Unable to Forge Niche, Angry Robot Shutters YA and SF Imprints

In News by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

Osprey Angry RobotThe Bookseller reported that “Sci-fi and fantasy publisher Angry Robot is closing Exhibit A and Strange Chemistry imprints with immediate effect.”

In a statement, the publisher, part of the Osprey Group said that the two imprints had been “unable to carve out their own niches.”

Exhibit A focused on crime and mystery titles, while Strange Chemistry specialized in YA fiction.

In a statement, Angry Robot said, “Angry Robot books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.”

“We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints,” adding that its own core list was “robust,” and plans were to increase its publishing schedule from two to three titles a month.

Joseph Knobbs, crime fiction buyer at Waterstones, told The Bookseller that it was “always” a shame when an imprint closed “because publishing is more than just a commercial venture.” He went on to say that “I think it is to Angry Robot’s credit that they tried their lists, but also to their credit that they can admit when something hasn’t met their expectations. Our sales of their titles were modest, but there was certainly some bookseller support out there. I think, perhaps, the imprints hadn’t existed long enough to quite forge their own identities. I can imagine there are some disappointed authors out there and that is a shame.”

And not only authors. At io9, Michael Ann Dobbs wrote:

“This is a blow to sci-fi and fantasy YA publishing. Strange Chemistry’s books have always had intriguing premises and interesting characters. When I look at YA books to possibly review, the list tends to be very heavy on Strange Chemistry (right now there are four of their books on my e-reader for possible review – only powerhouse publishers like TOR have as many). And it’s not on purpose! I don’t look at Strange Chemistry’s list specifically, just at descriptions. I don’t always get to the books or even always enjoy them, but when you’re looking at dozens (hundreds over the year) of descriptions of books to find something that might be worth sharing with others and one small publisher rises to the top over and over, you begin to notice.”

We’ve enjoyed some of Strange Chemistry’s books in the past. Gwenda Bond’s fantasy vision of the Roanoke mystery Blackwood is a fascinating twist on being the “chosen one.

And I’m heartbroken that we may not get the conclusion to Jonathan L. Howard’s Russalka Chronicles. The first book, Katya’s World was an adventure in the Das Boot-meets Soviet colony world-meets Heinlein mode.

There may be some hope though. According to Publisher’s Lunch, Osprey is hoping to sell Strange Chemistry and their mystery book imprint, Exhibit A. If another publisher purchases their list, we may the final books of these series. We may also get more books where magic is controlled by music or about teen xenobiologists from Mars or sarcastic geeks who fight ghosts. Either way, I’ll be picking up a stack of books before they vanish.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.