Since Blackstone Publishing released its first print books and e-books in 2016, the company has built a backlist of about 800 print titles along with 950 e-books, which augments its backlist of some 18,500 audiobook titles. The goal now, company president Anthony Goff said, is to continue to ramp up production across all its formats, which also include large print and library editions.
Goff joined the Ashland, Ore.–based company last year after serving as senior v-p and publisher of Hachette Audio. Blackstone started in 1987 as an audiobook publisher, and Goff said that despite his background in audiobooks, he still had lots to learn about the company, since it has moved well beyond its West Coast audio publishing roots. “It feels like we are building the next generation of publisher,” he added.
In March 2020, Blackstone opened a New York City office—which has two recording studios—where Goff and about 12 others are based. The office had to quickly close due to Covid, but before too long it reopened for recording purposes. The location has allowed Blackstone to recruit employees from larger New York publishers while also helping it heighten its profile among agents.
At present, Goff and CEO Josh Stanton oversee Blackstone’s major deals, though the company continues to hire acquisition editors. Stanton took the point on Blackstone’s biggest signing this year—a seven-figure deal with CrichtonSun to acquire world print, e-book, and audiobook rights to Michael Crichton’s first series of novels, which he wrote under the name John Lange.
On the adult side, Blackstone’s print focus is on general fiction, and nonfiction areas such as military, self-help, and spirituality. Among its print bestsellers last year were 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard, The Ravaged by Norman Reedus, and One of Us Is Dead by Jeneva Rose.
Blackstone entered the YA market in 2017 with the release of Loved, by bestselling authors P.C. and Kristen Cast, and four years later signaled its further commitment to the young reader market when it named Daniel Ehrenhaft as senior acquisitions editor, responsible for acquiring projects spanning middle grade and YA, as well as adult. Under Ehrenhaft, last November Blackstone published its first-ever middle grade novel, Ezra Exposed by Amy E. Feldman. Another major initiative in the YA space is the upcoming release of the first title in its partnership with R.L. Stine, Slime Doesn’t Pay, which will be published October 3 in hardcover, digital audio, and e-book formats.
Goff said “print is a priority” for Blackstone, but he stressed that the company is built on audio, which is still its biggest segment and where sales growth remains strong. Blackstone records at both its New York and Ashland locations. In addition to producing new digital audiobooks, it teams with other audio publishers to produce and distribute physical audio in CD and MP3-CD formats. “That part of the business is still humming,” Goff said.
In-house production also gives Blackstone an edge when its comes to physical books. The company does most all of its book printing through its digital printing facility in Ashland, and this has allowed Blackstone to keep its costs, as well as book prices, in check, Goff said—even as inflation and supply chain issues have created problems for other publishers.
With Blackstone’s roots in audiobooks, libraries have long been an important channel for it, and that remains the case today, even as it expands its sales force to deepen its involvement in other channels. A year ago, Blackstone appointed John Lawton—who had been senior v-p at Penguin Random House working on sales for Penguin—as director of national accounts. The company handles its own distribution and is considering taking on distribution clients, Goff said. It’s also eyeing expanding its international footprint and setting up satellite offices and partnerships in the U.K. and Europe, he added.
Blackstone has had double-digit sales growth in each of the past three years and now employs 235 people. With that success, Goff said, “everything is on the table. We are talking about some big-picture stuff.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly asserted that Blackstone would look to adapt Crichton's books to film or television; the publisher does not own the film rights to Crichton's films.