Berrett-Koehler is celebrating its 25th anniversary this spring, and while the Oakland publisher remains committed to its original vision, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t adapted to the changing market. BK continues its process of transitioning from a traditional publishing company to a multimedia enterprise, according to senior communications manager Katie Sheehan. After a big jump in sales in 2015, total revenue at BK was flat last year, said Steve Piersanti, founder of the company. Digital sales rose 2.8% in the year, however, offsetting a decline in print sales that Piersanti attributed to a slight reduction in the output of print titles. BK continues to publish about 40 titles annually, with a focus on business, public affairs, and self-help.
The company has developed a variety of new digital products and services in an effort to connect with readers wherever they are. This includes audiobooks produced in-house and an online directory (BK Expert Directory) that helps companies connect with authors. The company’s new audio business, Sheehan noted, contributed more than $147,000 to revenue last year.
A big part of its digital initiatives last year was BK’s partnership with Humble Bundle, the platform that sells bundles of e-books and other products, with a portion of the sale going to charity. BK’s agreement with HB last year brought in about $123,000 in revenue for BK and $58,000 for charity. BK’s Hacking Capitalism book bundle sold 4,606 units, generating $73,788 in revenue. Of that, BK’s cut was $38,561 and $18,264 went to charity, primarily to WorldReader. The earlier Be the Boss bundle sold 13,603 units and generated $162,940 in revenue, $84,880 for BK and the balance for WorldReader and other charities.
BK is also hosting its first online summit this October. The Servant Leadership Online Training Summit is based on a forthcoming February 2018 book, Servant Leadership in Action, edited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell. The summit will be cohosted by Blanchard and is free. During the live broadcasts, which will take place October 17–26, registrants will tune in to video presentations from 45 leading authors and experts on servant leadership. It will also be recorded and available for purchase.
In addition to its digital projects, BK is repurposing some of its bestselling titles. One of its top personal productivity and time management titles, Eat That Frog!, which has sold 1.6 million copies worldwide, will now have companion products, including a workbook, card deck, audiobook, and video program.
BK is also known for its author-friendly practices, including its Author Days; PW sat in on one last year. Berrett-Koehler initiated Author Days—in which each author of a BK book makes a daylong visit to the company’s headquarters to meet with and make a presentation to the company’s staff—roughly 20 years ago.
Even with the ongoing changes, Piersanti said BK is still guided by its original principles: stewardship and a “deep sense of responsibility to administer the publishing company for the benefit of all of our stakeholder groups—authors, customers, employees, suppliers and subcontractors, owners, and the societal and environmental communities in which we live and work.”