Booking On It

Publishing deals continue to reflect the latest trends.

Those who believe that publishing is a dying business, losing in the war against interactive media, would have been surprised by the show of strength the industry displayed at Licensing International. By capitalizing on the latest trends, publishing continues to be a force to be reckoned with and the future looks strong as well.

"Retailers are looking for brands and the stability they offer," says Michael Carlisle, co-founder and principal of The Wildflower Group, which represents the Peter Rabbit and other Beatrix Potter properties. "They want strong content that performs beyond the hype," Peter Rabbit, the star of The Tale of Peter Rabbit—the first of 23 stories that make up The World of Beatrix Potter—is one of the longest-running licensed literary characters in history. The classic property embarks on a new initiative in the U.S. market with the launch of Peter Rabbit Naturally Better, which focuses on socially responsible and earth-friendly products. First up is a line of organic and healthy food choices from Peter Rabbit Organics, which are expected to hop into retail in September.

The line will feature 12 fruit-based multigrain snacks with no added cane or refined sugars. Fruit and cereal bars, mini chewy cookies, and several innovative new-to-market varieties of fruit snacks will be offered. The entire range will be organic, with no added salt, trans fats, artificial additives or preservatives.

The company first introduced Peter Rabbit Organics to an enthusiastic UK marketplace in 2003 and is already an active leader in fighting childhood obesity. The deal was brokered by The Copyrights Group, which is the worldwide agent for The World of Beatrix Potter, which worked with its North American agent The Wildflower Group.

"Peter Rabbit Naturally Better is a brand with classic roots in the Beatrix Potter stories, and it's on-target with today's environmental or green themes," says Carlisle.

Adds Diane Cain, director of consumer products marketing at Penguin, "Environmentalism is trending strongly in many industries, including children's publishing. A YA edition of Al Gore's best-selling book, An Inconvenient Truth, was published earlier this year by Viking/Rodale Books." And, in conjunction with the Peter Rabbit Naturally Better licensing initiative, Frederick Warne & Co, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., has begun producing the Original Peter Rabbit Books using FSC accredited paper. "Being environmentally friendly is a mandate that corporate America is answering in many varied and creative ways," Cain says.

Going to Retail

In other publishing news, Charlie and Lola, the adorable brother-sister pair created by author Lauren Child, announced several new licensing agreements. Through a recent partnership with Children's Apparel Network, clothing is currently available via the Ty's Toy Box Web site. A Fall 2007 retail launch also is in the works. Via an agreement with Penguin Young Readers Group, new book titles will debut in the fall at major book chains such as Barnes and Noble and Borders. Some titles are currently available at Target. In the fall, BBC Video will introduce DVDs at major retailers such as Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Circuit City, and Target.

Another supporter of publishing deals is Act III Licensing, which represents best-selling children's book author and illustrator Karen Katz, who has written more than 22 books including Where is Baby's Belly Button? A collection of infant and toddler apparel is currently available in specialty stores through an agreement with World Apparel Group, and Small World Toys is introducing developmental toys in September at specialty and bookstores. A recent deal with BabyFirst TV will result in an animated storytime show that will debut in the fall on BabyFirst TV's 24-hour cable channel for infant programming. Katz aims to expand into stationery, specifically partyware for baby showers and first-birthday parties. Infant and toddler games and gift sets are another key area of interest.

"In general, we see direct-to-retail as a growing force in the industry," says Aviva Rosenthal, partner, Act III Licensing. "For many of our clients, direct-to-retail is the main option as it's the best way to guarantee a wide product assortment, real marketing commitments, and proper merchandising."

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