Is imprint publishing the new black?
There is something of a trend going on at the moment amongst publishers. It’s not an immediately noticeable pattern, but it’s something that I think is about to take off. I’ll give you a moment to figure it out….
Figured it out yet?
Well, if you didn’t figure out that it’s imprint publishing from the title, then quite frankly I’m disappointed in you. An imprint publisher is basically just another brand name under which to publish. So technically all publishers are or have previously imprinted, but I’m talking about imprinting for the purpose of specially publishing an atypical genre for that publishing house.
Simon & Schuster’s recently announced imprint ‘Simon451’ is what alerted me to this interesting concept. Simon451 is a new science fiction imprint that is set to debut at the 2014 ComicCon (in October) that, according to the press release, ‘will publish in multiple electronic and printed formats, with a focus on digital-first publishing and ebook originals’. It’s dedicated areas include science fiction, dystopian, apocalyptic, supernatural and speculative fiction in general. They’re also blatantly playing to their market by organising a crowdsourcing contest that will see a student novel published and debuted at ComicCon. So, a ticket to ComicCon and a (possible) fanfiction being published in one year? That’s probably a dream come true for any science fiction fan.
Celebrities, too, are getting into imprint publishing – it’s just like an extension of a celebrity brand these days. Jeter Publishing (which is banking heavily on the sterling reputation of new ‘publishing partner’ and baseball champion Derek Jeter) will be bringing out sports-centric non-fiction titles, children’s books, and picture books for the sports nut in your family. Apparently Johnny Depp has a similar deal for brand Infinitum Nihil with HarperCollins. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West must be next. (Please no-one get ideas from that.)
Even Amazon is getting in on the action – their new ‘Waterfall’ imprint is devoted entirely to Christian literature. Sure, they have heaps of Christian literature available on their website, but now Amazon is going to begin actively publishing Christian books. Some of these titles might not even be evangelical in content – as long as there is Christian values, or evidence of a priest or the Holy Trinity in your fictional story, you might be eligible for Waterfall Publishing. This is a sure sign that Christian publishing is a popular industry. Amazon doesn’t often go out on a limb and take a risk with these kind of things.
08/02/14 Edit: It turns out ‘seemingly’ really is the operative word in the caption above. A kind reader pointed out to me that both the matchbook and ‘451’ in the new imprint’s name are a clear reference to Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi novel Fahrenheit 451, in which books are outlawed and burned by ‘firemen’. You live and learn.
So one question that popped into my head when I read all of this was… Why? Why are these publishing companies going to the trouble of creating another brand to publish under? Isn’t Simon & Schuster a respected enough publishing giant that it can just choose to start publishing more new authors and more science fiction/sports books?
Because of exposure, that’s why! Sure, Simon & Schuster can sign a previously unheard of author, but who cares? They probably have thousands of authors under their belt. But a new exciting brand, dedicated to the SF genre, is definitely worth a press release or two. They’re basically clever publishers that can help gain new sales. Some of these larger publishing houses run the risk of segmenting their audiences too much, however – Entangled Publishing has thirteen imprint brands, because they believe that imprints are synonymous with consumer brands, and a brand is the best platform on which to launch a new author. So they have at least thirteen authors, which is comforting to know. (Here is the Forbes article about Entangled, if you’re interested.)
In the end, this is a good thing for new authors hoping to catch a big break, though (and I seem to conclude a lot of my blogs this way) publishers should tread a fine line with how many imprints they want to own. So keep a watch out! Perhaps there will be an imprint brand aimed at your favourite genre opening up soon.