“Intellectual property developers are always on the lookout for good publishing content to develop as books offer a track record which takes away an element of risk,” says Random House Children’s Books publisher, Fiona Macmillan.
“This is also very appealing to TV and film production companies who are looking for more guaranteed audience and sustainability. We certainly feel publishing continues to be a very important driver of licensing and an interesting arena for growth and development.”
Random House Children’s Books is a company of the Random House Group. Merged with Transworld Children's books in November 2001, it ranks amongst the top five children's publishers in the UK.
The five Random House Children's Books hardback imprints (David Fickling, The Bodley Head, Jonathan Cape, Doubleday and Hutchinson) and two paperback imprints (Corgi and Red Fox) are publish many writers and illustrators. Classic names in illustration include Quentin Blake, Helen Cooper, Shirley Hughes, John Burningham and Babette Cole, and writers such as Jacqueline Wilson, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Philip Pullman and Roald Dahl amongst many others. Both licensed in and licensed out, the firm also boasts some strong properties in its portfolio, including Gogo’s Crazy Bones, Pocoyo, Shrek, Merlin, Milkshake and many more. Natalie Barnes, licensing commissioning editor explains: “Originally the licensing programme started out with titles like Balamory, Milkshake, Hanna’s Helpline, Pocoyo, Ugly Betty and Thumb Wrestling, whereby Random House Children’s Books quickly established itself as a force in the licensing market.”
More recent acquisitions have included the Dreamworks publishing which will start with the film tie-in books for Shrek Forever After and the next six movies, including Megamind, released later this year.” As well as acting as licensee, the firm has, from the outset, traded in properties. Barnes continues: “Characters such as Princess Poppy, who has sold in excess of two million books, have been nurtured within Random House Children’s Books into their own brand. “In the Young Fiction arena we have seen similar success with our unique Astrosaurs series by Steve Cole.”
Both methods have their own merits as Macmillan explains: “A lot of books need to be pushed into the media arena for merchandising to really kick off. A TV series can have mass appeal and give the tie-in publishing a bigger shout at retailer space, advertising and marketing too which is all great. “I do think a published idea will continue to have longevity and be less prone to time sensitivity compared to other forms of media, especially film, which does tend to have a limited shelf life in the market place. However, I believe a property which is well managed can exist for a long time.”
Over the past year, the team has been strengthening the licensing programme and continues to see growth and is now actively seeking to acquire new licences across all age groups.
One of the most successful over the last year, has been the Gogo’s publishing programme. Barnes explains: “We pioneered the format and outsold other publishing or this property. The toys have had massive success and the books mirrored the collectability. “The Gogo’s handbook exceeded our expectations and was supported by all major supermarkets. And we have high hopes for our range of Shrek titles that are in all good bookshops now.”
To deal with the growing programme and to continue in the same vein, the firm now has a dedicated editorial and design team who work specifically on acquiring a comprehensive profile of licences.
Macmillan continues: “We will continue to make significant acquisitions in all age groups of children’s publishing and expand the range of formats that we dedicate to our licensing list. It’s an exciting time for us at Random House Children’s Books.”