Penguin Random House (PRH) Children’s is investing in its Ladybird operation by giving Shannon Cullen, publishing director for Puffin’s fiction team, responsibility for the brand.
Cullen, whose new job title is PRH Children’s publishing director, said she had “plenty to be getting on with” in the new job, as she will continue with her responsibilities at Puffin as well as taking charge of building the Ladybird business.
She said Ladybird, which became iconic in the 20th century thanks to its Peter and Jane titles, was “one of the most valued and best-loved pre-school brands. We have a desire and a responsibility to continue to invest in it. We want to build on the centenary last year, which reiterated Ladybird’s place in consumers’ minds as a beloved and recognised brand, but also begin to consider what a modern Ladybird looks like [to] a new generation.”
Moving forward, she plans to invest in series publishing, such as its Baby Touch and Topsy and Tim lines, as well as non-fiction, and will look at innovative uses of the company’s current intellectual property: “There’s a lot of strong existing content that is ready for refreshing. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel,” she said.
Cullen suggested international markets would be a “big area of growth”. Kate Heald, formerly of Macmillan Education, has been appointed to the newly created role of Ladybird international and educational publisher. “Kate will be focused on our international business and developing our [English-language training] and Read It Yourself publishing,” said Cullen. “Ladybird already has huge reach and recognition in markets such as China and India, which Kate will be building on. She’ll also be thinking about educational opportunities in the UK around areas such as phonics.”
When asked about digital plans for the brand, Cullen said she wanted to build on the Ladybird section of PRH’s new consumer website, which launched at the beginning of the year, as well as looking at apps, video content and social media. She will also recruit a new trade publisher to work alongside Heald, while Nicola Bird, who already works in the Ladybird team, has been promoted to commissioning editor.
While Cullen declined to give exact figures for Ladybird’s growth, she said both value and volume sales were up year on year in 2015. Through Nielsen BookScan’s TCM Top 5,000, sales totalled £9.8m in 2015, up from 2014, although the figures do not account for Ladybird’s titles that were not among the top 5,000.
Francesca Dow, m.d. at PRH Children’s, said the staffing changes came about because of the difference in how children consume stories now. “We know our readers are discovering stories in an increasingly wide variety of ways and, as media and talent become increasingly interlinked, our editors and publishers are searching for talent in new and suprising places,” Dow said, pointing to Cullen’s publishing of Girl Online by vlogger Zoe Sugg, a.k.a. Zoella. Girl Online became the fastest-selling book by a début author since records began when it was published in 2014.
The bestselling Ladybird book in the past 52 weeks (to 9th April 2016) was Peppa Pig Official Annual 2016, which sold 89,519 copies. The spoof Ladybird for Grown-Ups stable, which provided 2015’s Christmas number one, are published by PRH imprint Michael Joseph rather than Ladybird.
Penguin Random House (PRH) Children’s has made a number of promotions at Puffin, including making Jo Hanks publisher for classic brands and characters.
Hanks, formerly editorial director at Puffin, will oversee brands such as Peter Rabbit, The Snowman, Spot, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and will report to publishing director Punter.
Puffin has also promoted Ruth Knowles to publisher. She will work alongside publisher Ben Horslen, who was promoted in August.