New York Dummies Man - the spikey-haired character on the cover of the ubiquitous "For Dummies" line of how-to books - is turning up in a lot more places these days.
There's Flower Bulbs For Dummies, Smart Booster Cables For Dummies, Refractor Telescope Kit For Dummies, Acoustic Guitar Starter Pack For Dummies, and Complete Fuel System Formula For Dummies for your car.
Next up: VoIP Phone Kit For Dummies. Don't know what VoIP is? Not to worry. The kit, which will be made and sold by Coral Gables, Fla.-based startup company called Lingua Online this fall, will help you set up your Voice over Internet Protocol online phone service.
John Hislop, the associate director of licensing at John Wiley & Sons Inc., the business and technical publisher which publishes the "For Dummies" line of books, says the VoIP kit was a natural licensing partner, since VoIP is just the kind of useful but complex product or service that can leave many intelligent people feeling flustered.
"The Dummies brand is famous for helping consumers tackle new technology," Hislop said, adding that it made "perfect sense" to strike a partnership with Linga Online to market it.
Wiley is perhaps better known as a global publisher of scientific, technical and medical books. It also publishes CliffNotes and the Frommers' travel guides.
Its "For Dummies" line, which it acquired in 2001 as part of its purchase of Hungry Minds Inc., has been growing by leaps and bounds, though Hislop declined to release specific financial figures. He says the licensing end of the business is still relatively small but growing. Wiley, a public company, doesn't break out sales for the line.
The "For Dummies" books got their start in 1991 when IDG Books, a unit of the major technology publisher International Data Group Inc., put out "DOS For Dummies," a how-to guide for help with Microsoft Corp.'s early operating system. It quickly became a huge seller, and today there are 1,000 "For Dummies" titles and 150 million copies in print. IDG Books later changed its name to Hungry Minds, and also got into publishing cooking and travel books.
The licensing side of the "For Dummies" line has been gathering steam. Today there are about 75 deals in place with licensing partners, of which more than 40 were signed in Wiley's last fiscal year, which runs through April 30.
Wiley works closely with the partner in developing the products, marketing plans and instructional materials to make sure they're consistent with the humorous and straightforward style of the how-to books, Hislop said. Wiley receives an initial fee as well as royalty payments from the products, which are manufactured and sold by the licensing partner.