On Sept. 8, 1966, Star Trek: The Original Series debuted on NBC, embarking on a 50-year journey that now includes six TV series and 13 films, including this summer’s Star Trek Beyond. Publishing has been a big part of Star Trek almost since its inception, encompassing novels, comic books, magazines, reference books, and collectible and novelty formats. In fact, more than 100 million books, comics, and magazines have been sold over the franchise’s history, according to licensor CBS Consumer Products, with more than 20 different publishers currently selling Star Trek frontlist and backlist titles worldwide.
“Star Trek is the original science fiction space-travel show that set this genre in motion and paved the way for what has followed,” says Sarah Fabiny, editor-in-chief, licenses and series, at new Star Trek licensee Penguin Books for Young Readers. “It’s just a really solid license. It’s clean, it’s fun, it’s funny, the cast of characters is diverse, and William Shatner is an American treasure. Who wouldn’t want to do a book with him as Captain Kirk on the cover?”
Many Star Trek fans are collectors, which helps drive sales of some formats. “For our mini-editions, we look for big licensed properties that have that collectibility factor, and Star Trek certainly fits with that,” says Jennifer Leczkowski, managing editor and director of mini-editions at Running Press, which offers four Star Trek minikits.
Collectibility is not the only factor, however. “Star Trek fans are a reading audience, and they like to experience Star Trek in different media,” says Dana Youlin, senior editor for Becker & Mayer, which has packaged Star Trek titles for a number of publishers. “The world really lends itself to expansion into new content, and it’s a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Darryl Tothill, publishing manager at Titan Comics, a longtime Star Trek licensee, believes many fans appreciate the franchise’s ability to take on serious themes. “You can talk about major issues that affect society, but you’re doing it in space,” she says. “Some people may not even notice, but it’s a great under-the-radar way to discuss so many political issues, and many fans love that about it.”
With its frequent TV and film iterations, the ever-expanding Star Trek universe also keeps fans engaged. Tothill notes that a new TV series in development for CBS’s streaming platform, All Access, is generating fan excitement and could take the franchise in yet another new creative direction. “There’s still something to look forward to after all this time,” she says.
A Strong and Steady Enterprise
Unlike many TV or movie tie-in publishing programs, for which sales tend to rise and fall depending on current releases and marketing activities, retailers and publishers say Star Trek is a relatively steady seller.
“The fan base is a very loyal one and a very consistent one,” says Maryelizabeth Yturralde, cofounder of Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, which has locations in San Diego and Redondo Beach, Calif. While there are small bumps in sales for film releases and the anniversary, she says new publishing content tends to spur sales more than movies or TV series. “It’s sort of the little Enterprise that could,” Yturralde says. “It seldom outshines the others, but it’s always there for us.”
Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver also sees mostly steady Star Trek sales from month to month and year to year, according to Heather Duncan, director of marketing, though there are spikes related to the release of the movies and the anniversary. The store carries fiction and nonfiction Star Trek titles throughout, including novels (mostly based on Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation), graphic novels, books about the making of the series in the performing arts section, and some titles in children’s. It also carries gifts, including Running Press’s mini-editions.
Leczkowski reports that Running Press’s first two minikits, Light-and-Sound Communicator and Light-Up Starship Enterprise, which came out in 2013 and 2014, have each sold 70,000 copies to date, above the average of 30,000–50,000 for other licensed mini-editions. “The collectors want all things Star Trek,” she says. Two more kits are coming out this year.
New for 2016: Resistance Is Futile
Several Star Trek titles will be released this summer and fall in time for the 50th anniversary and the Star Trek Beyond movie, which debuts on July 22.
Primary Star Trek fiction publisher Simon & Schuster (part of the CBS family), through its Gallery Books and Pocket Books imprints, has had the Star Trek license for more than 35 years and premieres a new novel every month—two per month were published during the heyday of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 1990s—as well as a new e-novella each season. Among this year’s crop are two anniversary-related trilogies, Star Trek Legacies, focusing on The Original Series, and Prey, a Next Generation story with roots in the film The Search for Spock, which featured characters from The Original Series.
Ed Schlesinger, senior editor at Gallery Books/Pocket Books, credits Marco Palmieri, Margaret Clark, and John Ordover—key editors of the series starting in the 1990s—with extending the parameters of the publishing program. “Thanks to them, we have an ongoing and acclaimed expanded-universe series in which familiar characters from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, as well as book-exclusive new faces, can easily cross over and interact, setting a larger stage and telling bigger game-changing stories.”
Pocket Books is debuting Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a collection of short stories gathered through a fan-fiction contest, this year. “It seemed like the natural thing to do because, of course, Star Trek fan fiction—by the fans and for the fans—was hugely popular long before the genre exploded into other worlds and realms,” Schlesinger says.
