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Sourcebooks NEXT.

Sourcebooks Next Blog

We’re at a historic point in the transformation the book.

Ebooks, reading devices, retailers and e-tailers, software and apps, and all the cool things we haven’t even imagined yet are changing the face of reading, entertainment and learning. Sourcebooks Next is our blog looking not from the perspective of pundit or prognosticator, but from the perspective of a publisher deeply engaged in the workings of the transformation. Please feel free to join us.

Monday, May 16, 2011

An interesting article on digital transformation asking the question "As tablet computers surge, will video be publishing's next big hit?" was posted today on publishersweekly.com. As a pioneer in successful commercial multimedia publishing, Sourcebooks publisher Dominique Raccah is quoted:

Sourcebooks publisher Dominique Raccah, no stranger to the potential of multimedia, speaks of "a new era of creative partnership," and says 2011 may be the year in which some publishers begin to look and act "a lot more like film directors" for some types of books than the stereotypical fustian, tweedy book person. In college prep titles, a leading vertical for Sourcebooks, Raccah points to new videos produced for the electronic editions of Harlan Cohen's The Naked Roommate and Gary Gruber's SAT 2400—works that are available for sale as videos, in addition to using the videos to sell the books. The term "reader," as a result, Raccah suggests, is almost insufficient at Sourcebooks, which has sold more than five million "media-embedded" units (remember the book-and-CD combos from the 1990s, We Interrupt This Broadcast and And The Crowd Goes Wild?). Rather, Raccah speaks of her "constituents" and "stakeholders" in the marketplace, and stresses that for many titles, publishers should consider electronic editions more a "type of production" than just a publication.

Read the full article at:

The Producers: Books and Video in 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Last Friday lots of folks from Sourcebooks spent the day at the Spring 2012 Launch. 

So what does a “launch” meeting entail?

Publishers work in different ways and run different calendars, so this explanation is pretty much from the Sourcebooks perspective, but most will have some form of large group introduction to future titles. For traditional book publishing companies, “launch” is often the first time that the whole company is introduced to the new books. It’s a fairly early look.

Among other things, it’s when:

  • The publicity and marketing groups start crafting and planning marketing and publicity plans
  • Each person on the sales teams identifies opportunities and question areas
  • The design department and art directors start developing ideas for covers

Many of these people have looked at some of these books already, but this is usually the first full-group look at them.

The focus for launch is to make sure that you’ve got the right pieces in place. Successful books are made up of hundreds of individual decisions. It’s what makes book publishing such a complicated process. So some of the decisions you’re reviewing are related specifically to what I’d call the merchandising package, including:

  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Publication date
  • Format (hardcover, paperback, mass market, board book, etc.)
  • Content
  • Trim size

This part of the process is oriented around print books, though increasingly we’re talking about alternate-format concepts at this stage and earlier. Yes, print books are still the vast majority of the book business and there are categories for which ebooks are still not an important part of the business.

And for each book you review a fairly comprehensive data sheet that includes basic data, initial drafts at key selling points, descriptive information, and competitive/comparative books.

The goal at launch is simple: you want the book to create an awesome experience for the reader and a real success for the author. [And it’s heartbreaking every time you don’t…that, by the way, is true for every publisher, but that’s a different post.]

So the thing you spend the most time on is the positioning of the book. What is this book? How does it speak to readers? How do we express that? Positioning is more than a title or a jacket. It’s all of the communication around the work.

You review other books that you’re going to be competing with in the space. What else is there? What’s not worked? What do we know today that we didn’t know when we bought the book? What’s really exciting about this book? What moves people?

You can probably see that there’s a fair amount of fact and data we’re looking at, but also an awful lot of craft. As the publisher, what we’re delivering is a lot of experience and hands-on knowledge of the marketplace. We’re trying to deliver both dollars and “wow” for our partners on the retail end. And ultimately that becomes all about how and where we strike the readers.

Having all of the elements aligned at the beginning is how you can really create a successful book - that having the right vision of the book has enormous impact. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of examples of what good versus bad positioning can do for a book.

I love launch. It’s new. It’s fresh. It’s filled with joy, laughter and the possibilities that exist for authors. Even something seemingly as minor as a publication date can make an enormous difference in the life of a book. And titling is something we obsess over. Each book matters.

Friday’s Spring 2012 Sourcebooks Launch was no different. The room was packed. You could feel the energy. There were moments when the room vibrated. And there were books that lit up the room.

And then there were books that needed more work. Books that had real potential but we didn’t seem to have it all wrapped up yet. That’s what launch is for – identifying those needs and opportunities and making sure that what we believe about a book and an author truly come across when we communicate it to the outside world.

