Sourcebooks had another record year in 2022, increasing its unit sales of print books by 12.9 million over 2021 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan, making it not only one of the fastest-growing publishers in the U.S. last year but also the eighth-largest. Dominique Raccah, who started the company in 1987, attributed part of Sourcebooks’ success to its use of data—one reason she likes to cite BookScan when discussing the company’s progress.
“Using BookScan helps me to understand strategically what we are looking for, and strategy plays a significate role in our planning,” she said. “We have set up a system where we can be prepared for whatever happens in the marketplace.”
Some other key data points show that Sourcebooks was the fourth-largest romance publisher in 2022, with a 7% market share, and that overall adult fiction sales soared 86% over 2021. “We dominate BookTok tables,” Raccah said. “If it’s not Colleen Hoover, it’s us.”
All of Sourcebooks’ four adult fiction book imprints had big sales increases, led by Bloom Books, the imprint started with E. L. James in 2021 with a business model geared toward entrepreneurial authors. The imprint has quickly ramped up its output, publishing 55 titles last year and with plans to release 60 books this year. Bloom’s approach to romance, Raccah said, “fits the times very, very well.” (Bloom’s most recent release, Lucy Score’s Things We Hide from the Light, sold almost 64,000 copies in its first week, making it the #1 book for the week ended February 25.)
As well as Sourcebooks is doing in adult fiction, the category was far from the only sales driver last year, with all Sourcebooks categories posting gains. In fact, the young adult/juvenile category accounted for 56% of unit sales. Perhaps Sourcebooks’ hottest property at the moment is How to Catch, a picture book, board book, and activity book series, which has sold about 14 million copies since its first titles were published in 2016. The company is very bullish about the prospects for the first How to Catch graphic novels, which are set to be released in September.
Sourcebooks’ YA category “is absolutely on fire,” Raccah said, up 72% for the year to date. The category is made up of a number of different parts—Midnight Reads is its thriller program, which does well in the indie bookseller channel. As part of its YA fantasy lineup, Sourcebooks will publish debut author Lily Meade’s Shadow Sister in June, following a great reaction to Meade’s appearance at Winter Institute. A third YA subcategory is contemporary titles, and more books on social justice and LBGTQ issues are forthcoming.
Raccah speculated that being based in Naperville, Ill.—“outside of the gentlemen’s business that had been publishing”—may be the reason Sourcebooks’ publishing program has long been more reflective of the demographic makeup of the country than those of its counterparts in New York. The company is committed, she added, to diversifying the entire publishing ecosystem, including its bookselling and author ranks, and has developed numerous programs to that end, including its recently announced BIPOC educational training program.
As much as Raccah loves data, she is quick to acknowledge that a large part of Sourcebooks’ recent success has come from the caliber of the company’s new hires, many of whom previously held jobs at Big Five publishers. “I think we have representatives from all the big houses,” Raccah said. Two of the three women on the Zoom call with Raccah (80% of Sourcebooks’ leadership team are women) fall into that category: Molly Waxman, executive director of marketing, adult fiction, had worked at HarperCollins, and Paula Amendolara, senior v-p of sales, was previously at S&S.
Waxman said Sourcebooks has a completely different operating philosophy than the Big Five—one that embraces input from all employees and doesn’t depend on just a few leaders. That strategy allows for new ideas to come in from all areas, including from younger staff. And while Sourcebooks now has more than 200 employees, “that’s not so many minds you have to change in order to try something new,” Waxman added.
Amendolara said employees fully believe in Sourcebooks’ mission statement that “books change lives,” which gives them the motivation to do the best they can for the company’s books and authors. She also appreciates that the company is “very transparent,” in large part because of Raccah’s biweekly updates on the company and the industry.
Sourcebooks’ willingness to innovate has resulted in so many projects bubbling up in different departments that Raccah said there are many experiments she isn’t even aware of. When asked if that means she is loosening her control over the company, all three women chuckled. “I do pay very close attention,” Raccah admitted. “I care a lot.”
And Raccah’s management style has changed. The pandemic made it employers’ responsibility to make work better, she said. To that end, she has fully embraced a hybrid model, with employees permitted to work in many different locations. “I think a return to the office daily is a nonstarter,” she noted. She believes Sourcebooks and other companies in the industry are in the process of developing a new style of publishing.
Despite concerns from some industry members about the prospects for the business in 2023, Raccah said she believes it is a great time to be in publishing. She points to the large number of people who have become new readers, many of them women ages 18–35, who are buying books not only for themselves but for their children as well. “We are watching another generation discover reading and discover new authors,” she said. “You’d been crazy not to be excited.”
This story has been updated.