'Publishing is the lynchpin for the Jacqueline Wilson property' says Start Licensing's Ian Downes

With over 100 published novels, Jacqueline Wilson’s publishing slate is constantly gowning. Now the brand is readying the new book release of Rent a Bridesmaid this year, and here Ian Downes, MD of Start Licensing, reveals what else is in store for the property.
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Can you tell me a bit about the publishing programme for Jacqueline Wilson?

The main focus for the publishing programme is Jacqueline Wilson's novels, and there are over 100 of them. A number of her novels have been published as a story arc, such as the Tracy Beaker series and the more recently published series featuring characters such as Opal Plumstead, Sapphire Battersea and Hetty Feather. Wilson's publisher's Random House are very proactive and her books are well promoted with trade and consumer PR.

Her next book is Rent a Bridesmaid out in early May, and like many of Wilson's books, this deals with core themes such as family and friendships.

A number of Wilson's novels have been developed into TV programmes and stage plays. These include The Illustrated Mum, the Tracy Beaker series and Hetty Feather.

Parragon has developed a number of kit-based books featuring Wilson's characters and Nick Sharrat's artwork. Whilst long standing licensee Top That has created a Friendship Bracelet Book and Kit, which has been in the market for a number of years.

Wilson also has an official magazine published monthly by DC Thomson. The magazine features original content including stories, activities, character profiles, crafting ideas and comes with some gift items.

Finally, there are also diaries and journals published by Random House, which complete the programme.

How important is the publishing market to the property?

Publishing is the lynchpin for the property. The books are extremely popular with a dedicated following – the new releases always make an impact in the bestseller charts and Wilson has a strong backlist. The books stand out on shelf and have a familiar style to them – with over 100 books to her name; Wilson's publishing pedigree is well proven.

Publishing is a strong foundation stone from which to launch licensing – it is visible, credible, well defined and has a frequency of activity, which means there is ongoing activity. Sales of Wilson's books are strong and they have established a strong following in the market. Her core audience is seven to 12-year-old girls, and the books are often shared between friends and become part of a girl's lifestyle and hobbies.

Are there any other licensing areas the brand will be tapping into in the future?

We are keen to develop and extend the brand's activities in the arts and crafts category. This seems like a logical step as a lot of the content in the magazine centres on craft activities. We would also love to get a dress up partner on board, as it would be a good fit with activities such as World Book Day.

We also think there could be potential in exhibitions, as there is already a successful Jacqueline Wilson exhibition in The Foundling Museum in London. This kind of activity could be replicated in other parts of the country. We also think that there is good scope for a gifting range for Christmas, perhaps creating composite gifts with special edition books.

Lastly, kit ideas such as Victorian games and crafts based around Hetty Feather would be another area. We have developed some visual concepts for these to stimulate discussion.

Which licensing partners are already on board for Jacqueline Wilson?

Licensing partners include Parragon and Top That for kit based books, DC Thomson for a magazine, Kenny Wax Productions for the Hetty Feather stage show, The Foundling Museum for an exhibition and related merchandise, Paul Lamond for a board game and jigsaw puzzles, GBEye for posters, Flametree for calendars, and Fun Stickers for Tracy Beaker stickers.

What are your plans for the brand throughout 2016?

The main focus will be the book releases – the next being Rent a Bridesmaid. This generally creates a buzz in the market. There will be TV with Hetty Feather on BBC, plus there are the monthly magazines from DC Thomson and the exhibition at the Foundling Museum. The Hetty Feather stage show is another plank in the activity programme.

We are looking to develop some more licensing partnerships and are looking into some new design ideas as well, for example grouping characters under a collective banner such as Jacqueline Wilson's Friends, and also evaluating the potential to create designs around some of the pets that have featured in the book series.

As a company we are always talking to new licensees and identifying new opportunities for the brand, for example stationery is an obvious category.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Jacqueline Wilson is a well-established publishing brand with a track record of success in licensing. She is extremely popular with girls aged from seven to 12 who trust her, respect her and enjoy reading her books.


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