Publishers Partner Across the Pond to Launch New Imprint: Soho Press’s Laura Hruska Talks About Her Company’s New Venture with British-based Constable & Robinson
Soho Constable, a new mystery imprint from Soho Press, will bring a line of British mysteries back into the hands of U.S. readers. The New York-based independent publisher is teaming up with Constable & Robinson, a British-based publisher who lost its previous U.S. partner when Carroll & Graf was purchased by Perseus Book Group last year. Soho will begin releasing Soho Constable titles in April.
Soho Press Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Laura Hruska spoke with Book Business Extra about the genesis of this new imprint, which will constitute about a third of the publisher’s titles this year.
Book Business Extra: How did you form this partnership with Constable & Robinson?
Hruska: … We were approached by [Constable & Robinson Chairman] Nick Robinson. … He approached me at BookExpo and said my company had been recommended as a possibly appropriate company to work with. We were thrilled to get the opportunity to co-publish these books. These are the types of books we’d like to originate ourselves. We’re really pleased to have our name connected with them.
Extra: What made Soho Press an appealing partner?
Hruska: When you’re an independent publisher, which we are and they are, you don’t want to be swallowed up by an enormous entity where you would get lost, and [you] don’t want someone so small that they don’t have the resources to publicize your books.
Extra: What are the challenges facing smaller independent publishers, such as Soho Press, in the coming year?
Hruska: I think we all feel that books are not, unfortunately, as significant to people as they were 100 years ago. … At one time, the book was it. It was the only way to get a wider experience than what you saw in your daily life. We’re [now] in competition with other diversions that offer that experience. On the other hand, there is a hardcore, devoted group of people who want that reading experience, and it cannot be substituted by any of these other diversions. The hardest and the saddest thing is that there are people who don’t make that leap to read for pleasure. … We’re in the business of providing books. We hope it will always be out there. I don’t think there is a huge, mass audience [for Soho Press titles]. I don’t expect to sell millions of copies of a title. We hope to sell a few thousand.
Extra: What is the toughest part of selling your titles?
Hruska: The hardest thing is to find that audience. In England, if you get a review for a book in six newspapers, you pretty much blanket the population. In this country, you can get wonderful reviews [in the six newspapers with the largest circulation], and that’s maybe 10 percent of the reading population. … That’s a handicap for a smaller independent. We compete [for] review attention with many other books. It would have been a shame to not get in a book section 20 years ago. Now, it’s very, very difficult. If you have a [publisher] that’s selling millions of copies of books competing for the same column, it’s difficult for the independents to get enough review attention. …
Extra: How was the initial list of books selected for Soho Constable? Did you factor the difference in taste of the readership between the two markets into your decision?
Hruska: Some of the authors have been published in the [United States, with Constable & Robinson’s former U.S. publisher partner, Carroll & Graf] with very good reviews, and some are first-timers. I didn’t look into the track record for many of them. I like the books, and, because of the hiatus with somebody dealing with these books [when Carroll & Graf was purchased by Perseus], it was unfair to look at the track record and extract numbers. I didn’t think it was fair.
I have noticed—because we have in the past, independent of this new Soho imprint, bought books from England—that there is a slightly different taste with our readers [compared to British readers]. … The protagonist must be good and pure for the [U.S.] customer to love the book. [British readers] prefer a more complex protagonist—slightly more real.
From the outset, when we settled this [deal] very shortly after BookExpo in June 2007, these book titles were fairly well set. For the second list, I have manuscripts sent over to read, and I can make comments. We varied the quantities on what I thought we could sell. These are guestimates.
Extra: How does this fit into what you currently publish with U.S. authors?
Hruska: We happen to be putting books into the Soho Constable imprint … that do not fit into our Soho Crime line, which is relatively contemporary mysteries set outside the United States … and mainly set after 1930. With the Soho Constable line, which you could characterize as very literate mysteries by English authors, it gives us more scope to do a more Victorian mystery.