Boston-based indie publisher David R. Godine saw a major sales boost last October when French author Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize for Literature, bringing its revenue for the year up 30% over 2013. Since October, DRG has shipped 30,000 copies of the three Modiano novels on its list. But most of these copies—20,000 of them—were for Missing Person, which was also the company’s bestselling book of 2014. “Missing Person really has legs,” said founder David Godine, who calls it the author’s “most accessible” novel. It also won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1978. By contrast, when Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio won the Nobel in 2008, DRG saw sales of Le Clézio’s novel The Prospector rise 8,000 copies and then drop off.
“2014 was an amazing, transitional year for us,” said David Goldberg, DRG’s sales and marketing director. In addition to the Nobel, the publisher benefited from brisk sales for Belinda Rathbone’s The Boston Raphael, which came out in October and is already in its third printing, and Peter Korn’s 2013 DRG bestseller, Why We Make Things and Why It Matters, which is due out in paperback at the end of March. In addition, DRG got a boost from older titles, such as Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend’s Hamlet’s Mill and Marian Engel’s Bear. The year also saw some new blood in the Boston office after Goldberg joined the house, as did Amanda Diehl as publicity manager.
While Godine himself continues to do things the old-school way—he sends a personal thank-you note to booksellers for every order; he prefers the phone to email—the press that bears his name has moved into e-books and publishes digital editions of all its titles. “We’re even windowing,” said Goldberg, “anywhere from one month to three months.” DRG also works with e-book subscription services such as Epic! for its children’s titles.
“There’s already a lot of excitement around 2015,” Goldberg said, “which also happens to be DRG’s 45th year of independent publishing.” This year marks another big anniversary, the 85th of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. No definitive word yet on when the film, starring Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, will be released, but it is one of several DRG movie tie-ins in the works. Laurie Lee’s autobiographical Cider with Rosie is being remade for television for the third time and is scheduled to air on BBC One in 2015.
Of the new titles on its spring list, DRG is particularly excited about Adam Van Doren’s The House Tells the Story (May), which has an introduction by David McCullough. “It’s really up close and personal with 15 presidents,” said Godine. “It’s an exciting piece of political and social history.” The book grew out of letters that Van Doren sent to McCullough, who is also an artist. McCullough helped Van Doren select the 15 presidential homes, including the White House, that are reproduced in the book.
Given that Godine began his career as a printer, it may come as little surprise that his favorite title on the spring list is Valerie Lester’s illustrated biography of the 18th-century printer Giambattista Bodoni (April). He’s also looking forward to getting more backlist titles into print.