Penguin Ventures—the licensing arm of UK publisher Penguin—is writing a new page in licensing. Instead of waiting for its titles to dictate what opportunities to bring to partners (the division’s traditional MO), with Ten Minutes to Bed, Penguin is experimenting with trend-based licensing.
The book series, which chronicles the adventures of different creatures who don’t want to fall asleep, was developed when Penguin saw a white space for content and products that fit into the bedtime routine of preschoolers. Its licensing team is working to sign deals for existing titles in sleep-focused categories including sleepwear and bedding. Once those partners are locked in, Penguin Ventures plans to identify trending characters and topics, and focus on online and print-on-demand products to accelerate speed to market.
“Consumer products broadly follow the same model across the industry. Brand owners develop a TV series or film before they release any merchandise,” says Thomas Merrington, the publisher’s creative director of consumer products, live and experiential. “Often, it takes a good few years to launch a range. But with a focus on more online and print-on-demand products, we can [shorten the window] to a few months.”
To execute this, the team is creating templates of items to show licensees and retailers what products could look like. Partners will then have the flexibility to put their own spin on the creative, he adds.
Penguin started the book series by focusing on perennially popular and kid-friendly topics. Written by Rhiannon Fielding and illustrated by Chris Chatterton, Penguin’s Ladybird imprint launched the series in July 2018 with Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Unicorn.
It has since published books about a monster and a mermaid, and new title Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Dinosaur will launch in July.
“These books are all set in the magical land of Nod, and we can add new characters to this world if we see a trend growing,” says Merrington. “If space becomes big with kids, we could work with the illustrator to create an alien that matches the brand’s look. Instead of waiting for a book and eventually getting to create products, [which could be] years after a trend has passed, we’d introduce that alien character to our licensing partners and they could start producing products featuring it before a book about the alien even comes out.”