Cover Story: The Two Sides of David Borgenicht
Another aspect of Borgenicht’s vision for the company was to avoid large acquisition fees by developing projects in-house and hiring outside writers. “As a result,” he says, “we end up being able to control more of the rights to [an idea] which, in turn, means we are able to do more licensing and marketing with it.”
Such an arrangement allows for a high level of creativity, and an ability to look at wider trends in pop culture and develop products that fit the moment; it also makes it easier to plan and establish strong brands and marketable franchises. If such an approach sounds less like the book industry than, say, a software development company, Borgenicht doesn’t mind the comparison.
“We [publishers] are at [our] best when we are innovative, finding great, new voices and coming up with cool, new concepts, and putting them out to the marketplace and creating buzz-worthy books,” he says. “What we need more of is publishers with great instincts, willing to take risks.”
Citing recent comments by Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Karp of Hachette Book Group imprint Twelve, who has criticized the industry for its habit of releasing books that adhere to proven or trendy formulas and themes, Borgenicht says there are too many “me too” publishers out there, “… trying to grab each other’s authors or knock each other off. We’ve had plenty of that happen to us, and we just tend not to care because we know we are a company that values that innovative, creative impulse rather than an author or a format.”
Aspects of Quirk’s approach are popping up in recent ventures, such as HarperStudio, which seek to cultivate an edgy, entrepreneurial spirit and experimentation in marketing and distribution. Borgenicht believes there needs to be a realization that older paradigms of book acquisition, development and marketing need to be brought in line with wider trends in media, as well as consumer expectations. In this competitive environment, books, he has said, need to work harder—as, presumably, publishers do, too.