By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Emails Arriving From ‘Publishers Around Europe’The big news at Dominique Raccah’s Sourcebooks this season has been the arrival of the self-publishing “dark fantasy romance” writer Scarlett St. Clair, whose newest title—while maybe not a pacifist’s delight—is expected to do well in the international rights space.
King of Battle and Blood (we did warn you) is set for a release on November 30. In the run-up, St. Clair’s backlist—which Sourcebooks has acquired—has been selling briskly. Sierra Stovall, sales manager at Sourcebooks for rights and exports, has this list of rights deals paving the way for the new release:
- Portuguese/Brazil: Cabana Vermelha – the “Hades X Persephone” series (Books 1 to 4); the “Hades Saga” (Books 1 to 3); and the “Adrian X Isolde” trilogy (Books 1 to 3)
- German: Bastei Lübbe – “Hades X Persephone” series (Books 1 to 4)
- Italian: Queen Edizioni – “Hades X Persephone” series (Books 1 to 4) and the “Hades Saga” (Books 1 to 3)
- Romanian: Corint – A Touch of Darkness (Book 1 in the “Hades X Persephone” series)
- Russian: Eksmo – “Hades X Persephone” series (Books 1 to 4) and the “Adrian X Isolde” trilogy (Books 1 to 3)
- Spanish: Siren – A Touch of Darkness (Book 1 in the “Hades X Persephone” series)
- French: Hugo & Cie – “Hades X Persephone” series (Books 1 to 4)
- Korean: Hainaim – “Hades X Persephone” series (Books 1 to 3)
St. Clair’s work is found on Sourcebooks’ Bloom Books imprint (“We Are Bold”) where you also find EL James’ “Fifty Shades” oeuvre and a new title, Freed, as well as erotic contemporary romance by Canadian-born Elle Kennedy.
What you tell your mother, as you can guess from St. Clair’s series titles, is that her work is based on Greek mythology and that she was a librarian in Oklahoma City when she started self-publishing her “Hades X Persephone” series with A Touch of Darkness two years ago, in 2019. On TikTok, that title reportedly drew more than 13 million impressions and generated the kind of demand that an independent house like Sourcebooks notices.
Echoing what many self-publishers will tell you, St. Clair has been quoted by Sourcebooks as seeing the value of being published to be discoverability. The most experienced independent authors will tell you that the hard part isn’t self-publishing, it’s self-selling without the marketing and public-relations apparatus of a publishing house to move you into the marketplace. “One of the questions readers and fans always ask me,” St. Clair said in July when her deal with Sourcebooks was announced, “is ‘How can I get your books?'”
It’s Sourcebooks’ job now, of course, to put that question to rest. And those international rights sales that Stovall is racking up indicate that St. Clair is about to indeed become much more findable.
Raccah, for the announcement, made it clear that St. Clair’s prowess in social media had been influential in the decision to acquire her work. “We’ve seen all the excitement about Scarlett across social media,” Raccah said, “and our bookseller partners have been raving about her. After reading her books and meeting Scarlett virtually, we fell in love.”
The swords-and-roses King of Battle and Blood will be the first frontlist St. Clair title Sourcebooks publishes. In it, according to advance promotional material, St. Clair creates “a new realm of worldbuilding, featuring a fearless human female forced to wed a powerful and charismatic vampire king.” That world she’s building is one she describes as “dark, dangerous, and witchy.”
Abraham and Stovall: International Sales and Rights
When last we “saw” Sourcebooks at Frankfurter Buchmesse, many of our Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, 2019 was shaping up to be a big year.
In May 2019, its founding CEO Raccah and Madeline McIntosh, CEO of Penguin Random House USA, announced that PRH had acquired a 45-percent share of Sourcebooks. And during Frankfurt, Raccah announced her formalization of a new “Sourcebooks International” team with Stovall working on rights and Shawn Abraham, formerly with Ingram, coming aboard to handle international sales. After working for two years to put together an approach that Abraham says is still in the works, it’s expected that St. Clair’s work will help buoy the rights and international sales efforts of the team.
