|B*tween Productions aims to make the Beacon Street Girls a major Internet presence.|
The Beacon Street Girls are going global, thanks to a deal with publishing giant Simon & Schuster.
Under the deal, Simon & Schuster will publish the book series created by privately held B*tween Productions Inc., of Lexington.
Financial details were not disclosed.
The books, written by a stable of ghostwriters, feature the fictional adventures of six girls living in Brookline.
B*tween also runs a Beacon Street Girls website and markets an array of branded accessories, including jewelry and clothing aimed at "tweens" - girls 9 to 12 years old.
"The whole concept was to develop an integrated brand that would reach girls across a variety of touchpoints," said B*tween's chief executive and founder, Addie Swartz.
B*tween has published 14 books which have sold about half a million copies. But Swartz said a link with Simon & Schuster, and its parent company, CBS Corp., will help boost the value of the Beacon Street Girls brand.
"There's a huge opportunity to further penetrate the marketplace," she said.
Rubin Pfeffer, senior vice president and publisher of children's books at Simon & Schuster, said the books are a perfect fit for his company's line of books for girls. Pfeffer was tipped off about the Beacon Street Girls series by a B*tween board member, Barbara Marcus, a former executive at Scholastic Inc. who helped oversee publication of the Harry Potter books.
"Our editors read the books and said, 'Yeah, this is spot on,' " Pfeffer said.
Michael Norris, an analyst with Simba Information, a publishing research firm in Stamford, Conn., said the big children's book publishers are doing lots of deals with independents these days.
"Self-publishing is actually great for the book industry," Norris said, because it lets the big publishers spend less on developing their next best-selling author. Instead, they can simply cherry-pick the most successful independent titles. For example, the adventure novel "Eragon," written and self-published by teenager Christopher Paolini, became a bestseller when it was picked up by a major publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.
B*tween has just one sales representative marketing its books, but Simon & Schuster has 150. While major bookstores like Barnes & Noble already carry the books, Pfeffer said his company should be able to win distribution deals with "big box" retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. "It's reasonable to think that we're going to multiply or increase dramatically the sales," Pfeffer said.
The deal with Simon & Schuster will allow B*tween to focus on creating more books and accessories. The company also hopes to establish the Beacon Street Girls website as a major Internet destination.
Director of marketing Bobbie Carlton pointed to the popularity of websites inspired by MGA Entertainment Inc.'s Bratz toy line and Mattel Inc.'s Barbie dolls. Carlton said the Beacon Street Girls could achieve the same kind of following. "We haven't had the money to go out marketing the website, to make it a destination, and that really is our goal," said Carlton.
Despite B*tween's limited marketing, the site attracts 200,000 to 400,000 visitors every month, from 112 countries. Carlton is convinced there's a big international market for the Beacon Street Girls. But while the books are available worldwide through online retailers like Amazon.com, there's no formal distribution network in other English-speaking countries. And none of the books have been translated into other languages.
Carlton said the deal with Simon & Schuster will fill these gaps and give B*tween the resources to establish the Beacon Street Girls as a worldwide brand. "We are absolutely going global," she said.
Hiawatha Bray can be reached at email@example.com.