Oliver Rhodes founded Bookouture, the digital publishing company, in September 2012 with a vision to establish the best of a new generation of digital publishers.
The fast-growing digital publisher of commercial fiction offers big publisher expertise, small publisher flexibility and great royalties. The publisher builds author brands and creates smart, effective marketing plans. Their ethos is to combine high quality publishing and a great success rate for each of their authors at a global level.
“Think of us as a high-end boutique publisher. Book couture.”
With more than a decades experience in traditional publishing, 10-years at Harlequin U.K. where he was head of marketing, Rhodes wanted to focus on creating global author brands and adding value with smart digital marketing as well as top-notch editing.
When starting out, Rhodes had recently married, and he and his spouse sold one of the properties in order to self-fund the business. “As is often the story with startups, we started out with minimal costs,” Rhodes told Publishers Weekly, “I worked for free in a small bedroom in our house and built out from there.”
In February 2014, Bookouture had their first big hit, the crime thriller Silent Scream by Angela Marsons. To date, Silent Scream has sold more than 800,000 copies—and a month after its release, the author signed a deal with the publisher for four more books in the series.
At Bookouture, they deliver bespoke publishing and marketing for each of their authors – in a way not always possible in larger publishers.
The publisher concentrates on a small number of authors who they can provide that level of attention to detail to. Bookouture work with top editors and develop individual cover designs and also create a website for each author. They create marketing and publicity campaigns tailored to each book and are proactive in optimizing their eBook pages, categories and metadata on Amazon.
They pay a digital royalty rate of 45% of net receipts. Although authors are not paid an advance, the publisher suggests their high digital royalty rates and speed to market offset the lack of advance.
All titles are available in Print-on-Demand format, so readers are able to buy them via all major online retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository. On average, titles sell for around £1.99, with promotional titles offered at 99p.
In 2016, the US became the publisher’s biggest market, just slightly ahead of the UK.
Success so far?
In 2015, Bookouture sold 2.47 million copies with less than a hundred books published. They averaged more than 30,000 sales per book, had 5 new releases sold over 100,000 – from only 44 published. Over 60% of their new UK releases hit the Amazon.co.uk top 100. They have seen rapid growth and in October 2016, the three-year-old company hit unit sales of 4.2m.
They have had some best-selling titles again this year, including serial killer thriller The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza, which has sold over 1m copies.
In October, they took on two new staff members: Lauren Finger, former managing editor at Atlantic Books, as managing editor; and Abigail Fenton, a Bookseller Rising Star of 2015, as commissioning editor. Fenton was formerly a senior editor and producer in the audio team at HarperCollins. On November 21st, Jessie Botterill, currently literary agent at Janklow and Nesbit, joins the team as commissioning editor to acquire commercial fiction.
Bookouture continue to grow, and recently moved to a new office in the Stanley Building in London’s Kings Cross.
They’re set to expand the team further. In January 2017, Jenny Geras, currently publishing director of Arrow at Cornerstone, will join as publishing director to build a new commercial fiction team at Bookouture. She will report to Claire Bord, who is being promoted to publisher and who will continue to oversee the existing team.
Though the e-books currently have the highest sales numbers, Print-on-Demand paperbacks for most of its titles and audio versions for some of its most popular books, are growing.
“The focus for us at the moment is the challenge of both expanding the team and heading into the new office, with a view to expanding the publishing program next year,” Rhodes told Publishers Weekly. “At the same time, we’re working pretty hard to improve our systems and processes, so we can continue to have the same level of value to authors.”
For more information, visit: www.bookouture.com