Traditional trade publishers have been testing the digital-first/digital-only publishing waters for more than two years now, and the pace is accelerating. This month alone, Penguin is reviving the Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries line as a digital only imprint, Kensington has launched eKensington as an e-book only imprint, F+W Media is moving its Crimson Romance e-book imprint from a beta test to full launch coinciding with the rollout of its newest e-book subscription site, this one for romance books, while HarperCollins’s Impulse imprint will double its output from one digital title per week to two this fall and will add William Morrow and Harper Voyager to the Impulse line, which began with Avon.
While the publishers see the digital imprints as a way to publish new authors as well as to bring back once popular titles that have gone out of print, they insisted that they are publishing titles in the digital imprints with the same energy as titles in traditional imprints. “This is not a junior imprint,” said Lucia Macro, who manages Impulse at HC. “The same teams that work on print titles work on Impulse.” That includes the rights department; Avon has sold print and digital rights for He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, plus a second title by Impulse debut author Lena Diaz to Germany. Approximately 80% of Impulse’s titles are original e-books, and the goal, as the imprint moves to embrace Voyager science fiction/fantasy and a variety of Morrow areas, is to keep the majority of titles e-originals, Macro said. The first Voyager title, The Asylum Interviews: Bronx, has just been released.
Publishers are acquiring both agented and unagented books, and while contracts vary from publisher to publisher, most call for no advances and a royalty rate of 25%–30% for the first 10,000 copies sold, then a 50% royalty on copies over the 10,000 threshold. Random House’s Loveswept, however, does pay advances, and Steve Zacharius, president of Kensington, said his company has a contract clause that provides for an advance if the company does decide to go ahead and publish a print edition.
The area where publishers differ the most in their approach is with respect to print. At Loveswept, Gina Wachtel, v-p, associate publisher, trade paperback, mass market, and Loveswept, explained that since the imprint has been concentrating on doing reissues of Bantam, Ballantine, and Dell paperbacks that haven’t been released in digital, it hasn’t done any print on demand. But as the imprint does more e-originals in the future, Wachtel expects it will have a POD component before the end of the year. At Harlequin’s Carina Press imprint, any of Harlequin’s overseas divisions can release a print edition of a Carina title, said executive editor Angela James. Karen Cooper, of F+W Media, said the press’s aim is to make all titles available in POD as close to e-publication as possible. Impulse’s Macro noted that any e-originals that are more than 25,000 words receive a short print run, while Hachette’s Forever Yours does POD on novels over 50,000 words; currently the POD edition is pubbing one to two months after the digital edition, but by the end of the year Hachette hopes to do simultaneous POD and digital versions.
Experimenting with lengths and forms is another of the similarities the digital imprints tend to share. In addition to full-length novels, short stories and novellas are part of most digital imprints’ list. Forever Yours, for example, has found novellas that introduce new characters and reacquaint readers with characters from previous novels sell well, said communications director Sophie Cottrell, adding that Jennifer Haymore’s Once Upon a Wicked Night and Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Ice Princess are doing particularly well. Penguin’s InterMix imprint will serialize Because You Are Mine, an original erotic romance, in eight parts beginning July 31. The remaining seven sections will be released each Tuesday for seven weeks.
Penguin decided to use the digital format to bring back the pulp imprint Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries, which published 82 noir detective titles from 1947 to 1956, including Mickey Spillane’s first seven Mike Hammer novels. To kick off the revival, Dutton Guilt Edged will publish Skin, a short story begun by Spillane and completed by his longtime collaborator, Max Allan Collins, on July 17. Also on that date DGE will publish Murder in Mumbai, a novella by NPR editor Krishnadev Calamur. DGE is being overseen by Dutton editor-in-chief Ben Sevier, who said the imprint will focus on finding new writers, publishing one new work between 10,000 and 50,000 words per month. “There is a lot of talent out there and with the low barriers to entry, digital lets us try new things,” Sevier said.
DGE titles will be priced between $2.99 and $4.99, with most publishers saying price is being driven by a number of factors, including length and author. EKensington titles will be priced between $2.99 and $6.99, and Zacharius noted that Kensington is prepared to move beyond that range if necessary.
F+W will charge $12.99 a month or $59.99 for an annual subscription to ebooks.crimsonromance.com, its new Web site that is expected to go live by the end of July. At launch, Cooper said, the e-book store will focus on the Crimson Romance line, but may add other publishers later. Crimson Romance released 25 titles in June and will do 20 monthly. F+W’s Prologue Books imprint was fast out of the gate, publishing 300 estate-approved reissues of pulp fiction favorites from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. Prologue plans to do 30 titles per month.
Books that have done best for the digital imprints encompass both original titles and reissues. At InterMix, of the 125 e-books it has released to date, 57 have been Nora Roberts “classics,” and The Last Honest Woman, Captivated, and Charmed are its top three sellers. Recent Impulse bestsellers include an original story by Rachel Gibson, Crazy on You, and an original novella by Eloisa James, Winning the Wallflower. Loveswept’s top titles include two reissues, Ride with Me and About Last Night, plus an original from debut author Jessica Scott, Because of You.
Parent Company: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Started: Summer 2010
Titles to Date: 380
Imprint leadership: Angela James, executive editor
Parent Company: Hachette Book Group
Imprint: Forever Yours
Started: February 2012
Titles to Date: 20
Imprint leadership: Amy Pierpont, director
Parent Company: Penguin Group USA
Started: January 2012
Genres: Women’s fiction, romance, mystery and thriller, science fiction/fantasy
Titles to Date: 125
Imprint leadership: Leslie Gelbman, president of mass market publishing;
Kara Welsh, v-p, publisher, NAL
Imprint: Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries
Started: July 2012
Titles to Date: 2
Imprint leadership: Ben Sevier, editor-in-chief, Dutton
Parent Company: HarperCollins
Started: March 2011
Genres: Romance, science fiction/fantasy, mystery and thrillers, nonfiction/women’s interest
Titles to date: 75
Imprint leadership: Liate Stehlik, executive v-p, publisher, William Morrow, Avon, Voyager;
Lucia Macro, executive editor
Parent Company: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Pocket Star
Started: Spring 2012
Genres: Women’s fiction, romance, thrillers, urban fantasy, mystery
Titles to Date: 16
Imprint leadership: Louise Burke, executive v-p, publisher, Pocket/Gallery/Threshold
Parent Company: Kensington Publishing
Started: July 2012
Genres: Romance, fiction, urban fantasy
Titles to Date: 6
Imprint leadership: Alicia Condon, Kensington editorial director
Parent Company: Random House
Started: August 2011
Titles to Date: 32
Imprint leadership: Gina Wachtel, associate publisher, trade paperback, mass market, Loveswept;
Sue Grimshaw, editor-at-large
Parent Company: F+W Media
Started: June 2012
Titles to Date: 25
Imprint leadership: Jennifer Lawler, imprint manager
Imprint: Prologue Books
Genre: Crime, science fiction/fantasy, western
Started: April 2012
Titles to Date: 300
Imprint leadership: Ben Leroy, publisher