License to Succeed?

Licensing deals have always been popular with publishers. As Publishing Technology COO Randy Petway astutely pointed out in his recent Publishing Perspectives article, “When sales are not something that can be planned for or predicted, publishers rely heavily on brand awareness through licensing deals, both to sell books and open new markets for intellectual property.”  Since the digital revolution, start-ups have taken to buying up licensed properties to give them a jump-start in the market – to such a degree that some people are wondering if a start-up needs licensed content in order to succeed.

It’s not shocking to hear that licensed products are dominating the children’s market, but the actual numbers and statistics are surprising. The 2014 Nielsen Children’s Book Industry Report noted that “the largest brands tend[ed] to center around a specific author, especially those with movies attached to their properties.” Of the top 20 titles sold from the third quarter of 2013 through the fourth quarter of 2014, 18 of them were attached to a movie, video game, or personality. The other two titles, If I Stay and Paper Towns, have since been made into movies.

More recently, Publishers Weekly reported that “global retail sales of licensed products saw a rise of 2% in 2015, to $158.8 billion.” Nielsen’s 2015 Book Market Report stated that 17 of the top 20 children’s bestsellers had some attachment to a movie, video game, or radio personality. The three exceptions were two Dr. Seuss titles and the board book Little Blue Truck.

It’s long been understood that blockbuster books can turn into movies. The obverse is also the case,  with movies, games, and personalities becoming books. This trend accounts for almost half of the top 20 bestseller lists in Nielsen’s 2014 and 2015 reports. This is especially evident with the sale of Frozen titles in 2015: the top 50 tie-ins in 2015 sold a total of 4,733,677 copies and of those top 50, 73% were Frozen titles. The next highest percentage were titles related to the Disney animated show Sofia the First at 3%. Numbers aren’t available for Star Wars licensed materials since the release of Force Awakens, but it seems likely that those numbers will displace Frozen as the highest percentage in 2016.

Almost 85% of the top 50 media-tie ins sold in 2015 were books published by one of the Big 5. That doesn’t mean that smaller publishers and startups aren’t finding their own space in the licensing market too. As Edda USA (a branch of a Nordic publishing company launched in the US in 2014) CEO Jax Olafsson put it, “The market is screaming for coordinated efforts in marketing and selling books supported by movie or brand,” which means there’s plenty of room for many publishers to take advantage.

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Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 2/1-2/5

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

The Guardian takes a look at books that aren’t publishable on paper.

Will the variety of new, attractive features on ereaders boost their sales?

Should ebook completion rate data compel authors to write their books differently?

What are the main challenges of selling direct-to-consumer?

Porter Anderson analyzes Authors United’s stance against Amazon.

People Round-Up, Early February 2016


F+W hired Tom Beusse as CEO. Beusse was formerly Founder and President of the USA Today Sports Media Group.

Margaret Milnes is now Marketing Director at Globe Pequot Press. She was most recently Senior Director, Brand Management at Running Press.

Cindy Ratzlaff has joined Simon & Schuster imprint North Star Way as Director of Brand Development. She was previously President of her agency Brand New Brand You Inc.

Becky Brasington Clark will become the Head of the Library of Congress Publishing Office in March. She was previously Director of Marketing at Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kaiulani Kaneta joined Penguin Random House as Associate Director, High School Marketing in its academic marketing department. Philip Stamper-Halpin joined PRH as Manager, Publishing Development and Author Platforms. He was Managing Editor at Kingston University Press. Lucy Silag is now Assistant Director of Publicity at Random House. She was previously Director of Book Country.

Janelle Gonzalez joined Little, Brown as Brand Analyst for Brand, Licensed, and Media Tie-In publishing. She most recently worked in the consumer products licensing department of the National Hockey League.

Jodi Hammerworld joined Chronicle Books as Associate Distribution Client Account Manager.

Porter Anderson is now Editor of Publishing Perspectives, taking over for Ed Nawotka, who has run the publication since 2009. Anderson was Associate Editor at FutureBooks.

