Penguin Books for Young Readers will launch a Cartoon Network imprint that will include books tied to existing and future Cartoon Network–owned shows and serve as a launchpad for new content. Penguin has long been a key publishing licensee for Cartoon Network, holding the exclusive rights to children’s books associated with series such as Adventure Time, Regular Show, The Amazing World of Gumball, and, starting in 2015, Steven Universe and Uncle Grandpa. The new imprint, officially called Cartoon Network Books, will debut in summer 2015 with books featuring a dedicated logo.
“All of our Cartoon Network titles are working well,” explained Lori Burke, Penguin’s North American director of licensing and consumer products. “We have had a holding-hands partnership, and now we want to become a destination for Cartoon Network publishing.” The imprint will continue to include the breadth of formats that has characterized Penguin’s Cartoon Network publishing program to date, including fiction, chapter books, kits, and Mad Libs. “There’s no cap on it,” Burke said. “This will allow us to be a little more flexible.”
For Cartoon Network, the venture will not only provide exposure for existing television shows but offer opportunities for introducing new ideas. For example, Cartoon Network creators could work on concepts that haven’t appeared on television and might make more sense in book form. “We’re not looking at publishing just as part of a traditional licensing strategy,” said Pete Yoder, v-p of consumer products for North America at Cartoon Network Enterprises. “We’re leveraging publishing not as a licensed item but as a platform for new art or even new shows. This is also a creative way to use publishing as a platform to get the backstories [of on-air shows] out there in new and different forms.”
“Publishing offers an extension to Cartoon Network’s franchise that cannot be done with any other product,” Burke explained. “When fans read a book, they’re engaged. And the books will allow fans to discover new Cartoon Network properties.”
Penguin and Cartoon Network believe the initiative will give them an advantage in-store as well. “It will help us at the account level,” Burke predicted. “Cartoon Network has fans who like the whole roster of shows. That gives us the opportunity to create a meaningful presentation at retail.” A first step is a display at Walmart that features Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Gumball titles. “We can stake out a space for Cartoon Network and rotate in classic and hot shows over time, while maintaining our footprint,” said Yoder.
The launch of the imprint will be accompanied by collaborative promotional campaigns and the addition of new titles across Cartoon Network brands. In the meantime, Penguin will continue to publish titles tied to Adventure Time and other shows. Francesco Sedita, president and publisher of Grosset & Dunlap, Price Stern Sloan, and Frederick Warne & Co., will now also oversee Cartoon Network Books as publisher.
The new venture does not affect the network’s publishing deals outside the children’s sphere. Abrams remains on board for adult books and BOOM! for comics, and specialty programs will continue with Potter Craft for do-it-yourself crafting titles and Titan for title-card art books.