Ultimately, we want to create books that create awesome experiences for readers. [If you’re an author and haven’t yet viewed Kathy Sierra’s Creating Passionate Users video, here’s the link:


Books touch you, inspire you, call you to action. This year (2011), we’ve done more of that for authors than ever before in the history of our company. More bestsellers. More awards. More sales. It’s been incredible.

And it all starts with these seemingly mundane but incredibly potent data sheets for every book that help ensure that the idea is right. That the title communicates. The format makes sense. The cover direction is distinct. The publicity and marketing group has an angle. The list of these decisions goes on and on. It’s what makes great books soar, it’s why publishers matter – and if you're very lucky, all these little decisions can turn into something that can look like this:


Friday, April 01, 2011

It’s been an incredible couple of days...

For the first time in the company’s history, Sourcebooks has four titles on the New York Times Bestseller List AND a USA Today Bestseller! It’s really extraordinary for any publisher, but for an independent publisher to have a set of books on the list by a number of different authors is rare (I actually couldn’t think of another example that weren't part of the same series...at least not four).

The New York Times Bestseller List for Children’s Picture Books for the week ending March 26, 2011 will feature not one, not two, but THREE Sourcebooks Jabberwocky titles! Olympic gold medal figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi’s debut children’s book, Dream Big, Little Pig!, remains on the list for the second consecutive week at the #3 spot after debuting at #2 for the week ending March 19. 2011.

Author Jennifer Fosberry’s My Name Is Not Isabella returns to the New York Times Bestseller List at the #9 spot, after previously landing at the #10 spot for the week ending January 9, 2011. Fosberry’s new book, My Name Is Not Alexander, debuts at #10 on the Children’s Picture Book list this week.

OK, I have to say it’s kind of amazing for a Chicago independent publisher to have 30% of the top picture books. One of my bookseller friends told me (at an event this week) “Sourcebooks really seems to have a feel for children’s books.” That’s an amazing compliment! And yes, we seem to really be developing a feel for our readers in this area. And we're working hard to do that (but that's a different post).

And then...Bestselling UK author Jill Mansell has matched her success overseas with a double bestseller in the U.S.: Miranda’s Big Mistake has reached #12 on the New York Times eBook Bestseller List and is #86 on the USA Today Bestseller List for the week ending March 26, 2011. Miranda’s Big Mistake is Mansell’s first bestseller in the United States, and the first New York Times eBook bestseller and USA Today fiction bestseller for Sourcebooks.

What’s really amazing is that our team envisioned the possibility of having 3 books on the list and then worked hard to make it happen. Look at what happened!

These are remarkable times in so many ways. I think there’s a lot to learn from Dreaming BIG!


PS. I walked back into my office (after a trip to New York) and here’s what I saw:


Thanks, guys! Congratulations to all of our authors! And many thanks to all of our bookselling partners!!! What a great week!

Monday, February 21, 2011

(This post is based on 3 of the slides from a presentation I recently gave at O’Reilly's “Tools of Change in Publishing” conference. We'll be posting all of the presentation there shortly.)

Throughout 2010 it was clear that ebooks were growing in popularity. By the end of September 2010, the below chart shows the sales history for ebooks (in dollars) we were looking at here across all of Sourcebooks:

ebook sales oct 2009 thru sept 2010

As you can see (and this is Sourcebooks data only) ebooks were growing pretty steadily every month. We all knew the holiday season would propel this upswing further. People would be given empty devices as gifts for the holidays and they'd begin filling them, so I expected to see December and January ebook numbers that were a significant increase. But would the upswing be a nice new plateau or would it suggest a legitimate "tip"? Well, take a look:

ebook sales 2010

That's an extraordinary increase in just two months. Current ebook sales put all the previous sales figures into striking perspective – what we believed was remarkable growth for all of 2010 was nothing in comparison to what was actually possible. And (as people who are familiar with what we've been doing at Sourcebooks know) we've done a tremendous amount of work to obtain these results.

Particularly striking is that:

sourcebooks ebook sales

It's obviously too early to tell but if the December 2010 and January 2011 numbers hold their level, it seems clear that this may well be a much faster transformation than we anticipated.

At Digital Book World - only a month ago - there seemed to be consensus that the ebook tipping point would occur around 2014. That seems too slow to me now. Based on what we're seeing in our current data, I think we may well be at the tipping point and that certainly has a lot of implications. I suspect that we're going to see some dramatic reassessment when publishers look at their numbers at the end of first quarter, 2011. And for certain types of books, ebook units this year may be more than 50% of units sold (but more on that in a future Sourcebooks Next post).


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