At agencies, Maggie Riggs launched her own boutique agency for literary fiction, The Riggs Agency. She was Editor at Viking. . . Berta Treitl joined Renaissance Literary and Talent as Literary Agent. . . Stephanie Fretwell-Hill will join Red Fox Literary as Agent. She was Editor at Peachtree Publishers. . . Chris Lupo joined Chernin Entertainment as Book Scout. He was previously Senior Literary Scout at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. . . Christina Clifford joined Union Literary as Agent. She was previously an Agent at Aitken Alexander.

Chelsey Emmelhainz will join Skyhorse on February 8th as Editor for the Skyhorse and Arcade imprints.

Julie Wenersbach joined The Texas Book Festival as Literary Director. She was most recently Marketing Director at BookPeople.

Kat Meyer joined the Book Industry Study Group as Director, Content Development and Acquisition. Previously, she was Director, Events and Community Engagement at Publishers Weekly.

Dave Thornton joined David C Cook as VP, Strategic Partnerships. He was previously CEO at Gospel Light.

David Nuss joined Alternative Comics as Associate Publisher.

Caitlin Ellis joined BookBub as Account Manager. She was formerly Manager, Domestic Rights at HarperCollins.

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International Bestsellers, January 2016

Every month, Publishing Trends runs fiction international bestsellers lists from four territories–France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. This month, our four regular territories are joined by two more: Poland and South Africa. Those books that have been published in English are listed with their official English-language title. All others are translated as literally as possible from the original. Where applicable, the US publisher is listed after the local publisher, separated by a “/”. The lists are taken from major newspapers or national retailers, which are noted at the bottom of each list.







Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 1/25-1/29

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

Lee and Low released its Diversity Baseline Survey for 2015, which shows that publishing is mostly straight, non-disabled white women.

Why doesn’t speed reading work?

What does the future of publishing really look like?

What impact has Amazon’s uncollected sales taxes had on state and local governments?

Should publishers be producing less books?

Digital Book World’s Launch Kids: Looking Forward and Back

January is a great time to talk about children’s books, what with the aftermath of the MidWinter ALA and its accompanying Newbery, Caldecott, and other awards, presented earlier in the month.  While publishing for the adult market has its rewards and sense of community, children’s publishing has an infectious enthusiasm and sense of mission that is made manifest at ALA.

For four of its last five years, the Launch Kids conference has taken place in January – once on the actual day of ALA’s “Book Media Awards,” as they are collectively called.  As 2016 marks the fifth year of the Launch Kids conference (now held on March 7), we thought we would take the opportunity to look back — and forward — at changes in children’s books and media.

As many have noted, the digital world that we might have anticipated when we started these conferences in 2012 has not evolved much, at least for children’s books.

That’s not to say that children’s books haven’t been affected by the enormous changes of the last few years, from smartphone ubiquity to brand building through Instagram and Pinterest.  Rather, the effect has come in different ways than expected.  No, children don’t read that many ebooks, and no, online storytelling is not the only way teens read and write (though hats off to Wattpad for their continued success).  Subscriptions to downloadable ebook sites like Magic Town and MeeGenius didn’t take off in quite the way their founders had hoped, and interactive education has come a long way, but as Amplify found out, not as far as futurists had predicted.
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Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 1/18-1/22

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

Do used book stores help or hurt authors?

Book Business published their findings from their 2016 Trendspotting survey.

How have independent bookstores grown in the age of digital?

Are high-priced ebooks hurting publisher profits?

Should authors be paid a fee to appear at literary festivals?

People Round-Up, Mid-January 2016


Suzanne O’Neill will become VP, Executive Editor at Grand Central at the beginning of February. She was previously VP, Executive Editor at Crown.

Jane Manning Hyatt joined Chronicle Books as Executive Director of Sales. She was previously VP, Higher Education at Teachscape.

Laura Dew is now Creative Director at Quarto Publishing Group USA.

