For an industry pronounced dead repeatedly for at least a decade or more, traditional publishing—and its digital-first counterparts, which might not be so different after all—belied the grim reapers, with innumerable launches and new models that indicated it was alive and well in 2013. Since its inception in July, this column chronicled some of that growth (e.g., “Kensington at 40: On Launch Pad,” “HarperCollins Expands Digital Firsts”). October and November brought a handful of announcements, including one aimed squarely at public libraries: Skyhorse Publishing’s Carrel Books, set to release its initial list of 20 to 30 titles in both print and ebook in fall 2014.
“The idea that printed book publishing is dead is absolutely wrong,” said Tony Lyons, who founded the press in late 2006. “Buying habits and people’s attention have changed, but there are an incredible number of people who read books [both print and ebooks] and will continue to do so. Printed books are still 75 percent–80 percent of the field. One format is not decimating another,” he said.
Lyons pointed to the shrinking number and size of bookstores as factors in moving more aggressively into the library market, where the company already had success in selling its general nonfiction. While Lyons couldn’t pinpoint exact figures for library sales, he expected them to be between $1.8 million and $2 million for 2013, an increase of 11 percent over 2012.
High usage stats and support for public libraries also contributed to the launch of the library imprint. Carrel editor Niels Aaboe noted that public support for libraries remained extremely high. “Referenda measures generally passed in this election. And libraries seem to be doing a good job of managing their budgets,” he said.
Aaboe, who came to Skyhorse in 2012 after 20 years in college, university, and general-interest publishing, helped hone the categories in which Carrel will publish. “I’ve long paid attention to materials buying surveys like those in LJ,” he said. “Many [of the popular categories] dovetail with what we’re doing.” Carrel’s categories included perennials in LJ’s annual February survey like medicine/health, biography/memoir, history, business/careers, and self-help/psychology. Lead titles for September 2014 included E.E. Lewis’s How Safe Is Safe Enough? The Real and Perceived Risks of Technology and Gary A. Donaldson’s The Secret Coalition: Ike, LBJ, and the Search for a Middle Way in the 1950s.
Skyhorse, which grew through acquisition (e.g., Arcade, Allworth Press, Night Shade) and launch (e.g., Sky Pony Press), went from $2 million to $25 million in revenue in six years. That might explain why Lyons reiterated, “Book publishing both as electronic and print has a very bright future.”
Publishers including Bloomsbury, Simon & Schuster, and the University Press of New England (UPNE) all came forward with debuts this fall, though none more attention-grabbing than Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter’s copublishing deal with S. & S. for an adult and children’s imprint, Jeter Publishing. Jeter told the New York Times, “I’ve always had an interest in business…. And I have an interest in content. So this gives me the opportunity to combine the two. And it gives me the opportunity to curate and share interesting stories and share content with the public.” The imprint will focus on adult nonfiction, children’s picture books, middle-grade fiction, and ready-to-read children’s books.
UK-based Bloomsbury announced that in October 2014 it would launch a popular science imprint, Sigma, with the tag line, “Bloomsbury Sigma brings science out of the lab and into the mainstream.” The impetus for the imprint was the growth in the popular science market—eight percent from 2012 to 2013. The company said the new imprint would release about 15 titles in print and ebook per year globally (the New York office will market the titles in the United States) and “feature narrative works on subjects as diverse as evolutionary biology, astronomy, robotics, palaeontology, bioengineering, physics, and climatology.”
Jim Martin, named to head Sigma, was enthusiastic: “The books will combine the very best writing and the latest research from across the sciences, while sharing one common feature—the delivery of a rattling good read.”
While Bloomsbury’s initiative responded to an uptick in popular science book sales, UPNE’s new trade imprint, ForeEdge, aimed at breaking down geographic barriers that its trade books faced. In a press release from UPNE, sales and marketing director David Corey said he believed the “regionalizing nature of our press name” kept the press’s trade titles from expanded distribution. The imprint would also provide “a contemporary vehicle for our robust trade books,” said Corey. The first titles, set for publication in April 2014, included James W. Graham’s Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea and Stephen Budiansky’s Mad Music: Charles Ives, the Nostalgic Rebel.