More than three years ago, Mark Pearce, a successful architect and property developer, started MP Publishing on the Isle of Man. Pearce immediately started buying book rights (mostly electronic) of work written by U.K. authors and built the company up to almost $400,000 in annual revenue. This fall the publisher is poised to enter the U.S. market in a big way—and with an emphasis on printed books—by actively signing American authors and publishing simultaneously in the U.S. and U.K. when MP thinks it makes sense.
"We've come full circle," said Pearce during a joint phone interview from the Isle of Man along with his MP co-director, Maria Smith. "We see e-books as a means to an end." MP plans to take its most successful e-books (the company has rights to more than 300 backlist titles) and print them. MP will publish 15 printed books in the U.K. and has eight titles on its debut U.S. list in the fall. "We now think it isn't possible to do just e-books," said Pearce.
Within a year MP expects to be publishing 30 new titles in the U.S. with the help of its distributor, Publishers Group West, and consultant Pat Walsh, the former editor-in-chief at MacAdam/Cage. MP just hired another MacAdam/Cage alum, Guy Intoci, as its American editor-in-chief. Intoci is in the process of moving to New York to set up MP's U.S. office, and he is already acquiring American books. Most recently, Tony Broadbent, author of the Jethro cat burglar mysteries published by St. Martin's, signed on to continue the series with MP.
Broadbent is a Brit, although he has lived in the U.S. for many years, and the Isle of Man is not a political part of the U.K., but is a Crown Dependency, answerable to the queen but not the British Parliament. Pearce confirmed that the Isle of Man government supports companies that promote local businesses in other markets, and has awarded MP a grant to set up its U.S. marketing team.
Since Smith's real passion is quality fiction, MP's list will be 90% fiction. It was a nonfiction project, however, that first got MP into the U.S. market with Don't Quit Your Day Job, a collection of Southern writers musing about their various day jobs, edited by Sonny Brewer, who was part of MacAdam/Cage's stable of authors.
MP started doing MacAdam/Cage's e-books in 2008, and the two companies built a strong bond. Walsh connected Brewer with Pearce, and MP crash-published Don't Quit Your Day Job, something Pearce said he would not do again, even if the book did sell more than 5,000 copies and is nominated for a Southern Independent Booksellers Association award. John Grisham, a contributor to the book, wrote about it upon publication in the New York Times. The paperback is on MP's 2011 list. MP will publish some titles in both the U.S. and U.K., while others will be targeted for specific countries.
This fall, MP is introducing to the U.S. in print the works of thriller writers I.K. Watson and Claire Rayner, both bestsellers in the U.K., but also two authors whose e-books have already sold well in the U.S. Also on MP's first U.S. list is Family Legacy by Jack O'Halloran, an American heavyweight boxer and character actor who has worked with Robert Mitchum and is best known as the villain Non in the Superman movies that starred Christopher Reeve.