So, what year is it again?
On this New Year’s Day, millions of people are turning the first page of some of the 200 different calendars that Michael Nonbello herded to market at Kansas City’s Andrews McMeel Universal.
But all that work — divining what would be hot, negotiating with agents and artists — is so last year in his head.
Make that two years ago for the 2017 lineup. And forget 2018. The Andrews McMeel calendar team is churning away on 2019 titles now.
When you work on this team, Nonbello said, “you can’t write a check. No one can keep track of what year it is.”
Safe to say, your current calendar choices were mostly set more than a year ago, whether you like to bathe in painter Thomas Kinkade’s ethereal light or you prefer that author Jen Sincero tell you daily why “You are a Badass.”
“I like the hunt,” said Nonbello, who’s been leading the calendar division at Andrews McMeel for 25 years. “I like the variety. I like working with creators who are passionate.”
As an industry giant in entertainment syndication and publishing, Andrews McMeel has direct lines to pop culture icons as well as rising artists. And that spawned what is now the sale of nearly 5 million calendars every year.
It took the calendar industry beyond “seasides and cats,” Nonbello said. Hit TV shows, movies, comic strips, best-selling authors, photographers and more dominate calendars and Nonbello’s life.
“Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams keeps cranking on life in a dysfunctional office.
Photographer Anne Geddes is back with pictures of sleeping babies, this time decorated as symbols of the zodiac.
Right now, Nonbello is awaiting another load of H. Jackson Brown Jr.’s wisdom.
The kinds of witticisms and advice the best-selling author from Tennessee put into his “Life’s Little Instruction Book” in the early 1990s have been filling day-by-day calendars without a break since 1993.
And Brown isn’t recycling old material, either, Nonbello said. So he’ll tolerate a little tardiness on the 2018 deadline from this author who seems to be eternally “good at giving advice to people.”
Just as comedian Jeff Foxworthy since 2002 has not run short of ways to be able advise daily that “You might be a redneck if…”
In recent years, new sensations are making their way from new media, like cartoonist Nick Seluk, whose “Awkward Yeti” comic and Heart and Brain spin-off rose off his Facebook page into print, and now a 2017 calendar.
For 2018, Nonbello is betting that if you haven’t heard of the card game Exploding Kittens, you will by next Christmas season.
The game made its splash online by breaking records for backers gained on the Kickstarter fundraising website.
Though 2018’s lineup is set, there’s still time for someone to turn the calendar team inside out and rush an unexpected hit into print.
Johanna Basford and her adult coloring books set off such an alarm more than a year ago to get thrown into the 2016 calendars.
“It jazzes everyone up to see such a crash into the line,” Nonbello said.
It makes up for the flops that can happen.
A giant working volcano towered under the center’s 17-foot ceiling, highlighting promotion of what was to be the next big movie of a Michael Crichton novel after “Jurassic Park.”
The movie: “Congo.” Don’t remember it? You didn’t buy the calendar either, and there were lots of them.
“We thought we were tapping into a gold mine,” Nonbello said. “It was a huge disaster.”
The flip side of that is Gary Larson’s “Far Side” comic strip and the more than a decade’s worth of Off the Wall calendars through 2002.
You probably saw some of those. All told, sales reached into the millions.
Calendars continue to sell well, even in the digital age, Nonbello said. People might go to their phones or tablets to organize their schedules, but they still like to say something about themselves with the paper calendars on their walls or on their desks.
“Whether you have Thomas Kinkade or Badass on your wall — it is a statement,” Nonbello said. “It’s something to share.”