Bookspan's Children's Book-of-the-Month Club will roll out BookPlanet this month, its new direct-mail club aimed at readers age six to 12. This marks the first time the 14-year-old CBOMC has targeted mailings specifically to this age group. In the past, offerings for elementary- and middle school—age children were included in the CBOMC's general catalogue. BookPlanet's mailings include full-color, 24-page catalogues that present book selections by theme (such as science, poetry, fiction series and Newbery Medal and Honor books) and by age (some pages earmark books for readers "6—9," others books for readers "9—12"). Sprinkled throughout are excerpts from various titles as well as brief reviews written by children, often accompanied by a photo of the reviewer. Inserted in the mailings is a 12-page flyer presenting books for youngsters under the age of six, as well as inserts announcing special sales or offers.

David Allender, who was editor-in-chief of CBOMC when the test mailings for BookPlanet began (and who is now, in his words, "the kids' book guy" at Workman), explained that "the thought was that we could better serve club members by having two clubs, giving each club a separate identity. But this is far bigger than simply having separate catalogues, since the BookPlanet catalogue reaches out to kids with the book reviews written by their peers and targeted features."

Shelley Pierce, who replaced Allender and is now editor-in-chief of CBOMC and BookPlanet, noted that the responses from the older club's test mailings have been "absolutely wonderful," crediting the age-appropriate focus of BookPlanet's mailings for the success of the club. "School-age kids have no interest in wading through the baby and toddler books in our CBOMC catalogue," Pierce said. "They want to get right to the books that they want to read, and the BookPlanet catalogue lets them do that. We're very excited about the inclusion of reviews by kids, since it makes the books that much more relevant to the members."

The CBOMC's branching out through BookPlanet, according to editor Liz Fleming, gives the club the chance to expand the breadth and quantity of titles for the six-to-12 age group, which she hopes will help equalize the balance of the club's membership. "Historically, 70% of CBOMC's membership has been children under six," Fleming said, "and we know from our research that there is great potential for expanding the market in the older age groups. Now that we can offer more selections for readers over the age of six, we hope to shift that percentage so that it is spread more evenly across the board."

Pierce explained that all CBOMC members in the six-to-12 age range will automatically receive the new club's mailings and that the company has "a very active new member recruitment program" to spread word of BookPlanet. "There are a finite number of baby magazines and baby marketing vehicles, which we have certainly taken advantage of," Pierce said, "but there are more ways to reach school-age kids, and that marketing universe has greater growth potential. We hope to use our existing marketing alliances and establish new ones reach the literally millions of kids out there."

BookPlanet's schedule of mailings (each goes to between two and three million names) matches CBOMC's traditional cycle of 19 mailings annually. The target size for the new club is between 200,000 and 400,000 members over the next two to four years (CBOMC has a current membership of approximately 500,000). In addition to enlarging the membership base, Pierce is looking forward to expanding the selection of titles for the targeted age group. "Nonfiction has traditionally been the club's bestselling genre, and we are focusing on selecting books in this area that make learning fun," she said. "BookPlanet allows us to offer the latest fiction, which hasn't really been the focus of CBOMC. We will, of course, offer books that parents feel comfortable with, but the books will also be those that are exciting to kids—there will be some wild and weird titles that may not have been associated with CBOMC in the past."

Mel Parker, Bookspan's senior v-p and editorial director, noted that BookPlanet is currently performing on target and he expects "that this club will grow over time and become a significant percentage of our children's business. CBOMC is among the largest clubs at Bookspan, and in the universe of our clubs is a very important contributor. I believe that the establishment of BookPlanet will be a very positive turning point in CBOMC's overall growth. Our rationale was that by offering more books to an older age group we could allow kids to grow up with our clubs. So far the response has been great."