Books and Bonus Content

Book and comic book publishers have long sought some sort of added value to differentiate their licensed titles from their competitors’, give retailers something exclusive, and entice consumers.

These perks historically have been likely to take forms such as premiums (e.g., crayons or collectible toys) affixed to the cover; design elements (foil or sparkles, a giant trim size); or codes to unlock digital content (author video, gaming app, bonus short story). The use of such techniques crosses almost every publishing format, from coloring books and 8×8 storybooks to “making of” titles and board books.

As enhancements like these have become more and more commonplace, however, publishers are looking for new and different ways to move beyond the traditional techniques. In many cases, this means working with their licensors to provide some sort of unique and desirable premium content. A few of many recent examples:

• BBC Books is publishing a Doctor Who paper doll collection in the U.K. that features behind-the-scenes costume secrets and cosplay tips from Christel Dee, presenter of Doctor Who: The Fan Show, in addition to 26 dolls and 50 outfits.

• Viz Media is incorporating a manga story, never seen outside of Japan, into The Art of Pokémon Adventures, which marks the property’s 20th anniversary.

• Lerner Publishing Group is adding back matter to its new Crayola educational books that matches elements in the large color photos featured throughout each title with the exact Crayola crayon color needed to reproduce them.

• Abrams’ new middle-grade fiction series tied to the CW TV shows The Flash and Supergirl boast illustrated covers by pop-culture poster artist César Moreno, to create an element of collectability and freshness.

• Dark Horse’s The Art of Over the Garden Wall, based on a Cartoon Network mini-series, includes a large quantity of interpretive art and the full imagery from the mini-series pilot, Tome of the Unknown: Harvest Melody, in addition to the typical screen assets and interviews with creators and production staff.

• Random House published a prequel novel centering on the character Harper, seen in the film only briefly, among the 13 books on the launch list for its DreamWorks/Universal-licensed Trollz tie-in program.

It is relatively easy for competitors to emulate traditional bonus items, such as crayons or an educational gaming app, albeit often with a twist that makes sense for a specific property. It is more difficult, however, for competitors to replicate supplemental material like the initiatives listed here, since each is based on content that is integral and unique to a given property. Not only that, but these efforts entail bonus material that truly piques the interest of consumers—especially the most loyal fans—and that they will continue to treasure.

If you are interested in keeping up with trends in licensed publishing, subscribe to PW Children’s Bookshelf, a free e-newsletter from Publishers Weekly. Most of Karen Raugust’s PW columns, news, and features about licensed publishing (click here for a list) appear in Bookshelf.

Meanwhile, the next issue of Raugust Communications’ free e-newsletter comes out next Tuesday (September 19). The Licensing Topic of the Month addresses how licensors, licensees, and retailers—beyond just sports—are positioning themselves for “hot markets” opportunities, while the Datapoint feature compares the number of traditional versus streaming-only TV properties currently available for licensing. If you do not already receive this monthly publication, subscribe here. If you are not yet receiving RaugustReports twice a week in your email in-box, you can sign up at the same link.

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