Ever since Running Press was founded in Philadelphia as an independent publisher in 1972 by Buz and Larry Teacher, the company has held a unique place in the industry. With its Miniature Editions, humor books, and kits, RP, which was acquired by Hachette in 2016, has always been a place where editors and marketers have been encouraged to think outside of the box. That philosophy hasn’t changed under the direction of Kristin Kiser, who has been heading the division since 2015.
“We aren’t changing the philosophy,” Kiser said. “In fact, we are taking what Running Press has always done and doing more of it.” She explained that RP is taking some of its most successful books and turning them into new items, a strategy designed to provide “multiple touch points” for retailers. “We want to give accounts options for trying a new author,” she added.
That practice extends to RP’s biggest success in the past few years: You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, which has sold more than two million copies. Fans of the book can, or will soon be able to, buy a Badass deluxe edition, talking button, posters, note cards, and sticky notes.
Some of those products are being created by RP Studio, an imprint newly formed by Kiser, who sees the unit’s creation as a way to enhance its presence in the gift market.“We want to be a publisher for all retail channels,” she noted. RP Studio, headed by Shannon Connors Fabricant, will do eight products this year and Kiser expects the line to create 25–30 products annually. The products—which will include journals, notebooks, postcard books, sticky notes, and formats such as coaster books—will keep to the RP style, which Kiser described as “irreverent, quirky, and joyful.”
In addition to Badass, other RP properties with new spin-offs—either from RP Studio or as part of the usual RP process—include Tim Federle’s Tequila Mockingbird, Practical Magic by Nikki Van De Car, and various items from the Bob Ross estate.
RP also continues to build authors in traditional ways—like publishing more books. After Tequila Mockingbird sold more than 300,000 copies, for example, RP decided to it up this October with Federle’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margarita.
Kiser is expanding Running Press Kids’ offerings as well. She said she is not interested in doing “dark young adult novels” but rather wants to focus on titles that fit the RP ethos. In that vein, in October, RP will publish The Kids Book of Hand Lettering, which features 20 projects for children. The company has also signed Amber Kelley, who has a YouTube channel, Cook with Amber, and her own series on the Food Network’s website, to write Cook with Amber: Fresh, Fun Recipes to Get You in the Kitchen. Licensing remains a part of RP Kids’ business, and in September it will release a Disney Emoji-a-Day flip chart featuring Disney characters. Disney Princess Fun to Learn Flip Book is also set for September.
Kiser is also applying the RP touch, in certain instances, to the Black Dog Leventhal imprint, which was made part of RP last fall, just ahead of the December 31 retirement of founder J.P. Leventhal. “We see some immediate opportunities to create a full range of experiences for BDL titles,” Kiser said. For example, RP Studio is developing stationery inspired by Theodore Gray’s 1.5 million–copy seller The Elements.
But, Kiser said, BDL’s core will not change. The imprint is having “a great year,” she noted, led in part by sales gains in its Get Ready for School series. Kiser has also commissioned two more books in the series that will be released in 2019. “BDL does series very well,” she added.
For the fall, Kiser has high hopes for The Book of Books, the tie-in to the PBS series The Great American Read, which BDL will release in September. The company has a first printing of 50,000. BDL’s most ambitious project, however, is the publication of The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, a two-volume set. The title is priced at $100 and is set for release October 2, and RP has done a first printing of 125,000 copies.
Kiser cited the two fall projects as “great examples of what BDL does so well”: presenting visual information for intellectually curious readers. “We want to continue to publish books that are immersive, surprising, content rich, and completist—that will stand the test of time,” she said, adding that she also intends to grow BDL’s illustrated reference list “to meet the needs of today’s readers, who expect to get their information accompanied by photos and illustrations, and who crave beautiful books that provide a satisfying counterpoint to our digital lives.”
It’s no accident that a number RP’s biggest books are set for release in the fall. Though the fourth quarter is critical to all publishers, it is especially important for RP, whose list features books and other merchandise that make great presents. “We are really cranking up for the fourth quarter,” Kiser noted.
Kiser said her priorities beyond 2018 are to develop more intellectual property, since controlling its own IP is a key to RP’s business model. “We have lots of homegrown projects that make it easier to extend product lines,” she added. Giving BDL greater international exposure is another 2019 objective, as is solidifying RP Studio’s business.