At literary agencies, Molly O’Neill joined Waxman Leavell Literary Agency as Agent. She was previously Head of Editorial at Storybird. . . Angela Scheff joined The Christopher Ferebee Agency as Agent. She was previously freelancing. Jana Burson has also joined The Christopher Ferebee Agency. She was previously Owner of The Burson Agency. . . Megan Reid is now Senior Scout for Adult Fiction and Nonfiction at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She was Associate Editor at Emily Bestler Books and Atria. . . MacKenzie Fraser-Bub has left her position as Agent at Trident Media Group to become an independent Agent. . . Molly Glick is now Agent in CAA’s books department, based in New York. She was previously Agent at Foundry Literary + Media, and will bring her clients over with her. . . Barbara Berson is now Agent at The Helen Heller Agency. She was most recently a Freelance Editorial Consultant. . . Margaret Sutherland Brown is now Agent at the Emma Sweeney Agency. She was most recently at Freelance Editor. . . Kent Wolf joined The Friedrich Agency as Agent and Foreign Rights Director. He was previously at Lippincott Massie and McQuilkin.

Ben Bruton launched his own book publicity firm Ben Bruton Literary. He was previously Senior Director, Publicity at William Morrow.

Eric Shoup joined Scribd as COO. He was previously Chief Product Officer at

David DeWitt joined Little Bee Books as Designer. He was previously Designer at Scholastic.

Paola Crespo is now Marketing Coordinator at Open Road Media. She was Publicity Assistant at Penguin Random House.

Jonathan Lee joined Catapult as Senior Editor. He was Editor at A Public Space.

Paul Fisher is now Senior Marketing Director, Fiction Books for HarperCollins Christian. He was previously  SVP, Marketing at THIEL Audio.

JD Wilson joined Northwestern University Press as Director of Marketing and Sales. He was previously Sales and Marketing Director at University of Alabama Press.

Nicole Pavlas joined Worthy Publishing as Director of Publicity. She was Publicist at HarperCollins Christian.

Matt Harris joined Vearsa as Head of Sales. He was Director of Business Development at LibreDigital.

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Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 1/11-1/15

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

What outside forces significantly shape publishing today?

A scientist explains why adult coloring books are so popular.

How do movies make better writers?

Do interactive ebooks help or hinder students in the classroom?

Studies show that popular historical books published in the US and UK are overwhelmingly written by men.

Amazon and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year Abroad

A recent article in The Telegraph calls 2015 “the year Amazon delivered on its founder’s vision.” The reporter James Titcomb explains that in 2015 Amazon grew to double its share price, finally became profitable, and is now “almost untouchable as an online retailer” due to its streamlined delivery  service. While it’s been a good year in many respects, the company has also had its share of troubles – facing government investigations, employee strikes, and new privacy laws in Europe.

Here’s a timeline of Amazon’s problems in Europe in 2015:

January 16, 2015

The European Union’s antitrust office (the European Commission) releases a preliminary report that the tax deal established between Amazon and Luxembourg’s government in 2003 gave unfair state aid and could have enabled Amazon to underpay its taxes. (Note: countries in the European Union can offer businesses low tax rates, but must offer all deals to every company. To not offer the same tax rates to Amazon’s competitors makes this a possible case of illegal state aid.) The investigation into this allegation began in October 2014 and included other multi-national companies like Apple and Starbucks, but this is the first announcement of any findings. Amazon and Luxembourg’s Finance Ministry “deny any special tax treatment or benefits” and say all allegations are unsubstantiated.

May 1, 2015

Amazon announces that it has begun reporting revenue from its operations in Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain differently. Previously, Amazon reported this revenue via Luxembourg and Ireland for lower taxes. This change will have Amazon paying higher taxes in the aforementioned countries, therefore taking away more from its profits. Amazon says these changes were in the works for the past two years and that the EU’s investigation has no bearing on it. Ireland announces that it will phase out the tax arrangement that Amazon has, called the “Double Irish,” entirely after pressure from other European Union members.

June 11, 2015

The European Commission begins an antitrust investigation into “whether Amazon used its dominant position in the region’s ebooks market to favor its own products over rivals,” according to the New York Times. It reportedly did so by including clauses in contracts with European publishers to inform it if they ever offered more favorable terms for ebooks to other digital retailers. The article says that Amazon “has been estimated to sell about eight out of every 10 e-books in Britain. In Germany, the market share is just under half,” which brings into question whether these clauses are too anti-competition.

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