When Los Angeles–based movie studio Blumhouse Productions launched Blumhouse Books in collaboration with Doubleday last July, the move may have turned some heads. Books moving from page to screen is one thing, but a Hollywood horror heavyweight known primarily for films such as The Purge and Paranormal Activity opening an imprint is a more unusual undertaking. Yet Blumhouse founder and CEO Jason Blum has a simple explanation as to why he started an imprint: he intends for Blumhouse to be a “hub for scary content in all forms.”
“Blumhouse Books is not an outlet for us to mine intellectual property for movies and TV,” Blum said. “Personally, I love books, and I am interested in the notion that stories are told better in different media depending on the story.”
Blum has always seen Blumhouse less as a film company than as a hive of creative talent. It’s why Blumhouse coproduced movies such as Whiplash and documentary series such as HBO’s The Jinx, which are outside the realm of horror almost entirely. It’s also why Blum suggested to Purge franchise director James DeMonaco, after he turned in a “spectacular” idea for a new film, that it “may be an even better book than a movie.”
The strategy is similar to that of Adaptive Studios—where former Blumhouse employee Nick Simonds landed earlier this month—which allows a production company to keep its options open with regards to what format in which it releases intellectual properties it owns, and it removes the agent-as-middleman aspect of the process. It also serves as the reverse of strategies employed by publishing companies that open their own film units, like Penguin Random House did with Random House Studio. But whereas Adaptive launched its books unit in order to repurpose film scripts trapped in development hell, Blumhouse wanted to acquire books from the start. And that’s what attracted Doubleday.
“What really brought us on board was this idea that they have such a fantastic collective of storytellers,” Doubleday editor Rob Bloom said. “We [also] loved the idea of getting into the world of horror, and the connection Blumhouse has with horror fans is unparalleled.”
Shortly after Blumhouse Books launched in July of 2015 with The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City—a Blum-edited anthology of original scary short stories which, according to Blumhouse, has sold 12,000 copies across all formats—the imprint began to look toward building out its book list. Blum brought on former Bombay Gin Literary Journal editor and Foundry Literary agent Matt Wise, who secured the imprint’s first acquisition: a “haunted house-swap” thriller by S.L. Grey called The Apartment. The book will be published in Ireland, South Africa, and the Commonwealth by Pan Macmillan in September and in the U.S. in October, where Blumhouse will copublish the book in paperback original with Anchor. It has already been optioned for film—by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, not Blumhouse.
The imprint’s other two acquisitions are slated for publication in 2017. One is a second collection, the Horror Writers Association Anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow. The other is Spanish writer-cartoonist Edgar Cantero’s in-progress novel Meddling Kids, which Bloom has described as “Scooby Doo versus Cthulhu.”
“As an entrepreneur, one of my biggest struggles is that you have to focus, but you also have to expand,” Blum said. “This is my way of doing it: stick with my genre, but expand into other areas.”