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Gonzo grammar: Penguin ups the ante on kids book marketing

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the grammar-themed New York Times bestseller by Lynne Truss, will soon have a younger, picture-filled bookshelf companion. In late July, Penguin Young Readers Group will release a kids version of the non-fiction title - a 32-page hardcover picture book geared to six and ups. At a time when fantasy fiction rules the kids publishing roost, turning tykes onto the Ps & Qs of punctuation might be somewhat of an uphill battle for Penguin. So the publisher is dipping heavily into its marketing pot to get kids excited about grammar, (yes, grammar) and set the book on the road to bestsellerdom.
April 1, 2006

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the grammar-themed New York Times bestseller by Lynne Truss, will soon have a younger, picture-filled bookshelf companion. In late July, Penguin Young Readers Group will release a kids version of the non-fiction title – a 32-page hardcover picture book geared to six and ups. At a time when fantasy fiction rules the kids publishing roost, turning tykes onto the Ps & Qs of punctuation might be somewhat of an uphill battle for Penguin. So the publisher is dipping heavily into its marketing pot to get kids excited about grammar, (yes, grammar) and set the book on the road to bestsellerdom.

While a typical marketing campaign for a kids illustrated book runs upward of US$25,000, the New York-based publishing house has committed US$150,000 to a consumer campaign for the grammar title. Penguin’s initially targeting the parents who put Eats, Shoots & Leaves at the top of the non-fiction bestseller list. Full-page color ads are planned for Time Magazine and The New York Times around the time of the book’s retail debut, and an on-line component called www.savethecomma.com will launch. The content is still being hammered out, but it will focus on getting kids to pay attention to proper grammar.

Themed punctuation kits, featuring oversized commas and examples of their usage will be sent out to libraries, teachers and booksellers to kick-start the organization of educational group activities for kids. At press time, Penguin was brainstorming ideas for the National Comma Awareness Month in July. Although events are in the planning stage, it’s anticipated that libraries and booksellers will get in on the action by providing fun and interactive activities for kids around the book’s release date. Emily Romero, VP of Marketing for Penguin Young Readers Group, says if this national event strikes a chord, subsequent themed months highlighting other commonly misused punctuation marks are certainly in the offing.

There’s definitely early buzz on the kids’ edition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. A hefty initial print run of 250,000 copies, with 100,000 making up the first shipment to retail is in the works. In contrast, a 10,000-copy run of a picture book from a first-time kids author is considered solid in publishing circles. Additionally, retail chains including Barnes and Noble, Borders and Wal-Mart are already on board to stock the book. LS

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