Millbrook Press, which has labored to find a profitable niche in the children's book market for years, is planning to sell its two library imprints, Millbrook Press and Twenty-First Century Books, to focus on its trade imprint Roaring Brook Press. Dave Allen, Millbrook president and CEO, said the company decided to sell the two imprints because of "the continued decline in the school library market." Allen said Millbrook is "fully behind" its Roaring Brook imprint, whose books it will continue to sell to the trade and library markets. Roaring Brook's first list was in spring 2002; it won the Caldecott Medal early this year for Eric Rohmann's My Friend Rabbit.
Allen said the decision to divest the library imprints is the "continuation of the plan" started earlier this year in which the company began putting more of its resources behind its trade operation, closing unprofitable lines—Copper Beech and Magic Attic—and scaling back the library imprints. With conditions in the library market remaining difficult, Allen said that rather than "compromise the entire operation, I picked the business that has the best potential for growth." Roaring Brook will publish about 40 titles per year and has estimated annual sales of about $3 million. It will continue to be directed by Simon Boughton.
In preparation for the sale, Millbrook laid off marketing, production and back-office staff whose primary focus was on the imprints that will be divested. There were no cuts in Millbrook/Twenty-First Century editorial staff, led by Jean Reynolds. Roaring Brook's staff was untouched by the layoffs, Allen said.
The sale will involve about 1,600 backlist titles, about half of which are active titles. Allen speculated that, depending on the timing of the deal, there will be "a limited number or no spring titles" released from Millbrook/Twenty-First Century. The sale is being handled by Robin Warner of the van Tulleken Company in New York. Among the possible buyers are Scholastic, WRC Media and Haights Cross.