There can be no doubt that publishing is in a state of transformation. Indeed, some pundits use the words “upheaval,” or worse, “collapse.” Here at Sourcebooks, we’re choosing “change,” and we couldn’t be more excited about all the new opportunities to connect authors and readers. In short, we embrace change – it’s been the one thrilling constant amidst 20+ years of the Sourcebooks story.
It all started in 1987 when a determined Dominique Raccah left a promising career with advertising giant Leo Burnett, cashed in $17,000 from her 401K plan and launched a publishing house from her upstairs bedroom in Naperville, Illinois. She called it Sourcebooks.
Over the years, Sourcebooks has grown and flourished by following its independent vision, and by publishing extraordinary authors and unique books with readers in mind. Noted for its strong publicity and marketing efforts on behalf of its authors and retailer partners, Sourcebooks stands today as one of the leading and largest independent publishers in North America.
Founded with one title, Financial Sourcebooks Sources, Sourcebooks initially focused on publishing professional finance titles and books for bankers. In the early 1990s, Sourcebooks had its initial success in bookstores with business titles like The Small Business Survival Guide and The Complete Book of Business Plans, titles that continued to thrive for the company for two decades.
Sourcebooks also began expanding outside business and finance with a highly successful gift book for women entitled Finding Time. In 1993, Sourcebooks partnered with retailer Sally Beauty Supply to develop and publish 500 Beauty Solutions, later expanded to 1001 Beauty Solutions. These books led to Sourcebooks’ first six-figure print runs and furthered its reach into other general trade books and nonbookstore markets. From the early 1990s to today, self-help, parenting, business and reference books have always formed a backbone of the Sourcebooks list.
In 1997, just ten years after its conception, Sourcebooks was listed by trade magazine Publishers Weekly as the sixth-fastest-growing small publisher in the country; it would move up to No. 3 the next year. Its 1999 appearance at No. 2 was Sourcebooks’ final time on the list—the company quickly could no longer be classified as “small.” Sourcebooks’ sales figures also reflected its success by doubling every two years during this era.
Sourcebooks’ growth has also been due in part to frequent acquisitions of imprints that continue to thrive today. In 1996, Sourcebooks added Casablanca Press with its love- and romance-oriented self-help books, including the legendary bestseller 1001 Ways To Be Romantic by Gregory Godek. Now dubbed Sourcebooks Casablanca, the imprint has grown to encompass relationship, sex and wedding titles and in 2007 began publishing romance fiction.
Sphinx Publishing, a publisher of consumer-oriented self-help law books, joined Sourcebooks in 1997, and in 1998 Sourcebooks purchased Hysteria Publications, a Connecticut-based publisher of humor and women’s interest books.
Sourcebooks’ growth accelerated rapidly from there. In 1998, the publisher broke all boundaries with We Interrupt This Broadcast, by Joe Garner. The book, featuring two compact discs with integrated content, was the introduction of a new genre for the publishing industry and the birth of a new chapter for Sourcebooks. It was also by far Sourcebooks' largest first printing and it went on to become Sourcebooks’ first New York Times bestseller. The brilliant pairing of live audio with photographs and the written word resonated enormous interest within the bookselling community and generated nearly ¾ million copies sold to date.
In 1999, the sports-themed follow-up, And The Crowd Goes Wild, landed in stores by the pallet for the holiday season. Featuring compact discs narrated by Bob Costas, the book was an immediate sensation, spending nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In Publishers Weekly’s ranking of the bestsellers of 1999, the trade publication identified Sourcebooks with five books from three different authors. This put Sourcebooks with the same volume as publishers and imprints twice its size and six times its age, such as Knopf, Morrow, Norton and Houghton Mifflin.
The new century dawned brightly as Sourcebooks celebrated January 2000 with two titles on the first New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list of the twenty-first century. Shortly thereafter, it became the only book publisher named to that year's prestigious Inc. 500, the annual ranking of America’s fastest-growing companies.
Later in the year 2000, Sourcebooks formalized the launch of its Sourcebooks MediaFusion imprint, today the nation's leading publisher of integrated mixed-media projects. And The Crowd Goes Wild merited a follow-up, And The Fans Roared, which became a holiday favorite, hitting the New York Times list in January 2001.
