As part of the Walt Disney Company, Hyperion has been long engaged in synergy, but over the last year the publisher has put even more emphasis on publishing titles that can work with other Disney business units. During the past six months, Hyperion has hired two people specifically to help the publisher better interact with other Disney properties: Laura Hopper joined Hyperion in September in the newly created position of editorial director of franchise publishing, and Ruth Pomerance was hired as senior editor in January to focus on the acquisition and development of new stories and author talent that will translate across the Disney/ABC Television Group (DATG)businesses. And earlier this month the company confirmed that it was looking to sell some backlist titles that don’t fit with Hyperion’s new business model.
In an interview at the company’s New York office, Hyperion president and publisher Ellen Archer acknowledged that 2013 will be an important year in determining whether the new strategy pays off. “We are focused on working with authors who can benefit from being supported by other parts of the company,” Archer said. While Hyperion has had success publishing books related to Disney properties in the past—the Richard Castle books tied to the Castle ABC series have sold over 1.5 million copies—Hyperion’s list this year is full of titles with ties to other Disney properties. In addition, Archer said, Hyperion is working with Disney more closely than ever to get exposure for its authors.
Fabio Viviani, whose first cookbook from Hyperion, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, is due out April 23 with an announced first printing of 85,000 copies, will appear on ABC’s Good Morning America on pub date and has two other segments planned that will be tied to the cookbook. Christine Ragasa, Hyperion’s director of publicity, observed that to stand out in today’s media environment, it takes more than one appearance on a show for an author to generate a true “halo effect.” Another Hyperion author who is appearing on a variety of platforms is Navy SEAL commander Rorke Denver. Hyperion released his title, Damn Few, in February with a first print run of 100,000, and he has appeared on ABC’s Nightline with a GMA appearance pending. ABC News is in talks with Denver to explore the prospect of him being a contributor on military and national security issues. A third new Hyperion author leveraging the Disney media machine this spring is Sarah Smiley. She had a new guest over for dinner every week during the year that her husband was deployed overseas by the U.S. Navy, and she writes about her experiences in Dinner with the Smileys. A film crew visited the family in December in preparation for airing a couple of segments on Katie Couric’s Katie show in late May. Dinner will be released May 7 with a first printing of 35,000 copies.
Chris Powell, another Hyperion author with a book slated for 2013, is already part of the Disney family. Powell is one of the stars of Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition and is now also a regular GMA contributor. His first book, Choose to Lose, sold 124,000 print copies since its release in February 2011 and another 49,000 e-book editions; his second book from Hyperion, Choose More, Lose More, is due out May 7. To leverage his brand, Powell is teaming up with his wife Heidi for a Web series, Meet the Powell Pack, on abc.com. The series looks at the family’s daily life. And Hopper said Hyperion and other Disney units are exploring ways to expand the Powell franchise into different merchandise areas. The various projects, Hopper said, “feed off of each other.”
Another way Hyperion is operating differently than most trade houses has been through the creation of its Story Lab, whose goal is to identify writers for both books and television. In the first lab held last year, Hopper said the company was able to find a writer who will not only be published by Hyperion but whose work will also serve as the basis for a television pilot with ABC Studios. The books Hyperion is developing to go with television shows are “nothing like the old tie-ins,” notes editor-in-chief Elisabeth Dyssegaard. “We want to create stories that work across multiple platforms,” added Pomerance. “We want to marry the platforms of our sister companies with original content.”
Among the digital projects Hyperion is working on is one that aims to create a series of e-books with Babble.com, a recent Disney acquisition. The e-books are being drawn from the most popular blog posts on the parenting site, and visitors can nominate posts that they would like to see expanded. Targeted primarily at mothers, the first title, Breastfeeding, will be out in May, with nine more installments set for the following months. All titles will be priced at $2.99 and in 2014 Hyperion will publish a “best of Babble” print edition.
Archer said that with the growth of tablets, Hyperion is exploring ways it can work with other Disney properties to do enhanced e-books—especially for nonfiction—but doesn’t see much opportunity for apps at the moment.
Tying into other Disney business units not only gives Hyperion authors a “big megaphone,” but also provides the press with research on consumer trends, Archer noted. The Hyperion team can bring ideas to the research department of DATG (the group that includes the publisher) to see how they are resonating in the culture. Research can help, but it doesn’t dictate which authors Hyperion will publish, Archer said. The new approach also emphasizes “speed to market,” Dyssegaard said. “We add books [to the list] more quickly. We are responding to what is happening right now.”
Though she didn’t want to discuss which books may be sold off, Archer said Hyperion is still interested in building its fiction list and will largely stick to nonfiction areas it has been active in in the past—including cookbooks, diet and health, current affairs, memoir and inspiration.
The Disney/ABC Television Group
|ABC Studios||Cable networks ABC Family and SOAPnet|
|ABC Owned Television Stations Group||Disney Channels Worldwide, a portfolio of 108 kid-driven, family-inclusive entertainment channels|
|ABC Television Network (which includes more than 200 affiliated stations across the U.S.)||Hyperion|
|Equity interest in A+E Networks|