Coming off of a record 2012, when sales rose 125% to just under $3 million, Pegasus Books publisher Claiborne Hancock hopes to keep the momentum going in 2013 with new hires, more titles, and more e-book sales.
Through the first half of the year, sales were slightly up compared to the first six months of 2012, with e-books helping to lead the way. Pegasus’s e-book sales are handled by Open Road Media and became a meaningful part of the house’s revenue for the first time in 2012, when e-book sales doubled. To give a further boost to its digital revenue, Pegasus recently created Pegasus Classics, the company’s foray into digital-only publishing. Pegasus Classics has acquired six titles to date, and Hancock plans to release about a dozen titles annually via the imprint, which will focus largely on genre fiction and feature original titles and e-book editions of backlist titles.
Growth in e-book revenue notwithstanding, the foundation for Pegasus sales gains has been terrific support from the library market, which accounts for approximately half of the company’s business, and steady growth at retail accounts, including sales through independent bookstores. Pegasus has also steadily increased the number of books it releases annually and will publish about 100 this year after producing 90 in 2012. The company is able to release such a large number with a small staff (now at seven) in part because it acquires about half its titles from U.K. publishers and agents.
Pegasus’s first big hit, The Ice Princess, published in hardcover in 2010, was from Swedish thriller novelist Camilla Läckberg, and while her subsequent novels have sold well, the company has not replicated her success with other Swedish authors; as a result, Pegasus is now more selective in publishing translations. Still, Hancock has high hopes for The Midas Murders by Flemish author Peter Aspe. The company’s list is evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction, and its nonfiction list scored a couple of hits last year with Robert Hardman’s Her Majesty and Prince William by Penny Junor, as well as with Caveat Emptor, the memoir of art forger Ken Perenyi. Trade paperback editions of all three books are coming out this summer and fall, and Hancock is hoping that the birth of Prince George of Cambridge will result in increased interest in Prince William. Pegasus has set a 10,000-copy first printing for the edition, which will have four new chapters, including one devoted to William and Kate’s firstborn.
With sales of its books rising, Pegasus has been able to generate more foreign-rights sales, which are handled by Linda Biagi’s Biagi Rights Management firm. The company is also now firmly on the radar of U.S. agents. “We get more submissions than we can handle,” Hancock said. To give Pegasus more bandwidth, it hired Iris Blasi as marketing director and senior editor. Blasi, whose first day was August 12, will help ramp up the house’s social media activities and acquire new books. “2012 was a real breakthrough for us,” Hancock said of the publisher, which was founded in 2006. “We are working to build on that success.”