“The interest has been huge,” Stovall says, in St. Clair’s books. In some cases, international inquiries had been coming in to the author—who now can turn those leads over to Stovall.
Referencing some of the deals now confirmed in our list above, Stovall says, “We just closed an auction in Korea, and our agency there said this had been their biggest deal in recent memory. We’re wrapping up Germany, we closed on a Russian deal” with Eksmo, that market’s largest house in its partnership with AST.
The St. Clair material, Stovall says, “is binge-able. You start reading, you say, ‘I’m going to finish this later, but you don’t. Before you know it, you’ve finished the book and you’re ready to grab the next one. Excellent pacing, she keeps it moving. And such compelling worldbuilding.”
That’s akin to what Stovall’s associate Abraham is doing, of course, building a world in which Sourcebooks operates its own sales operation across international frontiers.
“Business is really, really good,” Abraham says. “What we’re seeing is a tremendous amount of resilience around the world” in book retail, “even when dealing with multiple crises–things that seem to cycle from territory to territory.”
During the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, “We’ve reorganized our approach to multiple marketplaces for international sales, separate from rights—with remains largely the same under Sierra, who’s doing phenomenal work.
“As far as our approach to the international market, our approach as a whole has been something we’ve been changing to be sure it’s in line with the core values of the company.” That has a lot to do, he says, “with finding the right people” in each market and devise the best presence for the company’s work to make sales in offshore markets.
How this is done “varies from market to market,” Abraham says, “depending on the nuance and the size. Will we work with a local distributor, as we have in Australia and Canada and Singapore? In other territories, we’ll work with local reps, some of them located in their markets and others who would be traveling there if it weren’t for the pandemic.
“Most of Asia is covered through sales reps who travel there” in more normal times. “Part of our strategic alignment has been making sure that the right partners are in place everywhere” for the needs of a given market.”
Not unlike the trend seen in many Québec publishing houses’ alliances arranged with booksellers in France, Abraham says, “We try to cultivate really strong partnerships with our retail partners around the world.” In some cases, he says, these may be regional chains, for example. “We’ve been doing a lot of work in the Philippines with local bookstore chains there.”
Sourcebooks’ Big First Half: 48-Percent Growth
That upbeat tone you hear in Abraham’s and Stovall’s conversation in our interview has been borne out by Sourcebooks’ 2021 first-half report. Sourcebooks’ media messaging refers to the company as the United States’ largest woman-owned book publisher in the country. In mid-August, the Illinois-based house reported 48-percent growth in net revenue, January to June, “coming off the company’s previous best first-half results in 2020.”
This is a case, then, in which the pandemic dynamics that boosted sales for so many elements of the American book marketplace in 2020 seem to be churning forward in the second pandemic year, led by, according to a statement from Raccah, “dynamic new partnerships with our authors and retailers, strong sales in the international market, and delightful and heartwarming new books in the children’s fiction space.”
The Bloom Books boutique romance imprint that houses St. Clair was just opened in the spring in partnership with EL James, and the development is being described by marketing chief Molly Waxman as an imprint for “entrepreneurial authors”—one of several terms often used for self-publishers.
Sales of adult fiction are reported by the company to have more-than doubled in the mass-market channel in the first half of the year, while YA fiction has grown 60 percent. Juvenile fiction is said to have grown 17 percent across three imprints, Wonderland, Jabberwocky, and Young Readers.
And in the international sphere, “Sourcebooks is also reporting 10 straight weeks of record-setting Canadian sales,” the company says, “with three titles hitting Canadian national bestseller lists this year. The international team also launched a new sales and distribution partnership with DK in the United Kingdom, with business up 10 percent in the first half.”
No wonder Stovall is smiling: Rights sales have increased 37 percent this year, the company reports, with two film-and-television options in the mix. secured.
And it’s a good bet that some options of those kinds might be coming across Stovall’s desk soon in regards to Scarlett St. Clair’s books.
“I’ve gotten multiple emails about Scarlett this week, publishers around Europe,” Stovall says. “They want to be assured they’re not being left out,” she says with a laugh.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.