Calling the book a “fluke hit,” Johnny Temple, publisher of Brooklyn Indie house Akashic Books, said he couldn’t be happier about the frenzy over Go The F**K to Sleep by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes, a parody of a kids’ picture book that he’s about to release. The surprise hit title has more than 275,000 copies in print and doesn’t go on sale until June 14.
Akashic Book has a reputation for a publishing program that offers a thoughtful combination of literary fiction, edgy counter cultural nonfiction and grassroots politics plus innovative commercial fiction imprints that focus on African American, Carribean and Gay and Lesbian writing. But Temple and Akashic hit the jackpot with Mansbach and Cortes’ hilarious parody of a kids’ picture book thats aimed at adults. Written from the weary perspective of a parent desperate to get a cranky kid to, well, go the F*** to sleep, the book has connected with just about every parent, everywhere, literally.
Not only does the book have nearly 300,000 copies in print, but Temple says he’s probably going to sell foreign rights in 20-30 countries. “We’ve got 10 deals accepted right now and there are more on the table,” Temple said. “This is exponentially bigger than any book we’ve ever had.” The book has attracted enormous media attention and Temple said there’s more to come. And the book’s publicity tour—which will launch June 14 at the New York Public Library—hasn’t even started yet.
Temple sounded a note of caution—unexpected bestsellers, and the capital it takes to fund large and unplanned print runs, have been known to hammer and sometimes financially overwhelm small presses. Temple said that Akashic went back to press four times to get to the total print run and admits he could have released even more copies. “I’m fiscally cautious. Small publishers can be swamped by something like this,” Temple acknowledged, “but I’ve been pinching pennies here at Akashic for so long that we’ve been able to handle it.”
Temple said he’s established a “huge” reserve against returns and he’s not going on a hiring binge. “We’re not going to expand our staff any more than it takes to handle this book,” he said. Temple said Go the F*** to Sleep will give Akashic its first profitable year in 2011. “We don’t lose money but usually each year everything goes back into the company to help us grow. Now we’ll have a cushion in the years going forward.”
“It’s a total fluke,” he said laughing about the uproar over the book and his good fortune to be publishing it. “But we’re going to keep doing the kind of books we’ve always done. Now we’ll just have a little more money to spend.”