With net sales that increased by 80%, Interweave Press was named one of Publishers Weekly’s fastest-growing small presses in 2005. Fast forward six years, and the Colorado-based illustrated DIY art and craft book publisher, now owned by Aspire Media, is continuing its strong growth. Close to 70% of its books debut at the top of Nielsen BookScan’s craft list, according to senior v-p Stephen Koenig, something he attributes largely to the synergistic relationships among Interweave’s online communities, magazines, and TV shows. And starting this month Interweave is reaching out to crafters in a new way, with a Groupon-like Web site, FlockShop.com, which sells non-Interweave products.
“As a book publisher, it’s a dream to not be dependent on third-party promotions to do our customer outreach. We can very quickly reach millions of crafters,” said Koenig, who oversees retail sales, e-commerce, and book publishing. For example, he can build anticipation among knitters—Interweave’s strongest craft area followed by jewelry—through direct-to-consumer e-mails to the 640,000 registered users of the company’s KnittingDaily.com Web site, as well as through ads in the press’s knitting-related magazines.
“Our magazines were instrumental in helping us launch our online communities. Magazines are relationships. Books are events; most are read only once. We realized that if we want to sell books, we need to sell them as multiple events,” explained Koenig. So far it seems to be working. Interweave has a backlist of 350 titles and doubled its output of 20 to 22 books a year in 2006 to between 40 and 45 today. Over the same time period, it tripled its staff to 200 located at offices in Loveland, Colo.; Malvern, Pa.; Sudbury, Mass.; and Manhattan.
Like the magazines, FlockShop, the first flash-sales site in the craft world, should help Interweave strengthen its relationship with artists and crafters. Koenig views the site’s viral marketing potential as “enormous. Because FlockShop is a one-deal-at-a-time site, the product being featured enjoys a tremendous amount of dedicated attention.”
But FlockShop is only one of the ways that Interweave reaches out to crafters. It has 10 online communities, 33 Web sites (including FlockShop), 16 subscription art and craft magazines, three television shows, 11 consumer events, an e-commerce store (InterweaveStore
.com), and a discount store (HurtBookSale.com). In addition, Interweave began providing e-commerce functionality to other sites, including Knitter’s Review (knittersreviewstore.com) last year, and inked a similar deal with FaveCrafts (favecraftsshop.com) earlier this summer.
“As you would expect of a craft publisher, they are very creative,” commented Liz Tzetzo, v-p, associate director of sales for Perseus Books Group, which has been representing Interweave to the trade for the past year. “Interweave can drive traffic; it’s a strong brand.” She credits Interweave’s online communities and e-mail lists with steering Ann Budd’s Sock Knitting Master Class (with a DVD) to the top of BookScan late last month. Prerelease, it was in the top 100 on Amazon and is now featured in a waterfall at Barnes & Noble.
The 36-year-old publisher also sells books through craft giant Michael’s as well as local yarn, quilt, and bead shops, which order nonreturnable. Over half of the 185 titles that Fibre Space, a knitting and crochet specialty store in the Washington, D.C., metro area, stocks, said owner Danielle Romanetti, are from Interweave. She also carries Interweave’s fiber-related magazines and DVDs, and said that customers come to the store with e-mails from KnittingDaily or patterns they downloaded from the site.
Online retailers, direct-to-consumer sales, and foreign sales are also responsible for a big chunk of Interweave’s recent growth. “We’ve seen revenues increase in every one of these channels, driven in large part to our investment in online community, e-mail marketing, and search engine optimization,” said Koenig. “However the customer wants the content, we want to serve them.” Currently, Interweave has about 24 digital books available on Zinio, and it is in talks with Amazon on doing more Kindle e-books.
As a privately held company, Interweave doesn’t release sales figures. “We’ve seen strong growth in our legacy products and channels and outsized growth in our new products and channels. Right now we are tracking to meet projections,” Koenig said.