This week Sourcebooks turned twenty-nine, and took some time to celebrate twenty-nine years of success, growth, and innovation, and most importantly, all the people who helped us get there.
The Sourcebooks Naperville team in front of the office, full of ice cream and good cheer.
After taking some time to let loose, and engage in some friendly competition, Publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah spoke on what it takes to create a company like this, and while she was addressing the employees, she was really talking to the entire Sourcebooks family. All of the authors who write such wonderful books, our bookselling partners who help to connect readers with the right books for them, our media partners who share their love of these books, and of course the readers. We wouldn’t be here without the readers. Here’s what she said:
“Wow. Twenty-nine years.
Sourcebooks as a book publishing company simply should not exist. Whoever has a copy of “The Rules of Publishing” would tell you that. You think that’s not an actual thing, but sometimes our industry believes that there are “rules.” We ran into them again and again, and we still do.
My book review of “The Rules of Publishing” is short but sweet, “Let’s create something amazing.”
Innovation is how we got here. It’s the cornerstone of who we are and who we’ll become next. As you all probably saw, we won the BISG Industry Innovation Award last week, and when I got up on stage I talked about how innovation is iterative, is about the customer experience, and is about having the right mindset.
What I didn’t talk about is what innovation looks like. For that I would have needed pictures because it looks like all of you. It looks like the great big ideas and the small improvements to processes that let us pursue those ideas. Each and every one of you has a daily impact on the work we do, how we innovate and the success we create.
There are so many places in the company’s history where we did something that other people thought was crazy. We put CD’s in books, we published not one but TWO New York Times bestselling children’s poetry collections, we built a whole personalized website from the ground up. But we did it to create something amazing—connecting authors to readers in new ways.
Sourcebooks would not be the company that it is today without you and your dedication to the idea that books change lives. YOU have changed my life, and all I can say is thank you! Thank you for your ideas, for your hard work, for your dedication. It has been a great year and I cannot wait to create an even bigger future.”
I’m incredibly honored to announce that Sourcebooks won the BISG Industry Innovation Award at the BISG Annual Meeting held today, September 30, 2016, which also happens to be Sourcebooks’ 29th birthday!
I’m sharing the acceptance speech I gave, below, because this award is not about me. It’s about each and every single person who walks through the door into our offices every morning, excited about what they will create that day. This is about our partners, and our authors, and the many readers whose lives we get to touch. It’s about what we’ve ALL created together.
We've done so much. We get to do more. Thank YOU for loving books and helping to create (each and every day) the future of this industry that we love so much.
BISG Industry Innovation Award – Acceptance Speech:
Last week as I was walking out of the office one night I started a list of the things that we were working on that looked like "new" to me. I came back the next morning, expanded that list of 6 to 14 and realized it touched every part of our organization. When I shared it with my team, they expanded it to 31 and at that point I realized that we were rethinking our business from the ground up.
Innovation is, I think, 3 things:
It is customer centric. Leaning into the customer experience, whether it's augmented reality, ya covers, Facebook conversions or personalized books.
And it is iterative. You try, learn, change, over and over. You start small, like that list I made. And you build from there.
And it is about mindset. Our industry is often thought to be the hallmark of stuck. Innovation is tough, it's expensive and on some days it's really embarrassing. But it's our mindset --the way we think about it -- that allows us to drive through and innovate.
When I look at us, the book industry, I see leaders. I see strivers. I see innovators.
I see an industry that's breaking the norms of what media transformation can and should look like. And people who daily do the work for the sheer excitement that books bring into people's lives.
Thank you so much for this honor, thank you to the whole BISG organization for the work you do, to the committee and working group members and chairs, to my many friends on the board, and to everyone here today for giving your time and effort to making our industry better. As members of BISG we are charged and trusted with setting standards for the industry. Let's continue to set a standard of innovation, of growth mindset, of reaching beyond what we are now and creating the future of book publishing. Thank you.
Every year ReaderLink holds their annual meeting in the Chicagoland area and invites their partners to come in for two days of sharing great information and networking. For anyone not familiar, ReaderLink is the group that, among other things, supplies books to some of your favorite retailers like Walmart, Target, the wholesale clubs, grocery chains, and more. ReaderLink also hosts an awards ceremony where it presents awards to it's publishing partners.
This year the awards dinner was hosted by author and television personsonality Anderson Cooper and during the event Sourcebooks was honored to be presented with the Rising Star Award. Publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah accepted the award and gave the following speech:
"Thank you for recognizing our company with this exciting award. All of us at Sourcebooks put an immeasurable value on our business relationship with the staff and management at ReaderLink. There is no question that ReaderLink and the retailers you serve have played a key role in the growth of Sourcebooks during our 27 year history, a simple truth that no doubt applies to every publisher in the room tonight. We are very grateful for the opportunity and the support ReaderLink has given our titles over the years. And nowhere is that more evident than in our news tonight that with the success you’ve helped us create, This is Where it Ends, our brilliant young adult novel is today a #1 New York Times bestseller. 25 weeks on the list. Thank YOU!!! Thank you!! Thank YOU!! Each and every one of you.
Our thanks as well to the many special individuals at Readerlink that have given guidance, advice, feedback and direction to us as our publishing program has grown. John Norris and his team have been instrumental in how we have shaped our children’s publishing program. Our romance line has grown dramatically with the support and insights of Cathy Cadek. Sourcebooks YA and Adult imprints continue to see terrific growth as well and we are grateful for the support of Donna’s wonderful staff. Our thanks as well to the critical ReaderLink teams in California, and Bentonville.
