On January 4th, Publishers Weekly, in their daily electronic issue, ran the following headline: Print Units Fell 9 Percent in 2012, followed by this story which began thusly: "Unit sales of print books fell just over 9 percent in 2012 at outlets tracked by Nielsen BookScan, roughly the same percentage decline posted between 2010 and 2011."
This gloomy news is not shared by us, as Our Print Units Rose 37% last year, which was a spectacular record breaker, going back to our inception 35 years ago, when we started publishing an average of 12 to 14 books yearly (mostly fiction), keeping nearly all of them in print, which has provided us with a backlist of over 400 titles. I have some thoughts about what might account for this contrast between our figures and those of the five biggest conglomerate publishers, but first let me list our differences.
The Permanent Press figures for 2012:
1) Print book sales increased by 37%
2) eBook sales increased by 94%
3) Subrights sales increased by 427%
4) Total income from all sources increased by 58%
These sales increases were also marked by increasing honors and awards:
1) Kirkus listed Chris Knopf's Dead Anyway and Connie Dial's Fallen Angels among their 100 Top Novels of 2012.
2) Publishers Weekly listed Dead Anyway among the 12 Best Mysteries for 2012.
3) Hallie Ephron listed Dead Anyway in a recent column in The Boston Globe as one of the year’s 10 Best Mysteries.
4) Entertainment Realm listed both Victoria Jenkins' An Unattended Death and Joan Franks’ Make It Stay among their list of the Best 20 Novels for 2012.
5) Jenny Shanks' The Ringer won the High Plains Book Award.
6) Leonard Rosen's novel All Cry Chaos—an Edgar Award and Anthony Award finalist—won the Macavity Book Award and also ForeWord Magazine’s $1,500 Best Novel Prize. Earlier it was also a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize for Best Novel. It was also selected as one of Amazon's Kindle’s “Book of the Day,” selling nearly 6,000 copies the day after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast.
Still a further success: After years of working with Haila Williams at Blackstone Audio, who has taken several of our titles each year, we now have a full partnership in which every one of our 14 novels will be simultaneously produced and released by Blackstone in 2013.
How to account for this? Beyond thanking those unknown forces in the universe who work in inexplicable ways, enabling us to survive and prosper while choosing to publish only books that Judy and I love, first credit goes to our authors for writing intelligent and unique fiction that extends beyond genre, aimed at readers who want something more than genre, and more thoughtful fiction than the formulaic James Patterson collaborations have proved to be. And we’ve been helped by the failure of corporate publishers to appreciate the quality of largely unknown and off the beaten track novelists. More and more literary agents over the years have told me that they can’t place fine writing of this sort with corporate publishers: as witness the fact that, among many other titles we put out, Leonard Rosen’s and Chris Knopf’s first mysteries had two years of turn-downs before they came to us. So high praise for our authors.
Secondly, I think we’ve developed a much better way of marketing our titles than the corporate publishers, but as of this writing I don’t want to share these details in a blog, as I shed no tears for these giants unless they want to bolster our coffers by paying large consulting fees (most of our writers know what we do anyway). Besides, I’ve blogged a lot over the years about these very issues (including the skewed sales figures reported by Nielsen BookScan, which are treated like Holy Writ in the industry, but are far from it…as I discovered several years ago when one of our mysteries that immediately sold over 4,000 hardcovers was turned down by a reprinter who said that while she liked the book a lot, BookScan reported less than 750 sales).
And lastly to the communal nature of how we publish, aided by so many friends, authors, supporters, wonderful online bloggers, literary agents who know what we like and are not afraid to take smaller advances, the agents representing us overseas, our staff who work alongside Judy and me here (Cathy Suter, Felix Gonzalez, Sarah Flood, and Brian Skulnik), and those working off-campus (including the best cover artist I’ve ever seen, Lon Kirschner, Joslyn Pine, as good a copy editor as one can find, and Susan Ahlquist our brilliant typesetter, designer, self proclaimed “Queen of Squeeze”…and then some.
I look forward to your comments and hope you will also check out our current newsletter.