Cover Story: Publishers' Outlook 2012: The Industry's Next Bold Move
Howard: McSweeney's has always been big into production values, making products that look and feel good. What is the company's e-book strategy?
Krefman: We never plan on e-books being a flagship part of our publishing. It's more like an added bonus for us—it's another way to sell our content. Our [print] sales haven't really slipped much, and I think it's because of our commitment to quality. That will never change.
Howard: Between online retailers, brick-and-mortar retailers and direct-to-consumer sales through your website, where do you see the most sales?
Krefman: Our own store website is a huge part of our business—we couldn't exist without it, really—and we're actually on the verge of completely re-launching that. It's hard to know exactly where various wholesalers send our books … but I will say that we sell an inordinate amount of books through independent bookstores, and we really value our relationships with them.
Howard: How many titles did you print in 2011, and how many do you anticipate printing in 2012?
Krefman: Not counting magazines, quarterlies, etc., we did 21 last year. This coming year, we're aiming for 29. We just created a poetry imprint, and we're adding young adult books to our children's imprint, McSweeney's McMullens. We spent this past year creating two periodicals (Grantland and Lucky Peach), and created the McMullens imprint, so 2012 will be a year of growing into all this expansion.
Howard: What's your biggest challenge/opportunity?
Krefman: Indie publishing is always a break-even business at best. So the challenge is to thrive. Maybe that's more of a goal.
Opportunity: The playing field has leveled ever-so-slightly for publishers of our size. I think we're coming into our own as a company that is big enough to pull off ambitious projects, but small and flexible enough to maintain meaningful relationships with our authors, bookstores and other folks in the industry. Given the media's love of "books are dead" proclamations, I feel almost self-conscious saying we're feeling really optimistic about the future. But it's true.