New or recently new exhibitors at BookExpo America, the book publishing tradeshow in New York City this week, are using plush, handbags, and other items to differentiate their books in the competitive children’s and YA aisles. Some is licensed, or (hopefully, from the view of the authors and designers) will be. And some prefer to maintain control. (See my previous post for a report on artists at Surtex and the National Stationery Show similarly wanting to maintain control.)

Much of what we saw this week is being manufactured for show display only, as a test, or in small quantities the authors sell on their own websites.

Louisiana-based author Lance Olsen and illustrator Thomas Perry were showcasing their “Sharky Marky” preschool book with a plush shark in a plush car, both of which they fabricated for the show. The website also features coloring book sheets that can be downloaded. They had a sign that they’re looking for a literary agent and/or publisher, and they’re amenable to licensing. Distribution is primarily via Barnes & Noble and amazon, plus a handful of stores in Louisiana.

Author/illustrator/designer Christopher Straub had similarly beautiful 9” plush for his books, “Albert the Confused Manatee” and “Rocky the Confused Platypus.” Indeed, the level of detail in the plush was striking, making the book characters seem a little plain by comparison.

Straub told me he had to have the fabric for the platypus made to his specifications because he couldn’t find something the right color that had as good a feel as the fabric for the manatee, and he is concerned about continuity in the look and feel of the characters.

Straub sells his books ($17.99 MSRP) and the plush ($22.00 MSRP) on his website, and estimates he’s shipped about 2500 books from his home office over the last six months.

PumpkinkidsAuthor/illustrator Karen Kilpatrick, based in Florida, is working with licensing business pro Joan Packard Luks to build on her series of learning books based on her Pumpkinheads characters. The books are self-published for the moment, with Baker & Taylor and other traditional distributors making them available as well. An app has just launched, and Luks says animation is in the works, as well as formally licensed merchandise.

BeautyLand Couture is an online retailer offering beauty items from hair appliances to HBA to candy sticks, as well as handbags and apparel for young teens.

Madison KThe book tie-in? A YA series built around a character named Madison K., an 18-year-old fashionista with positive morals and work ethic created by author and BeautyLand Couture founder Nina Kaplan. A third book in the Madison K. series launched at the show, as did some new Kaplan-designed merchandise.

Of course there were plenty of licensing business standbys at the show:

Disney Publishing had a relatively modest booth.

Candlewick Press is using the inside of the dust jackets to create coloring posters for Peppa Pig and other titles, and is doing book + novelty packs for Peppa, including “Love Game” for the upcoming Valentine’s Day. (Candlewick shares U.S. book rights for Peppa Pig with Scholastic — different formats for each.)

Bendon and Parragon had their wide assortments of licensed titles.

Plenty of Star Wars and Star Trek, as well.

And there were a handful of very creative book-based companies that sell their own very unique merchandise. Two standouts:

  • I continue to be impressed by Litographs, which designs shirts, prints, and other goods in designs composed of all the words in the book in teeny tiny type.
  • Obvious State BEANew to the show this year (but in business for two years), is Obvious State, which creates art out of quotes, titles, and other book-based sources.

Both companies handle their own manufacturing, but their designs are certainly licensable for categories beyond those they make or source themselves.


Nina Kaplan,; 267-644-6119

Karen Kilpatrick,; 954-309-3640

Joan Packard Luks,; 201-224-2190

Lance Olsen,; 504-919-0082

Christopher Straub,; 612-387-4488