IDW Publishing’s introductions this year include an anthology series, Waypoint, which honors 50 years of Star Trek by featuring stories about characters from the various TV series by comic creators such as Donny Cates, Sandra Lanz, and Max Chater. “It’s an opportunity for some new voices on Trek,” editor Sarah Gaydos says.
IDW publishes more than 30 Star Trek comics per year, across all series and films, including an ongoing series, special-event arcs, and crossovers such as Star Trek/Planet of the Apes (in partnership with Boom Comics) and Star Trek/Green Lantern. “There are so many stories we could be telling,” Gaydos says. “I feel extremely lucky to play in this sandbox.”
Another licensee, DK, published The Star Trek Book, part of its Big Ideas Simply Explained series, in June. The title was inspired, in part, by Trek Talks, a global series of lecture events about Star Trek’s connection to topics such as science and politics, a component of CBS’s anniversary-related promotional plans. “With all the science and complexity of the world of Star Trek, it seemed to be a good fit,” says Julie Ferris, DK senior editor. She adds, “The science fiction in Star Trek has influenced real science.”
HarperCollins is debuting the first revision of The Star Trek Encyclopedia, developed by Becker & Mayer, since the initial publication of that book in 1999. The two-volume update includes three additional TV series and three additional films, as well as updated images and illustrations. The authors are Michael and Denise Okuda, who worked on several Star Trek films and TV series and have written several Trek reference books. “You can’t illustrate every ship, but at the same time our goal was always to make this the most complete volume possible,” Becker & Mayer’s Youlin says.
Titan Books is offering Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years, which highlights 50 artworks from emerging and established creators. It is tied to an exhibit of the same name that will tour after premiering in San Diego just before Comic-Con. “We’ve got everything in here from sculpture to cereal packaging,” Titan editor Nicola Edwards says. “There are also in-depth interviews and pieces of work-in-progress art to accompany the final pieces, so readers can see what went into the art and get an insight into the artists themselves.
“The themes of Trek are pretty universal and timeless when you think about it,” Edwards continues. “Each new incarnation brings something fresh to the franchise. It manages to both reinvent itself and keep its core fan base satisfied, and that’s not easy to do.”
Meanwhile, Titan Comics is releasing a two-volume compilation of interviews from its Star Trek magazine, which it has published in the U.K. for over 20 years and in the U.S. for more than a decade. The Best of Star Trek, Vol. 1, which focuses on the movies, comes out in July, while volume 2, covering the TV shows, is scheduled for November. The company is also preparing a movie tie-in for Star Trek Beyond, a making-of title containing exclusive content that will be available in time for the DVD release.
Insight Editions’ 2016 Star Trek titles include Hidden Universe Travel Guide: Star Trek: Vulcan and Redshirt’s Little Book of Doom.
New licensee National Geographic is marrying the world of Star Trek to real astronomy with Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe. “The goal was to include very real Star Trek information as well as real science information,” says Susan Hitchcock, senior editor. “The challenge became, how do we create a bridge between the Star Trek fiction and the astronomy? The first step was to figure out a structure that seems logical to the Star Trek fan but also is satisfying, true, and accurate to the astronomer.”
“Science is a big piece of what we’re doing with Star Trek,” explains Liz Kalodner, CBS Consumer Products’ executive v-p and general manager. Science plays a role in anniversary events, in categories such as video games and virtual reality, and in publishing content. “It’s about being on the cutting edge.”
Star Trek has long been geared more toward adults than kids. Fabiny believes that Penguin’s new children’s books—Star Trek Mad Libs, Starfleet Logbook, and What Would Captain Kirk Do?, released this past April and May—are likely to appeal to adults as well. “There’s a huge nostalgia factor for people who remember the show from their childhood,” she says. “But it’s also an opportunity to introduce the show to a whole range of new fans.”
Both Tattered Cover and Mysterious Galaxy carry Star Trek books in their children’s sections. “Star Trek has traditionally had a pretty established fan base,” Yturralde says. “But with the involvement of [director] J.J. Abrams in the recent movies, that has shifted, and more young people are coming in.”
“Star Trek is passed down from generation to generation, but young people are also discovering Trek on their own, on Netflix,” Gaydos says. IDW publishes a comic series called Starfleet Academy. “It’s almost a YA look at Star Trek,” she says. “Starfleet Academy is kind of like Star Trek’s Hogwarts.”
Boldly Going into Backlist
Star Trek publishing tends to backlist, resulting in a roster of in-print titles that crosses all of the iterations of the franchise. Simon & Schuster alone offers a list of more than 700 e-books on a DRM-free basis, representing all of its novels and e-book originals over more than three decades.