We are well aware of the complexity and thousands of moving parts and people it takes to do what you do at ReaderLink on behalf of your retailers, your suppliers and the millions of readers they serve. We are in awe and excited to be a part of it all with you."
Thank you to everyone at ReaderLink for your partnership, and for honoring our team with the Rising Star Award!
“I think the mystery category could be an interesting space for us. Could you look into that?”
At Sourcebooks, big projects often grow out of small questions. And in this case, the small, seemingly innocuous question—“Could you look into that?”—was directed at me, a fledgling editor with the time and interest to do a deep dive into the well-established, sprawling mystery category to determine whether Sourcebooks might be able to find a foothold in the marketplace.
At other publishing houses, the thought of taking on such a large task might be intimidating. But at Sourcebooks, innovation has always been a prominent theme, especially in the fiction program. From building a new imprint from the ground up under publishing legend Hillel Black’s guidance, to the Jane Austen spinoff craze that rocked the early 2000s, to the establishment of a thriving romance program, Sourcebooks editors have been seeking out new opportunities in adult fiction for nearly two decades, and I was thrilled to have the chance to take on a similar challenge.
I started my investigation with data, analyzing the top twenty mystery imprints in the Big Five, as well as looking at the most successful independent publishers in the space. I broke the entire mystery/suspense/thriller market down into categories, and from there into subcategories. Everything from James Patterson’s gritty thrillers to Joanne Fluke’s delicious cozy mysteries went under the microscope as I worked to identify which types of books were selling well, paying special attention to where debut authors were finding success.
Finally, I had to put together a plan for Sourcebooks’s entry into the mystery category. I compared the data I had to Sourcebooks’s strengths, looking for places where we could capitalize on our existing knowledge and skills to reach readers in new ways. Women-oriented mysteries were a clear opportunity for us—as a well-known romance and women’s fiction publisher, I suspected we might also find success with books featuring female sleuths that tackle issues of importance to women readers. Since we also have a strong historical fiction program, historical mysteries in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear and Susan Elia MacNeal were an area I was eager to explore. Our well-established mass market romance program and strong presence in the library market could lend itself to development in the mass market cozy mystery space, and our passion for book club fiction and fantastic storytelling led me to wonder if we might not want to publish books in the vein of Tana French, Lori Roy, and Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger.
All of this research and planning went into a 108-slide PowerPoint presentation, which I shared with our publisher and senior staff to propose the development of a mystery program at Sourcebooks. A year and a half later, we are releasing debut author Radha Vatsal’s A Front Page Affair, the first book in an exciting historical mystery series set in World War I New York City that has received outstanding trade reviews, is a Library Journal debut of the month, and represents the beginning of what I hope will be an important evolution in the Sourcebooks fiction program.
One of the very best things about being an editor at Sourcebooks is the huge number of opportunities we get to take advantage of in terms of flexibility and our publisher’s enthusiasm for innovation and willingness to let us experiment. Editors armed with nothing more than passion, a keen editorial eye, and a small question (“Could you look into that?”) have established imprints that now house some of the most beloved and respected authors in their categories. And, of course, in the end, everything we’re able to do as editors comes from the wonderful authors we work with. A frequent refrain at Sourcebooks is “We publish authors, not books,” which points to our belief that one of our jobs as a publisher is to support our authors in editorial work, marketing, publicity, and sales, in hopes that we’ll still be working together five, ten, fifteen years down the road. As we embark on this new adventure, I’m so thrilled to be welcoming our new mystery authors to the Sourcebooks family and can’t wait to see the success we’ll create together.
We were all saddened to hear of the passing of Hillel Black, our executive editor here at Sourcebooks for nearly 10 years.
Hillel’s impact on the company that Sourcebooks became cannot be understated. It was Hill’s deep love for authors that helped form a cornerstone for the sort of publishing company we sought to create. As the former publisher of Macmillan and editor-in-chief at William Morrow, he joined what was then a small publishing house trafficking entirely in nonfiction. Simply put, Hillel Black put us on the map.
Indeed, Hillel is the reason we have both the Sourcebooks Landmark fiction imprint and a New York City office. Soon after he joined us in the year 2000, Hill was here in Naperville to visit and took Dominique out for dinner. I received a call at home that night from Dominique: “I think I just committed us to starting a fiction program,” she sheepishly told me. To be frank, it was a huge risk.
But Hillel would get it done, famously asking Dominique over sushi what kind of novels she’d like to publish. “Writers like Michael Malone,” she said. Hill being Hill located one of Michael’s old books, found the agent in the acknowledgments, and soon thereafter Sourcebooks Landmark was publishing Michael’s first new novel in more than a decade, placing it on the New York Times bestsellers list. As we’ve recently reported, Sourcebooks Landmark had its best year ever in 2015, and 2016 is off to a rollicking start. Hillel got it all off the ground and would be delighted.
Hillel’s care for books and authors was unparalleled, and his drive to find the next big book was never-ending. He was a mentor to me and to many others here. Several of us have been commiserating today about his phrases of wisdom that have become vocabulary around here – a “publishing prophet” is just one way of explaining his impact. Go for it, ask a long-timer, they’ll have a Hillel story to tell you.
Most importantly, though, Hillel was a dear, dear friend. His was a kind and genuine soul. He will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
VP Editorial Director
At left, Hillel and Alfred Blumrosen, author of Slave Nation, enjoy a drink and lively conversation at Sourcebooks' 20th birthday party. At right, Hillel celebrates his retirement with Todd Stocke, Tom Murphy, and Deb Werksman. Below, Hillel and Dominique cut the cake and drink champagne to commemorate his 10 wonderful years with Sourcebooks.
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