In 2020, Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream, a Del Mar-based children’s book publishing company founded in 2017, sold 1.35 million books.
This year so far, it is on track to double that number. Revenue is expected to increase from $1.45 million in 2018 to $30 million by the end of this year. Next year, Jason Kutasi, CEO, says that figure will increase to roughly $40 million.
Selling solely on the company’s website, shop.puppydogsandicecream.com, as well as on Amazon, Kutasi says most of its customers are a result of cold traffic. Meaning, a segment of people who have not heard of or interacted with the brand prior but click on the company’s ads because they are intrigued by what they are promoting.
This group of people is more often than not searching for a solution, he said.
“It’s all about reaching new audiences,” said Kutasi, who studied economics at UC San Diego. “Most of our traffic comes from people clicking on our ads on Facebook or Google or Pinterest because they are wondering, ‘what is this?’ They read about the book and why it is important, they click and they buy. Most publishers don’t focus on direct-to-consumer. In fact, I would argue the book publishing industry has run the same sort of distribution and sale methods for the last 100 years, which is to create the book, run a marketing plan, hope it sells, churn and burn type of deal. For us, we wanted to focus on not just books that are cute, with cute art and a cute story, but on the ‘why’. What lesson will the reader learn? What will a family learn together from reading it? We call it children’s books with a purpose.”
In other words, stories that are meaningful and educational, helping children grow into the best versions of themselves, he said. This may include stories that target anxiety as a topic, or the benefits of having a pet, or hygiene, even.
Eighty Authors, 150 Titles
With roughly 40 employees, Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream launched November 2017 with 5,000 children’s books. Today, it publishes 80 authors and 150 titles, said Kutasi, adding the company has roughly 700,000 customers and about 400,000 five star reviews.
Kelly Gallagher is vice president of content acquisition at Ingram Content Group, which is one of Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream’s major partners. Headquartered in Tennessee, Ingram is a service provider to the book publishing industry.
What has driven Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream to reach new levels of success in publishing, in Gallagher’s opinion, has been its non-conventional route toward engaging with book consumers.
“Where most publishers focus on selling passively through Amazon or bookstores, Jason and his team have focused on reaching consumers directly through their remarkable marketing engine with relevant quality content designed specifically for their consumers,” he said.
Cevin Bryerman is the CEO and publisher of Publishers Weekly, the trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents. He said, “Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream’s success has really been driven by their wildly unique approach to publishing and a focus on the direct-to-consumer model. They have the ability to reach new customers and build a one-to-one relationship with their readers – which you just can’t do effectively selling through retail channels alone.”
In the future, Kutasi plans to share his knowledge of publishing with others.
Inspired by the 31,000 submissions he received the last 18 months, he hopes to launch a Facebook Group soon through which he can help those authors learn the tricks of the trade.
“We really like supporting authors,” said the 42-year-old. “We want to help those who want to get their books published, teach them how to self publish, teach them the steps they need to take, how to test their covers, etc. It’s really just about helping those authors that really want to do the work. It’ll give them the feedback they need and give us more reach.”
Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream
CEO: Jason Kutasi
HEADQUARTERS: Del Mar
BUSINESS: Children’s book publishing company.
REVENUE: $30M in 2021, projected to reach $40M in 2022
EMPLOYEES: Roughly 40
NOTABLE: Sold 1.35M book copies in 2020
Photo Courtesy of Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream
Puppy Dogs & Ice Cream’s success has been by their unique approach to publishing.