“The core of Star Trek is the fiction,” Yturralde says. “The novels are really the seminal works in terms of expanding the universe for the fan base.”
Reference is a strong sector when it comes to the backlist as well. Abrams, for example, has published four titles in the past six years—Star Trek: The Original Series 365 (2010), Star Trek Vault: 40 Years from the Archives (2011), Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 (2012), and Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series (2013)—and all are still in print.
“They’re very solid backlist titles for us,” says Abrams’s editorial director Charles Kochman. “Sales continue as the enthusiasm for the brand and the franchise expand. There are only a handful of brands that are so iconic and stand the test of time so well. It’s such a perfect science fiction concept, and it’s reflective of what’s going on today.”
Eric Klopfer, senior editor at Abrams, adds: “One of the inherent appeals of Star Trek was the visualization of science fiction tropes that had only existed in prose, and the visuals are still a key draw. But it’s not only its visual language, it’s the fact that it’s grounded in futurist science fiction stories that have this timeless optimism. It was so novel, not only in the TV space but in media in general, and you see its influence in countless other franchises and forms.”
Novelty, gift, and parody books are another key component of backlist publishing. Chronicle Books published How to Speak Klingon and the Mr. Spock Logic and Prosperity Box in 2013. Cider Mill Press’s Appleseed Press division released Classic Quotes: The Next Generation in 2013, Fun with Kirk & Spock in 2014, and The Wit & Wisdom of Star Trek in 2015. Gallery Books dipped its toes into parody with A Very Klingon Khristmas in 2013. And J.H. Haynes released the Star Trek: U.S.S. Enterprise Haynes Manual in 2010 and Star Trek: Klingon Bird of Prey Manual in 2012. These titles represent just a sample of the wide variety of still-in-print titles that have been tied to the Star Trek brand over the past five to 10 years.
CBS’s Kalodner sees more room for growth in novelty formats. “Star Trek has a great sense of humor, and this category works tremendously,” she says.
Make It So, Fans Say
Much of the commercial activity surrounding Star Trek, from publishing to promotions, is fan-driven. “These are people who like to be together and celebrate Star Trek together,” Kalodner explains.
As a result, the anniversary celebrations are built around fan events. San Diego Comic-Con will serve as a launchpad, with the property being featured in author panels, fan events, and the art exhibit. CBS is also expanding the Star Trek Convention schedule in 2016. In addition to its annual Las Vegas event, which will take place August 3–7 this year, it is adding Star Trek: Mission New York September 2–4 and Destination Star Trek Europe, in Birmingham, U.K., October 7–9.
Other events in the 50th anniversary year include Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, a live concert tour; Boldly Go: Exploring Star Trek, a science exhibition at the EMP Museum in Seattle; the Trek Talk lectures; the Starfleet Academy Experience, a touring science and technology exhibit opening in July at New York’s Intrepid museum; and Star Trek: The Cruise, which will set out in January 2017 from Miami.
Among other promotional activities, most Star Trek publishers with new titles will have a presence at the fan conventions. Paul Ruditis, author of The Star Trek Book, will be making appearances at SDCC and Star Trek: Mission New York, where he will sit on a panel titled “Beam Up the Authors” with Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe author Andrew Fazekas and Richard Michelson, author of Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy. Derek Tyler, a winner of the fan-fiction contest, will moderate.
Meanwhile, What Would Captain Kirk Do? author Brandon Snider is moderating a trivia panel at SDCC, with a signing afterward. Penguin will participate in the Las Vegas and New York fan conventions as well as piggybacking onto William Shatner’s anniversary appearance schedule.
On the retail side, Mysterious Galaxy, which regularly rotates Star Trek through its endcaps, is in discussions with IDW for a promotional partnership leading up to the September 8 anniversary. And Tattered Cover plans to set up display tables with 50th anniversary signage in its store later this summer.
Living Long and Prospering
Kalodner says the upcoming CBS All Access TV series will bring new opportunities for books, such as prequels, backstory, and expanded storytelling, about which she is already in discussions with show runner Bryan Fuller.
This is the strongest era for Star Trek, in terms of licensing and publishing, in at least a decade, according to Kalodner. Much of the growth is due to interest in the anniversary, this month’s movie release, the new TV series, and the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation next year. “We have event after event after event,” Kalodner says.
“One thing that makes Star Trek such a great license is that it’s such a rich universe,” Titan’s Edwards says. “There are so many places you can go with Star Trek books and still be creative and fresh. Fifty years in, that’s really quite an amazing thing to be able to say.”