In 2001, Sourcebooks MediaFusion reinvigorated the way Americans experience poetry with Poetry Speaks, a book and three-CD combination featuring noted poets from Tennyson to Plath reading their own work. This remarkable anthology, a Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller, was lauded by Publishers Weekly as having "the potential to draw more readers to poetry than any collection in years."
2001 also featured the launch of our fiction imprint, Sourcebooks Landmark, so named to reflect the quality, value and longevity of its books. Tony Parsons’ Man and Boy, the 2000 British Book of the Year, and bookseller favorite Michael Malone led the way. Malone returned to writing fiction after a ten-year absence with the New York Times bestseller First Lady, as well as reissues of all his backlist, including Handling Sin, Foolscap, Time’s Witness and Uncivil Seasons.
Sourcebooks again claimed space on bestseller lists in spring 2003, placing Charles Cerami's engrossing history Jefferson's Great Gamble on the New York Times nonfiction hardcover list. At the same time, chef Cary Neff's unique and flavorful style of cooking made Conscious Cuisine a favorite. Despite the fact that Sourcebooks had little experience publishing cookbooks, and boosted by an appearance on Oprah, Conscious Cuisine made Neff a New York Times bestselling author.
In 2004 and 2005, Sourcebooks began developing its first calendar list, dedicated to publishing unique and contentful wall and box calendars. Perhaps best known for its bestselling edgy political calendars, its successful line now grows each year with hits like Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch, The History Channel On This Day and The Weather Channel.
Later in 2005, the renowned Poetry Speaks finally got its follow-up book, but not the sort you’d expect. The publisher took an audacious detour and released its first children’s picture book, Poetry Speaks to Children. The unique grouping of poems, illustrations and a CD of poets reading their own work delighted booksellers and found its way into the hearts of parents, teachers and children alike. It also found its way to the New York Times bestsellers list for ten weeks, the longest of any Sourcebooks title at the time. The title eventually marked the springboard for the launch of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, a children’s imprint started in 2007. Though a fresh face in the children’s section, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky quickly published several bestsellers, including the picture book I Love You More, by Laura Duksta, illustrated by Karen Keesler, and the revolutionary book-plus-CD poetry anthology Hip Hop Speaks to Children, edited by Nikki Giovanni.
2007 also featured the extension of our Sourcebooks Casablanca imprint into the realm of romance fiction, almost immediately establishing itself as a top 10 publisher in the genre. In a wide variety of romance genres and in multiple formats, our Casablanca authors continue to enthrall. Late in 2008, legendary independent publisher Cumberland House joined Sourcebooks as an imprint, bringing with it nearly 100 authors and notable New York Times bestsellers from Gregory E. Lang. 2010 ushered in an imprint for young adult audiences, Sourcebooks Fire, committed to bringing exciting voices to the next generation of readers. In addition, children’s and gift book author Marianne Richmond and her 70+ books joined the team and quickly added a huge new title, picture book phenomenon If I Could Keep You Little.
But the Sourcebooks story is not one just of bestsellers lists and major accomplishments. It’s the story of its roster of hundreds of talented writers and a growing number of hard-working, book-loving employees. Most books don’t make the Times’ bestsellers lists, but Sourcebooks’ titles will have an impact and they will find their way into people’s lives.
If the Times had lists for genres like college guides, Sourcebooks would be there, right at the top (Fiske Guide to Colleges). The story is similar for college life books (The Naked Roommate, by Harlan Cohen). And Jane Austen sequels, where Sourcebooks Landmark has become the unquestioned worldwide leader in Austen continuations. And baby names, where nearly 3 of every 5 baby names book buyers goes home with a Sourcebooks publication. And Valentine’s Day gift books (Love Coupons, by Gregory Godek). And grieving/recovery books (I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye, by Brook Noel). And wall calendars (George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown; Barack Obama: Words of Hope and Inspiration). And the list goes on.
Today, Sourcebooks continues to publish authors in countless subjects and styles, and in formats both classically physical and dynamically digital. The eclectic and exciting breadth of its list—nonfiction in most categories, commercial and historical fiction, romance novels, gift books, college-bound materials, calendars, children’s books and more—is unmatched anywhere. Its future is guided by its continuing commitment to reaching readers with books that will illuminate, inspire and enlighten their lives.
To be continued…