It was inevitable, the two publishers say, one after 26 years of publishing books for adult readers, the other founded only three years ago. Soho Press, which has published literary fiction and mysteries since 1986, and Angry Robot, a science fiction and fantasy publisher since 2009, are each building upon the crossover appeal of many of their genre fiction releases by launching YA imprints that complement their adult offerings. Angry Robot is starting up a science fiction/fantasy imprint, Strange Chemistry, in September; Soho Press will inaugurate a mystery imprint, Soho Teen, next January.
It makes sense, says Meredith Barnes, Soho Press’s marketing director, that Soho would decide to focus on mysteries when developing an imprint for YA readers. “Soho Teen’s founding premise is that mystery is at the heart of all YA fiction, no matter what the genre,” she says, ”What could be more mysterious than life’s firsts, whether it’s falling in love or saving the world?”
Barnes says that, with the crossover appeal of a growing number of novels on their list, most recently Zombie by J.R. Angelella (June), “YA is a natural extension of what we’ve been doing already.” Soho Press has been publishing mystery novels for adult readers since 1991, when it launched its Soho Crime imprint.
Daniel Ehrenhaft, Soho Teen’s editorial director, wants Soho Teen to be more than simply a line of mysteries featuring teenage protagonists. He’d like to use it as a vehicle to promote teen literacy, a cause about which he is passionate. All proceeds from sales of Who Done It?, an anthology edited by Jon Scieszka, in which 83 YA and children’s authors write their own alibis in a crime serial novel, will be donated to 826NYC, a nonprofit literacy organization. And a contest in collaboration with Figment.com and Iheartdaily.com for the most clever alibi written by a teen writer will net the winner $1,000, face time with Scieszka, and a college letter of recommendation.
One title will be released each month in 2013 under the Soho Teen imprint, beginning with the first of two novels by Jacquelyn Mitchard, What We Saw at Night (Jan.), followed by Who Done It? (Feb). Soho Teen novels will be published in hardcover; while Barnes declined to divulge the initial print run for What We Saw at Night, she says that “it’s a big one.”
While Soho Press has had crossover successes with mysteries and thrillers, for Strange Chemistry’s editorial director, Amanda Rutter, the hottest books in the YA category are science fiction and fantasy. It’s also, Angry Robot publisher Marc Gascoigne adds, “where the next generation is creating its own take on science fiction and fantasy,” by “reimagining classic tropes in a new way, not ignoring the past but assimilating it.
“There’s so much energy and imagination in much YA fiction,” Gascoigne says. “Frankly, we wanted to come and play too.”
The decision to formally expand into YA fiction three years after the press was founded in Nottingham, England, was the logical next step, Gascoigne says. After all, he explains, Angry Robot’s mission has always been to publish books for a “new generation of readers who know [science fiction] and fantasy from today’s underground culture of TV, summer movie blockbusters, comic books, and Xbox games.” One of its more notable crossover successes, Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award for the best science fiction novel published in the U.K.
Strange Chemistry will kick off in September with two releases: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond, a U.S. writer (and PW contributor); and Shift by Kim Curran, a U.K. writer. Two releases will be published in October, and one in November. Beginning in 2013, one title will be released each month until July, when the monthly output will double. Books will be released simultaneously in the U.S. and in the U.K. in trade paper, e-book, and audiobook formats. The initial print runs for Blackwood and Shift will be 8,000 copies.
As the two houses prepare to join the growing number of publishers launching YA imprints, hoping to better position themselves in a crowded marketplace, Soho Teen’s Ehrenhaft and Strange Chemistry’s Rutter both regard the trend as much more than a passing fad. Rutter believes it is evidence that publishers are committing themselves to publishing more YA fiction that stands the test of time, rather than pushing out books that readers will read only for “the next two months.” And Ehrenhaft says, “The publishing industry is respecting disparate tastes and the intelligence of the readers. That makes me happy.”