The incredible success of The Dangerous Book For Boys is a phenomenon that nobody saw coming.
A book that was supposed to be a guide to hobbies and skills the authors thought might be dying out, actually turned out to be a blueprint for how to strike back against the sedentary, screen-based, health-and-safety-sanitised version of childhood everyone assumed had taken over.
In 2008, it seems, there’s nothing quite so modern as old-fashioned fun.
The authors, Conn and Hal Iggulden, were as surprised as anyone. Rob Wijeratna at brand agency Rocket, explains: “The book was first published in June 2006. The authors didn’t set out to sell loads of copies, they honestly thought this book was a personal take – a hobby book by two brothers in a shed – that no one would buy.
“The first print run was pretty small, but to everyone’s surprise, it struck a chord with a lot of people who are interested in the same things as them, who feel they’ve had enough of health and safety and of history being so anaemic it isn’t fun anymore. The book celebrates skills, crafts and knowledge.”
The result was that this book that no one would buy has sold one million copies in the UK and almost two million in the US.
Inevitably, there have been follow-ups and spin offs. The first, last year, was The Pocket Dangerous Book For Boys: Things To Do, stuffed with tips on everything from making a quill pen to tying knots.
Then came The Dangerous Book For Boys Yearbook, featuring a host of quirky historical facts and seasonal activities. Next up will be a new Pocket Book for Fathers Day.
The first venture for the Dangerous brand outside the book market will be board and travel games from Hasbro. Wijeratna says: “The board game is great fun, with a wonderful mechanic. Hasbro have done a great job in translating the brand. It will be fun for all the family this Christmas.”
Also due before Christmas are a range of magic trick sets from University Games, jigsaw puzzles from Susan Prescot Games and a calendar from Danilo. Further down the line there are plans for cards, stationery kits and apparel.
“We are talking to lots of potential licensees across a range of interesting product categories, which all allow the brand to be extended in fun and exciting ways. Most potential licensees will be signed up later on in the year,” says Wijeratna.
There will, however, be limits: “The authors are keen to ensure that all products reflect the brand’s core values and we always work closely with them on this. We therefore don’t expect to see The Dangerous Book For Boys video game coming out into the market anytime soon.”