Tantor Media’s decision last year to begin publishing print books to augment its audiobook and e-book titles has paid dividends, helping to boost total company sales in a number of ways. Tantor has seen revenue increase, not only due to the addition of 12 new print books but because the ability to offer print editions has increased the visibility of the Old Saybrook, Conn.–based company among agents, which was one of the aims of moving into the print market. “The ability to offer authors the chance to be published in print, audio, and digital is important in today’s more competitive market,” said John Molish, v-p of sales.
Tantor released its first trade paperback last fall and sales for the entire company through September were up about 36% over the same period in 2013, said president Kevin Colebank. The company’s biggest print hit has been Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace by Scott Thorson, which benefitted from the Steven Soderberg–directed HBO television movie that debuted on the cable channel this summer. Tantor has sold over 15,000 print copies and another 20,000 e-books, with the title getting a nice bounce after the movie won 11 Emmys.
Director of rights and acquisitions Ron Formica added print books to his duties last year and said that Tantor has seen a steady increase in submissions from agents, especially after this year’s BookExpo America. The company is also talking to agents about backlist titles that it could republish. Tantor is rounding out its print list with titles from overseas. For example, The Murdoch Archipelago by Bruce Page, which was published in the U.K by S&S in 2003, is being done in the U.S. by Tantor in print and digital. With a small print list, Tantor can provide authors with “lots of personal attention,” Molish said, and it can keep them involved in the publishing process, allowing them to provide input on areas such as marketing and cover art. Tantor’s list will continue to be a mix of fiction and nonfiction, and Formica expects to publish 24 print titles in 2014.
While the addition of a print component has been an important part of Tantor’s 2013 growth, its core audio operation has also seen big gains. Since the summer, Tantor has been releasing 70 audiobooks a month—about double its previous volume. Demand for digital downloads has helped fuel the growth in audio, but Molish said Tantor is still benefitting from strong demand for physical audio in bookstores and in libraries. While larger trade houses are holding on to audio rights for more titles than they did in the past, there are still enough rights available to keep Tantor’s 130 narrators busy. Titles doing well recently include an audio edition of the book that inspired the Netflix hit series Orange Is the New Black, by Piper Kerman, and a couple of audiobooks with ties to new films: Rush to Glory by Tom Rubython (the basis for Rush, the new Ron Howard film) and A Captain’s Duty by Richard Phillips (the basis for the new Paul Greengrass movie, Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks). Gulp, by Mary Roach is another good seller and is, Molish said, an example of an “instant audiobook”—one that Tantor released 10 days after acquiring the rights.
As Tantor’s e-book and print businesses expand, Colebank said his goal is to have those two formats make up 50% of Tantor’s total revenue in five years.