Curiosity Ink Media, a recently formed media company with a mission to create original family-friendly TV and film animation and revitalize underutilized and dormant properties for traditional and digital media and consumer products, is launching a children’s publishing imprint, Curiosity Books.
Curiosity Ink was founded by Russell Hicks, former president of Nickelodeon Production and Development; Brent Watts of the entertainment-focused branding and advertising agency Struck; and Jon I. Rosenberg, whose experience includes serving as a book packager, studio publishing executive with MGM, and publisher of Silver Dolphin Books. Curiosity’s CEO is another industry veteran, Michaelene Cristini Risley, who has held executive positions at Marvel Comics, Sega, and Zynga.
Rosenberg, executive v-p and publisher at Curiosity Ink Media, will head up Curiosity Books, which is releasing its debut list of six books this fall. The imprint has two initial areas of focus. First, it is publishing middle grade readers, as well as some picture books for younger children, based on its own intellectual properties. The readers—the first of which is this fall’s Herbert Henry & Santa’s Secret Society by Amber Stewart—feature 10,000 to 14,000 words across 220 to 240 pages and are heavily illustrated. Most titles going forward will be paired with a well-known author and/or illustrator.
Second, Curiosity is releasing nonfiction novelty, interactive, and book-plus titles tied to other companies’ licensed properties. The fall list features five such tie-ins, based on Mattel’s Thomas & Friends and Hasbro’s My Little Pony. “Kids and their parents want to open a book and have it draw out their imagination and their innate sense of curiosity,” Rosenberg told PW. “We asked, is there a gap in the marketplace for activity books? We don’t want to invent what anyone else is doing.”
One of this fall’s Thomas & Friends titles features maps of the continents on each spread, with elements missing so readers can fill in the blanks with provided stickers; it also has two punch-out train characters (Thomas and Nia) that can ride along the tracks depicted on the maps. Another Thomas book, likely the first in a series, has a 9x9 trim size and allows readers to solve a puzzle by answering questions and seeing the answers revealed in cut-outs on each spread.
For My Little Pony, the first three titles include a joke book; a 102-page interactive activity book called My Little Pony: Get Ponified, which teaches fans to create pony hairstyles through step-by-step photos and has a mirror on each page and a slipcase that serves as an easel; and a third title in a similar but mirrorless format, called My Little Pony: Bracelets for Besties.
The plan is to release at least 12 titles per season going forward, with the mix about five-to-one licensed-to-original at first. “Ultimately where we see ourselves is having a balance of our own IP and in-bound licensed properties,” Rosenberg said. Spring and fall 2019 will bring more licensed tie-ins, including Transformers titles under license from Hasbro and a licensed series out of the U.K., as well as books based on two Curiosity-owned animation properties for preschoolers.
The imprint plans to remain flexible in case opportunities come up beyond its core mission, according to Rosenberg. He recently discovered a surface designer in London who specializes in creating home-goods patterns, for example. He loved her style and is working with her to develop a board book series around which Curiosity can build a brand. “We’re keeping an eye toward not just the obvious,” Rosenberg said.