How can you ensure children will grow up to be dedicated viewers of your popular documentary program for adults? Start weaning them on the print equivalent of the show now. That’s the strategy A&E has employed by signing a four-year deal with Lerner Publishing to develop a series of kids books based on its flagship program Biography.
‘What we’re trying to do with the books is to get kids more aware of what Biography is, to start building that audience, to let them know that the brand is out there,’ says Jonathan Paisner, manager of consumer product development at A&E.
As per the deal, Lerner Publishing will release 12 books a year, six in the spring and six in the fall, beginning this September. The books, targeted to boys and girls ages nine to 12, are being branded as Biography product, but bear little resemblance to A&E’s show Biography for Kids. In fact, the word `kids’ doesn’t appear anywhere on the book covers, a deliberate move by A&E to avoid appearing too patronizing towards their target demographic, says Paisner.
Like the show for adults, the books take as their subjects the lives of the famous and the infamous. A&E and Lerner, however, tried to stay away from the old faithfuls of biography books for kids-the Ben Franklins and Abe Lincolns, for example-and instead opted for more contemporary subjects, with an emphasis on women and multicultural figures. The first six titles include black tennis legend Arthur Ashe, talk show host Rosie O’Donnell, secretary of state Madeleine Albright, president of South Africa Nelson Mandela and women in space.
All the titles will be released first as hard covers (US$21), and are initially being distributed exclusively through U.S. schools and libraries. Trade paperback versions (US$10) will follow, which will be available at all mass and specialty stores in one-year intervals following the release of the hard-cover books. Lerner is currently developing a Biography series of titles for kids nine and under, to be released in the spring of next year.
A&E is promoting the Biography books on its Web site (www.A&E.com), through Biography Magazine, and by including promo literature in the curriculum packages for the edu-TV program Cable In the Classroom, which it sends out to 70,000 teachers and librarians twice a year.