Publisher Creates Sports Fans for Life

Almost 10 years ago, Holly Preston, a former Canadian Broadcasting Company journalist, was attending a game played by the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League, of which she was a season ticket holder. She looked around and noticed how many children were there and realized she had never seen any Rough Riders children’s books that would appeal to this young fan base, especially the reluctant readers among them. So she approached the club and secured the license to write and produce The Always Team, published in 2010. Her company, A Fan for Life, has now published five Rough Riders titles, and has quickly expanded its licensing activities to encompass other sports and collegiate properties.

After The Always Team came out, Preston approached the Winnipeg Jets, the NHL team in neighboring Manitoba, which led to a book called The Home Team in 2012, later followed by a second title, White Out. The relationship with the Jets in turn resulted in an NHL license in 2013; books have been released to date for all five of the league’s Canadian and six of its U.S. teams, as well as one title featuring all of the NHL mascots. A Fan for Life also has published two books for college teams, U.S.C. and Notre Dame, after the former approached Preston at the Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show.

The NHL titles are sold at the teams’ rinks and on ShopNHL.com, on BN.com, and through Chapters and Indigo stores in Canada, as well as at baby stores such as West Coast Kids. “I didn’t realize these would be so popular as baby gifts,” Preston said.

It was also at the Sports Licensing Show that Preston met Masterpieces, a game and puzzle manufacturer that holds licenses for the major pro sports leagues. That company is now collaborating with A Fan for Life to distribute Home Team-branded books for football teams across the U.S., under Masterpieces’ licensing agreement with the NFL. The first titles will release this fall. Masterpieces is also in talks with Major League Baseball and additional college teams about similar arrangements.

Each Home Team title highlights teamwork, community, and good sportsmanship. “The books have a message for passionate sports fans about learning to lose as well as win,” Preston said. “It’s about staying positive and realizing you might win next year.” Each also has a girl in a key role, such as the leading scorer in the hockey books or the place kicker in the football titles, something that parents and grandparents appreciate. Most of the books follow a basic story template, but are customized to incorporate appropriate jerseys and mascots, the team’s major rival, and some local superstitions and landmarks.

Preston is also working with Ingram to make available personalized versions of existing NHL titles.

Sourcebooks Catches a Licensing Agent

Sourcebooks is launching an outbound licensing program based on some of its leading brands, appointing agency Moxie Company to oversee brand extensions into merchandise, digital and mobile media, and direct-to-retail partnerships.

“We have a number of brands we’re developing that are really resonating with people,” said Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks. “We want to reach readers in a lot of different formats and give customers new ways to explore the books, content, and authors they love. Our goal is to get our authors’ message out as broadly as humanly possible.”

The effort will start with book series including Baby University, How to Catch…., and Marianne Richmond, but other titles, such as My Name Is Isabella, are being considered as well. Properties are identified as having licensing potential based on a number of factors, including strong sales and customer affinity, the willingness of the author to participate in licensing, and a unique voice, Raccah said.

The Baby University series by Chris Ferrie, which includes Quantum Physics for Babies, Rocket Science for Babies, ABCs of Science, and Goodnight Lab, among others, has sold more than 700,000 copies in its first 10 months on the market. “They’re quirky and fun and great,” said Laura Becker, a founding partner at Moxie, adding, “I’m learning a lot from them.” Potential categories include educational and other toys, puzzles and games, craft and activity sets, apparel and pajamas, layette, strollers and cribs, and nursery décor, as well as consumer promotions. The books are for babies and their caregivers, but Becker thinks the brand, with its STEM focus, could lend itself to products for children up to age seven.

The bestselling How to Catch… series by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton, which includes How to Catch a Leprechaun, How to Catch an Elf, How to Catch the Easter Bunny, How to Catch the Tooth Fairy, and How to Catch a Monster, with more to come, will lend itself to ventures such as plush, puzzles, games, activity kits, promotions, home goods, gifts, and ornaments for kids ages 3–8, Becker said.

