We chat to Hachette Children’s Group’s licensing director Katie Price about a bumper year.
Firstly, how has the licensing arm of Hachette performed in general over the past 12 months? What have been your top sellers?
The last 12 months at Hachette Children’s Books (HCG) has been a whirlwind of exciting acquisitions and I am really proud of our varied and impressive portfolio of brands. The highlights for me have been PJ Masks, The Powerpuff Girls, Pokémon and seeing the sales of My Little Pony go from strength to strength. Pokémon has obviously been a phenomenon across the board but book sales continue to be huge and we have now sold over 200K across four titles, in only six months. It doesn’t show any sign of waning either which is great news. The My Little Pony Annual, My Little Pony Book and Plush and My Little Pony Creative Colouring titles all sold incredibly well in the lead up to Christmas.
What do you have coming up for the rest of 2017 in your portfolio? Are there any new acquisitions that you can tell us about?
2017 sees the launch of The Powerpuff Girls and Dinotrux in May and PJ Masks in August. We have had retailers calling us asking when they can get hold of the books which is a great position to be in – everyone is very excited about these brands.
We are also publishing a range of children’s books in partnership with the National Gallery this summer. We launch with a title called Picture This which is a children’s guide to the gallery. There are more announcements to come later this month.
How has the licensing strategy at Hachette changed since you came on board, Katie? How many are in the team? Are you looking to expand on this at all?
Our strategy regarding licensing is to be a top three publisher in the industry for licensed characters and to be known for our high-quality and original publishing, which we can get to market really quickly. I want to acquire a broad range of licences from a variety of sources so that we have book for every child, whatever their age, reading stage or interest.
We have recently hired a fabulous new licensing assistant called Rachael Jones, who has made a huge difference to the day-to-day running of our licensed publishing team but we are still a relatively small team – comprising of myself, Karen Lawler and Rachael. Karen focuses a lot of her time on the licensing out of our own IP, where we have some exciting film, TV and stage show deals coming through.
What do you look for in a licence?
Good storytelling is obviously extremely important from a publishing point of view, so we look for brands with strong characters, from which we can develop good stories and we want brands that stand the test of time. A good TV platform is still important, but no longer the be all and end all – the traditional acquisition model has changed and licences are now originating from so many different places. YouTubers have real influence and we have recently enjoyed working with Tiana of Toys andMe.
Do you have a target list of licences you would like to work with?
We’d like to publish more big film tie-in titles, more annuals and I’m really interested in other publishing opportunities around gaming.
Are there any categories (such as preschool, teen, etc) that you would like to expand in your portfolio?
We recently launched our new preschool and baby imprint called Pat-a-Cake which is where PJ Masks and other preschool brands will sit. We have acquired another TV brand recently, soon to be announced, but we still have space for something else.
How healthy is the licensed publishing sector in general at the moment, in your opinion?
There has been some decline in the sector overall with the likes of Frozen and Minecraft dropping off. However, PAW Patrol, Pokémon and LEGO are definitely filling the gaps. There are a lot of come-back retro brands which haven’t performed as well as hoped, but it’s great to see new shows taking off.
What would you most like to achieve in the licensing space by the end of 2017?
I would like to see PJ Masks give PAW Patrol a run for its money in terms of publishing, for Pokémon to continue to sell well across a wider range of formats – we have four fiction titles coming out in June – and dominate the gaming publishing space and for The Powerpuff Girl to show that they are super cute and super fierce and that our original fiction will be a big success with fans.