Since it was founded in 2006, Skyhorse Publishing has used acquisitions to help it expand; its purchases have included the assets of Good Books and Arcade Publishing. But this year it has taken a different approach, choosing to expand by entering into agreements for two publishing partnerships and bringing in new executives to add titles in new categories. In all, Skyhorse founder Tony Lyons estimated that the new projects will add between 70 to 95 titles annually. Lyons said he decided to start new imprints in part because the right acquisition did not come along in 2015.
The larger of the two partnership agreements completed by Lyons was with Outdoor Sportsman Group-Integrated Media, through which Skyhorse will copublish and distribute between 10 and 20 titles a year, beginning in the fall of 2016. The books will be based on articles from different Outdoor Sportsman’s magazines, including Petersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo, and Shooting Times. Skyhorse may also publish anthologies derived from previously published content. In addition, the two companies will combine to produce new titles not tied to Outdoor Sportsman content. According to Lyons, books will be released under the Skyhorse banner, with each title carrying the name of the appropriate Outdoor Sportsman magazine. Jay Cassell, Skyhorse editorial director, is overseeing the line in conjunction with editors of Outdoor Sportsman’s magazines.
A deal with the Explorers Club is designed to bring back some of the club’s best-known titles. Two titles are currently set for next spring: A Journey for the Ages by Matthew Henson and Robert Perry, and Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World. An updated version of Famous Flights That Changed History by Lowell Thomas and his son, Lowell Thomas Jr., will be released next fall. Lyons said he expects to update other classic Explorers Club books after 2016, and to do an occasional new title by a club member.
In terms of number of titles, Lyons’s biggest move was bringing in former Dover Publications publisher Jason Schneider to head a new division to be called Racehorse Publishing. While at Dover, Schneider was its children’s publisher and also oversaw the company’s Calla Books hardcover deluxe titles. Racehorse will publish about 50 books annually across a range of categories, including promotional titles, instant books, and classic works of literature packaged with new forewords. The promotional line will be released under the Clydesdale Press imprint. Racehorse’s first title will be an instant book about ISIS that the company had signed up a few weeks ago, but is now accelerating given the attacks in Paris. Defeating ISIS by Malcolm Nance will be published in January. Two new adult coloring books will also be published in early 2016, although Lyons said most instant books will “respond to events and trends in the news cycle.”
Another new imprint that Lyons hopes will start publishing titles next year is Seahorse Press. The imprint will be headed by Tom McCarthy, whose background includes top editorial positions with Lyons Press and McGraw-Hill’s International Marine and Ragged Mountain Press imprints. The goal of Seahorse Press is to publish up to 20 titles a year on topics related to boating, sailing, and sea adventures. Cassell said Seahorse will publish coffee table books, narrative nonfiction, and books on practical and timely topics. Subject areas will include America’s Cup, cruising around Cuba, and retiring abroad. McCarthy will start December 1.
Lyons hopes the new hires and initiatives will keep up Skyhorse’s momentum. The company is predicting that revenue will rise about 30% in 2015 over 2014, to about $43 million. E-book sales were up 23% through October compared to the same period last year. In addition to solid e-book sales, Lyons attributed the improved results to a five-person in-house special sales team that sells to nontraditional accounts that augments sales through the trade handled by Perseus Books Distribution. Finding the right niches for titles is one way Skyhorse tries to serve the roughly 1,000 titles it will be publishing in 2016. To handle that volume Skyhorse has added 25 employees in the past nine months, bringing the staff up to 81. Two new hires were in publicity; the publisher’s publicity department now stands at seven. “By digging deeper for the specialty customers and fighting harder for big publicity hits, I think next year is going to be a banner year for Skyhorse,” Lyons said.