Licensing for Marianne Richmond, meanwhile, will focus on gifts for mothers, such as ornaments, baby books, figurines, and the like. “She has sold six million books,” Raccah reported. “That’s comparable to a lot of the big names in the marketplace. And she really expresses so much that people want to say.”

The new corporate outbound licensing effort is part of a 360-degree brand management plan for Sourcebooks’ key franchises. The company is repackaging some of its top series, including Richmond’s books, for example, has retained The Gotham Group to oversee film and television projects based on its titles, and hired an in-house brand manager to oversee the expansion of its properties.

“We’re in a new phase of our organization,” Raccah said, reporting that sales were up 18% last year and 35% so far this year. “We’re having an extraordinary moment.”

New Licensing Representation for Geddes

Becker Associates has secured IP licensing rights to the Anne Geddes brand and plan to help reignite interest in the property by developing and licensing toys, games, puzzles, plush, costumes, infant apparel, underwear, swimwear, sleepwear, and room décor, among other products—all featuring the imagery of the Australian photographer, who has created many books across many formats over the years.

“Her pictures are instantly recognizable, especially at the thumbnail scale that now dominates the digital landscape, and they elicit strong emotion,” said Patti Becker, founder and president of Becker Associates. She noted that Geddes’s photos were recently highlighted in a Jimmy Fallon bit on The Tonight Show, showing their pop-culture relevance. “We just feel her images are so timely. They’re cute and funny, but they’re also about the human race and new beginnings.”

Geddes’s brand already has generated more than $1 billion in retail sales over the past 20-plus years, with her work having been featured on everything from toys, infant bedding, diaper bags, mugs, and balloons to toiletries, credit cards, candles, and greeting cards. One recent venture is a pearl jewelry collection highlighting the bond between mother and infant, which launched at Kay Jewelers last holiday season.

Geddes’s 1996 book Down in the Garden (Cedco) was a New York Times bestseller and launched her career. She has since published six more coffee table books, including Taschen’s Small World, a retrospective of the photographer’s work, released last year. Geddes’s calendars (from Andrews McMeel) have been published for 27 consecutive years, while other publishing formats have ranged from baby diaries to board books. In 2017, Geddes was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

In Brief

Spotlight Licensing and Brand Management is representing the classic British title The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady for licensing in North America. U.K.-based The Copyrights Group owns the property…. Jakks Pacific has signed on as the master toy licensee for Fancy Nancy, the book-based preschool TV series airing on Disney Junior…. Author Debbie Macomber has signed a deal with TCG for a collection of puzzles with imagery by folk artist Harry Wysocki and fantasy artist Miharu…. Bulldog Licensing will represent Fiona Watts’s That’s Not My… touchy-feely board book series, published by Usborne, for licensing worldwide. The U.K. market, where Bulldog is based, has accounted for a quarter of the 20 million books sold globally…. Separately, Bulldog signed a license with publisher Centum for books, including annuals, tied to Match Attax, a soccer-themed trading card game…. Moxie Company is adding Yellow Kayak by Nina Laden and Melissa Castrillon to the roster of Simon Schuster properties it represents for licensing…. Klutz has acquired the rights to eOne’s Peppa Pig, which airs on Nick Jr. in the U.S., for activity kits; sister company Scholastic Trade is the master publishing licensee for Peppa…. Chronicle Books is following up Star Trek Cats, illustrated by Jenny Parks, with Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats, released in March…. Author/illustrator Mary Engelbreit and her licensing agent The Brand Liaison signed a deal with Looney Labs for Mary Engelbreit versions of its Fluxx and Loonacy games….Fox Chapel is expanding its Vera Bradley license into gift wrap and has signed a deal with Epic Rights for journals tied to the Woodstock music festival….. Board game maker Winning Moves is making a Roald Dahl Monopoly set.