Pocket Moves Beyond Star Trek
by Calvin Reid
After years of creating companion titles for its lucrative Star Trek license, Pocket Books has expanded its licensing efforts, assembling a group of four editors to create original book products based on a fast-growing lineup of high-profile pop culture properties.
Pocket Books formed the Licensing and Media Group about one year ago, shortly after Anthony Ziccardi arrived from Ballantine as v-p, deputy publisher. Since then Pocket has continued to add licenses and expand the product tie-ins based on them. “They’re very profitable and a big part of our revenues,” said Ziccardi. “We realized the market was more than just Star Trek.”
Titles produced by the L&M group have grown by 30%. “We’re after a wide range of genres, from sci-fi and urban fantasy to superhero comic books, but all our licenses are mass-oriented, highly popular media properties,” Ziccardi said. TV and film licenses include Entourage, Scarface, the CSI series, World Wrestling Entertainment and the forthcoming Spider-Man 3movie. Video-game properties include such popular franchises as Doom and Resident Evil, while comic book licenses include prose novels based on X-Man, Fantastic Four and 30 Days of Night.
Products range from mass market novelizations and photo companion books to hardcover biographies. The group also commissions original hardcover novels, which often add new plot lines, situations and characters to the franchises, said senior editor Marco Palmieri. “The majority of titles we do are more than simple novelizations,” he added. “Our books expand the game’s world and the plots of our books eventually become a part of the game universe.” All the L&M editors emphasize that they bring a fan’s passion and geeky insider expertise to their books. “You have to be able to represent the property well,” said executive editor Margaret Clark, “or the fans will let you know.”
All the editors work on big licenses like Star Trek, Marvel Comics and CSI, allowing them to bring different editorial personalities to the properties. The L&M group has assembled a stable of freelance writers and artists to create the books, but editors sometimes act as consultants to licensors who may use the editor’s expertise to create a tie-in book with a packager.
Big tie-in books coming this year include Entourage: A Lifestyle Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, a photo companion for the popular HBO series; and Prison Break: The Classified FBI Files, a similar tie-in for Fox’s hit TV show. Ziccardi also noted that a new Star Trek movie is due in 2008, and the group continues to publish a new Star Trek novel every month. “We get to work on a lot of really cool stuff,” said Ziccardi.