The business of publishing books is often considered an art, more than a science. Not for the new house behind the came-out-nowhere bestseller, Calendar Girl. Waterhouse Press, which published the 12-book erotica series that USA Today just touted as the next Fifty Shades of Grey, is being led by a former banker who is taking a numbers-driven approach to cracking the bestseller list. So far, it seems to be working.
Waterhouse was founded in 2014 by indie author Meredith Wild, who made headlines last year after selling her self-published Hacker series to Grand Central's Forever imprint for seven figures. And although the press is relatively small--its list is currently made up of three authors--it has large ambitions.
For starters, Waterhouse has no designs on following the path of The Writer's Coffee Shop, the small publisher which initially released Fifty Shades of Grey. With Calendar Girl dominating besteller lists, and its author Audrey Carlan signed to a 27-book world rights deal, Waterhouse is not looking to unleash its new star on a bigger house. Instead, CEO David Grishman says the press has every intention of publishing Carlan in full, and is preparing to spearhead a major print rollout for her series.
Waterhouse discovered Carlan over the summer after seeing the strong reviews and fan support her books had generated on Amazon. At the time Carlan inked her deal with Waterhouse in August 2015, she had self-published a total of 12 books: six titles in the Calendar Girl series and two other romance trilogies, Trinity and Falling. In addition to acquiring Carlan's backlist and the full Calendar Girl series, Waterhouse also acquired a forthcoming seven-book series called Lotus House that is set in Berkeley, Calif., and follows a cast of characters orbiting a local yoga studio.
Grishman estimated that Carlan was earning about $500-a-month from her writing when she signed with Waterhouse in August 2015. Now, he said, Waterhouse has sold over 600,000 units in Carlan's Calendar Girl series, which follows down-on-her-luck Mia Saunders who is forced into becoming a high-priced call girl in order to pay off her father's gambling debts. Waterhouse has also begun to see foreign sales for Calendar Girl (which is available in both digital and print).
Florida-based Bookcase Literary is handling foreign rights for the series. Bookcase's Flavia Viotti confirmed one deal has already closed in Israel with the same publisher that released Fifty Shades in that country. Viotti, who started shopping the series internationally this month after it began hitting bestseller lists in the States, said that, at press time, there were two auctions underway in "major territories," with interest from 15 other countries.
That the success of Calendar Girl is something Waterhouse might not be prepared to handle, especially if print demand spikes in the way it did for Fifty Shades, is something Grishman immediately dismissed. "We think we can out-execute anyone," he said, referring to the prospect of selling the print rights to the series to a Big Five publisher.
Working with Ingram Publisher Services on distribution, Waterhouse is preparing to make a big print splash with Calendar Girl; Grishman said the company has just printed 70,000 units which will be at retailers within the next 30 days. Although Grishman declined to offer specifics on retailer orders, he said Barnes & Noble took a significant number of copies and he foresees the book chain leading a print release of the series that will see paperback editions selling at $15.99.
Having worked as a portfolio manager and on the business side of the healthcare sector, Grishman has an unusual background for a publisher. He got involved with the business after advising Wild, about how to "maximize revenue" of her Hacker series. Waterhouse is the publisher of Wild's other series, The Bridge.
Asked how an author could "maximize revenue," Grishman was cagey. When his system was compared to the one pioneered by Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane--a mathematical approach used to identify inexpensive baseball players to acquire that Michael Lewis famously laid bare in his 2003 book Moneyball--Grishman acknowledged that his approach to publishing is "heavily mathematical."
Mathematics aside, Grishman said that the press is looking for specific writers in the mold of Carlan, Wild and Waterhouse's other author, Helen Hardt (who published her four-book series, Sex and the Season, with Waterhouse).
Waterhouse does not accept submissions and instead seeks out self-published authors with a backlist who "may have had some experience with small publishing houses." Currently Waterhouse is on the lookout for someone who's writing paranormal romance, preferably a vampire series. "We have a specific criteria," Grishman said, referring to the house's talent scouting. "And, when the time is right, we will reach out to that special author."
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Meredith Wild is the founder of Waterhouse Press, not David Grishman. Grishman is the CEO of the company.