Andrew Martin is a man on a mission, a mission to change the industry's perception of the mystery imprint he's been heading for the last three years. Martin, as publisher of Minotaur Books, which releases some 140 titles annually, is pushing a message to the publishing community that his imprint is about more than strong, small-run backlist genre mysteries, it's also about “big, noisy blockbusters.”
Noting that his outlook on publishing was changed by the years he spent working at Sterling, owned by Barnes & Noble, Martin has devised a schedule in which Minotaur publishes one big book a month that is backed by a major marketing push and a 75,000-copy to 200,000-copy first printing.
To find the right lead title, Minotaur takes chances on newcomers as well as writers from what Martin dubs his “farm team.” Chelsea Cain, a Portland journalist who signed a seven-figure, three-book deal with the imprint in 2006, is a good example of the former tack; Cain's first two novels in her serial killer trilogy—Heartsick and Sweetheart—both hit the bestseller lists.
The other route involves cherry-picking writers from Minotaur's backlist (aka the farm team)—many of them accomplished genre authors the imprint has steadily done 5,000-copy print runs for. Olen Steinhauer is one such writer. Steinhauer's The Tourist, published in March, is his sixth book, but the first in a new trilogy, which Martin said was key to giving the Edgar-winning author a higher profile. “[Steinhauer] had great literary chops,” Martin elaborated, “but I can't make him great on book four or five of a five-book series.” (The Tourist, which has sold 51,000 copies to date, was also acquired for film by George Clooney.)
Martin's goal is to drive home the message that Minotaur, while it is about genre fiction, is also about big fiction. To that end, the imprint recently signed a three-book deal with bestseller Nevada Barr; it will now release the next titles in Barr's long-running series featuring Parks Service detective Anna Pigeon.
In addition to bigger print runs—upcoming 100,000-copy pushes include Norb Vonnegut's Top Producer (mid-September) and Louise Penny's The Brutal Telling (late September)—Martin is trying to twist the old publicity standards. The imprint has done away with shipping a crate-full of galleys—known as the Beast Box —to booksellers and the press every season. Instead it's shipping two “discoveries” and a memory stick with promotional information about other upcoming titles. (The discoveries are two of the house's lead titles.)
According to Martin, the less is more approach is all part of the plan “to get you reading, buying, selling Minotaur books.”
Although Martin acknowledged that consumers may not check the bindings of their books before they buy, branding is key, he thinks, within the industry. “While I don't promote the Minotaur brand to the consumer, I do to the customer,” by which he means getting booksellers and the press on board with the new Minotaur.