I see that Despicable Me has a tie-in with IHOP—some kind of merchandise giveaway thing. Toy Story 3 has all kinds of merchandise and tie-ins at Walmart: from T shirts to action figures to characters’ images on boxes of crackers. All that’s to be expected. Hollywood long ago figured out how to promote and merchandise its movies for kids.
How come the kids’ book industry never does any of that? I realize the budgets are much smaller and the average print run of a book is a mere 10,000. Even so, wouldn’t those numbers increase if there were more aggressive marketing? Off the top of my head, the most successful kids’ book franchise lately has been Harry Potter. The HP promotion didn’t really get going, however, til the books got made into movies. The books had a huge following before the movies, but how did that happen? Captain Underpants, Walter the Farting Dog, Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Judy Moody—all the promotion for those successful titles seems to be internal, through point-of-purchase displays, in-store posters, or ads in Publishers’ Weekly or New York Review of Books. In other words, the promotion is aimed at people who already buy books, are inside the bookstore, or are in the book business. I don’t recall seeing those characters on snack food packages in Walmart.
I realize kids’ book budgets are small. But how much would it cost to insert a sticker or a temporary tattoo into a cereal box? How much to put a downloadable coloring sheet onto a kid-oriented website? How much to put a character on a T shirt or a mug and sell it on Cafè Press or Etsy?