The Quirky Side of Publishing
Five years ago, the newly formed Quirk Books was a baby in the book publishing industry achieving very adult-like success. In its first year, the Philadelphia-based independent book publisher sold 150,000 copies of “The Action Hero’s Handbook.” In the years that followed, the company sustained that level of success by consistently thinking outside the box—or rather, outside the book.
“I’ve always thought of Quirk as ultimately not just a publishing company, “ says President and Founder David Borgenicht, who co-wrote “The Action Hero’s Handbook” as well as a variety of other popular titles, including “The Worst-Case Scenario” series. “We’ve always had the attitude of an entertainment company. We produce creative, informative, irreverent, gifty content that has potential in bookstores, gift stores, has reached people online … [and] in other forms of merchandise. … That’s always been a big part of the mission and the brand. …”
Borgenicht spoke with Book Business about his fresh, nontraditional approach to publishing, and how he has extended his quirky brand far beyond the book and the bookstore.
● What are the biggest challenges you’re facing as a publisher?
David Borgenicht: Quirk Books is now … entering its sixth year of business. So we’re out of infancy and into toddler-hood, if not the tween years. I think, to some extent, the challenges we face are the same as any business in this stage—in terms of looking at our strengths and weaknesses and opportunities now that we have some history, and deciding where to go next.
… The [other] challenges we’re now facing: … I think because of the kinds of books we’ve created and succeeded with, such as “The Worst-Case Scenario” series, the handbooks [and] the hip parenting books [and] the irreverent reference books we’ve made, there’s more competition than ever from other publishers. Other publishers have caught on to our dirty, little secret. I think books need to continue to evolve, and publishers need to think about books as we do—not just as text and art, but as objects of desire that can compete with video games and iPods and DVDs, and all the other things that are vying for people’s entertainment time and dollars these days. ... I think for publishers to continue to succeed, and for Quirk to continue to succeed, we need to think of ourselves all as trendsetters and exciting creators of entertainment product, as much as we think of ourselves as makers of books. … We all need to continue to create new formats [and] new business opportunities, because of the fact [that] we are very much the starting place for a lot of the entertainment that’s created … [such as] hit movies and TV shows and other merchandise. I really hope that the industry as a whole embraces that fact and really starts to publish in that way. It’s certainly an attitude that we have and that has served us well, and will continue to be a major part of our future success. …