biggest and Smallest!, Wacky and Wild!, and Super Humans!

According to senior editor Pamela Bobowicz, Guinness was looking to bring its brand down to younger readers and, at the same time, the property filled a need for Harper. “We want to grow our nonfiction list, both in I Can Read! and also in other formats,” she said. The company’s I Can Read! series was a natural fit, while “the chapter books allow us to dig deeper into the stories behind the records” and the themed compilations can sit alongside the main book without duplicating it.

“We launched with seven books, which is quite a number for us,” Bobowicz noted. Other titles to follow in summer and fall 2016 and winter 2017 include I Can Read! books on food and robots, a compilation title on engineering marvels, and chapter books on toys and games and on “entertainers,” including record-holders in somersaults or Hula Hoops. “We’re looking for things kids can relate to,” Bobowicz said. “There are so many records they can attempt to set on their own, and we want to home in on those.”

Time Inc. Goes to School with Animal Planet

Following up on last fall’s launch of Animal Planet Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia, Time Inc. Books is introducing six more titles this spring and fall under its three-year deal with Discovery Communications for nonfiction books under the Animal Planet brand. The property is helping to boost the company’s presence in schools and libraries, a channel where it traditionally has not focused, as well as being distributed through its main outlets such as newsstands, traditional retailers, and e-tailers.

The books include an Animal Bites series for ages 4–8, a nonfiction chapter book series, narrative chapter books with nonfiction features, and a gift book (Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals), as well as the Encyclopedia, which is for ages 10 and up.

“It’s an incredibly well-known brand and it’s super accessible,” said Beth Sutinis, executive editor, children’s books. “It’s not just academic. The books all fit with the Common Core and curricular scholarship about the life sciences, but it’s a fun and flexible brand that works really well in ways that are not strictly educational.” For example, the books contain kid-friendly features such as “Is this animal snuggle-worthy?” (For a penguin, with its fish breath, dampness, and stubby wings, the answer would be “no.”)

That said, Time Inc. is doing more school and library outreach than in the past, and the books, which are appropriately leveled, have received a good response from librarians at the Educational Book and Media Association and ALA Midwinter meetings. Time Inc. is promoting the list in schools through Discovery, Discovery Kids, and Discovery Education, and supplying downloadable content including curriculum guides. The books will also be promoted between shows on the network, and in its Animal Bites blog. “Animal Planet gives us exposure in places we’re not normally in, including in front of what might not be a books-first audience,” Sutinis said.

“The brand positioning is all about supporting that human-animal connection,” she added. “Kids at zoos or animal parks are so engaged. They want to get close to the animals and touch them. We want to let them do that, but also to respect the animals and be their advocates.”

Little Critter, Future Entertainment Star

Mercer Mayer, author of the Little Critter books for preschoolers, has signed a deal with Little Critter LLC to transition the character into a global entertainment brand across all digital and traditional TV platforms, apps, and licensed products. The new venture is headed by John Sansevere, a producer, creative director, writer, and designer for games, publishing, and television, who has a decades-long business association with Mayer.

One impetus for the move was the recent success of Little Critter publishing globally, according to Sansevere, who reported a “tremendous response” to the books in Asia. Little Critter books are sold in 10 countries and eight languages, including in China, where 12 titles were published in 2013 and 108 are planned for 2016, and Korea, where Eplis has licensed 16 titles for audio/book packages and 40 for enhanced ebooks. “That’s quite a few titles,” Sansevere pointed out. “They’re very into Little Critter over there and they’ve been asking us when there will be entertainment.” More than 200 million Little Critter books across 300 titles have been sold worldwide in 40-plus years; there are 100 titles currently in print in the U.S. market from publishers HarperCollins and Random House.

A 3D-animated TV series is currently in development, with a probable launch as early as 2018. The company is working on some new projects in the app world – there have been 45 Little Critter apps to date, 39 published by Oceanhouse Media – as well as some licensed product ideas, both of which are likely to come to fruition before the entertainment debuts.

Other partners in Little Critter LLC include strategic and financial advisor Sword, Rowe & Company, production firm DisruptiveLA, and Richard Dreher, an expert on capital formation. The company has retained Stuart Snyder, a noted entertainment industry veteran, to identify and evaluate business opportunities.

In Brief

DC Super Hero Girls, a Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment property for which Random House was one of the first licensees, is introducing a merchandise collection in March, exclusively through Target stores. In addition to books, products will include toys, apparel, dress-up, and accessories.... Gymboree launched a limited-edition baby collection highlighting characters from Random House’s Little Golden Books, including The Poky Little Puppy, The Shy Little Kitten, and The Fuzzy Duckling. Customers will receive a book-with-purchase for a limited time to mark the launch.... Titan is publishing a comic prequel series tied to the TV series Penny Dreadful, licensed by Showtime and CBS Consumer Products, with the first title launching in spring 2016.... Illustrator Chris Chatterton partnered with Trefl for a line of jigsaw puzzles, board games, and playing cards. Chatterton’s illustrations are represented for licensing by Bright.... Two book-based entertainment deals to report: Randi Zuckerberg’s picture book, Dot., is being developed for television by the NBCUniversal network Sprout and Jim Henson Productions, which also represents the property for licensing. And Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series has been licensed to Lionsgate for multiple live-action films. In both cases, the authors will serve as executive producers.