Blackstone Audio, the independent audiobook publisher based in Ashland, Ore., has launched Blackstone Publishing, a new imprint devoted to print and e-books. In November 2015, the company released its first original hardcover, The Blood Flag, a thriller by James W. Huston, and rolled out paperback and e-book editions of four western novels including The Rider of Lost Creek by Louis L’Amour and Silver Mane by Zane Gray. The fall rollout also included Grandma Says: Wake Up World! by Agnes Baker Pilgrim, a respected spiritual leader and oldest living member of the Takelma tribe in Oregon. Pilgrim’s book was the debut title in the Legacy of the First Nation: Voices of a Generation series created to preserve the stories, teachings, wisdom, humor, and advice of First Nation (Native American) Elders.
“It’s a little bit of a reversal,” says Blackstone CEO and president Josh Stanton, of his company’s move from audio to print, though audio publisher Tantor Media made a similar move to include print in 2012. “But with the explosion of audio, which has resulted in great sales for us, there is just one problem with that core business: rights.” Stanton notes that more and more print publishers retain both audio and e-book rights these days, leaving fewer choices for audio-only publishers seeking content. “This move allows us to position ourselves a little better, so that we can go to literary agents and compete for all rights out of the box,” he explains.
While Blackstone made its print debut last fall, Stanton says that summer 2016 marks a serious ramp-up of titles for the list, and the company will be featuring two of its new authors at BEA. Summit is a debut adventure-thriller by Harry Farthing set in Europe and on the treacherous slopes of Mt. Everest, and moves between 1938 and today; it will be available in June in hardcover, e-book, and an audiobook narrated by the author. Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith, the first book in Extinction, a dystopian thriller trilogy taking place 250 years in the future, bows in July, also in hardcover, e-book, and audio.
Looking ahead, Stanton estimates that Blackstone Publishing will release 65–70 titles this year, “probably about 10 of them backlist,” and says a short story collection by Cory Doctorow and the novel Wolves by D.J. Molles (the Remaining series) are among the projects in the pipeline. According to Stanton, that sizable activity means that the company will expand its staff of 185 by adding additional editorial and marketing positions. “We’re excited,” says Stanton about Blackstone’s new direction. “We know how to sell books, and we’ve established great relationships in the industry and with our authors.” Now, he adds, “It’s about picking books we love, books we believe will have legs.”
Smith signs today at Table 8 in the Autographing Area, 2–3 p.m. Farthing signs today at Table 7 in the Autographing Area, 3–4 p.m.
This article appeared in the May 11, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.