Citing a desire to round out their businesses, two Random House divisions came together last week to form a mass market imprint.

The line, put together by Knopf publisher Sonny Mehta and Doubleday Broadway publisher Stephen Rubin, will function as a mass market imprint of Knopf's Vintage/Anchor unit. The imprint will publish no more than 12 titles per year, mostly commercial books that otherwise would generally go to other Random House divisions.

The news came as something of a surprise to some observers, who don't associate Knopf with the format. Both Rubin and Mehta explained the deal by saying that it makes sense for internal reasons and also fits with the models of other divisions. "This is a logical extension of what we're doing," Rubin said. "Why can't we be strong in every category?" Mehta added that it is "something we separately thought about as possibilities and we're happy to finally get the go-ahead from Peter [Olson]."

Despite the reputations of both Doubleday Broadway and Knopf Vintage as hardcover or trade oriented, Rubin said that he and Mehta decided to do this because "some books just make more sense to do in mass market." With the new line, books (and revenue) will be kept in-house. One of the imprint's first books is The Da Vinci Code, which won't come out until at least 2005, possibly not until 2006, as the Doubleday hardcover continues to sell strongly. The inaugural list will also contain another bestseller, Knopf's I Am a Soldier, Too. The paperback rights to that book are held by Knopf, which before the announcement was weighing what to do with them, Mehta said. But this was not a factor in deciding to start the imprint. "This is something we've thought about for a long time," he said.

Mehta and Rubin emphasized that no books that would have gone into trade paper will be shifted to mass market, and that authors with existing mass market deals with other Knopf imprints will remain on schedule with those publishers. The new books, Rubin added, will be sold by the "same sales force" that sells all of Random. No personnel will be added to work on the imprint.

Both stressed that the line will be small—"We'll do 12 titles, and we'll only be building up to those," Rubin said. The pair did acknowledge that the ability to publish into mass market might alter slightly what proposals they see. "I enjoy working with commercial fiction, and if this means that people will think of us in a way they haven't thought of us before, then I'd be delighted with that," Mehta said.