David Borgenicht should know a little about worst-case scenarios. After all, he wrote the book about them. But the author who created what has become one of Chronicle Books' best-known series thinks his decision to start a publishing company in these times is anything but. Borgenicht's Quirk Books will launch in the fall with seven titles, all in the hybrid genre of "irreference" (impractical, irreverent reference books) that his Worst-Case Scenario titles helped define. Quirk's opening list features a guide to action-hero stunts, found poetry from '70s pop songs and a photographic treatment of products marketed on late-night TV, including the Chia Pet. By 2003, Borgenicht hopes to expand the list to 20 titles.
Borgenicht is taking his company, Quirk Productions, which was once the packager Book Soup, and changing its name to Quirk Books. He is also expanding its staff and mission and switching places with Chronicle, which, instead of being one of his best customers, will become his distributor. He has also hired Jason Mitchell, the former Chronicle publicist who helped make Worst-Case a phenomenon.
The author has kept brand rights for Worst-Case, which means the upcoming TBS show and board game will help fund his evolving operation. "Every company needs a cash cow. It just so happens we got ours out of the gate," he said.
Borgenicht said that he isn't worried that the Worst-Case formula has grown tired. "What we're really trying to do is show that how-to books don't have to be boring, and humor books don't have to be useless."
A veteran of Running Press, Borgenicht said the shift to publisher and all its attendant risks concerns him, but also makes more sense: "As a book packager, you're just a glorified author. You get a little better deal than the standard author, but probably not much better. And you're expending a lot more effort. So when you have the potential to double or triple your revenue from the same amount of human resource labor, you ask, 'Why not?' "