The Sourcebooks Way
Accompanying their many digital platforms, Sourcebooks has also contributed an array of award-winning text works. Six of Sourcebooks’ titles won PubWest Design Awards, and several others have won IPPY and Moonbeam Awards. Dominique Raccah also won a “Ten Outstanding Women of Independent Publishing” award from Independent Publisher back in 2006.
When asked what accomplishments he was most proud of, Vice President and Editorial Director Todd Stocke listed off three things: the diversity of Sourcebooks’ book list; having a magnitude of The New York Times bestsellers; and their community of authors and readers.
Stocke mentioned the doubt others had when hearing about Sourcebooks’ branching into new genres. “You’re not supposed to be able to do this. We’ve been told by people over the years that you’re not supposed to be able to make this happen,” said Stocke in reference to the diversity of the list. “Our breadth is a real hallmark for us,” he stated.
In addition to having an array of titles available, Sourcebooks’ titles have also been consistently recognized by The New York Times. “The fact that we have been able to have over 30 New York Timesbestsellers is a remarkable achievement,” said Stocke. One of their bestsellers is The Winter Seaby Susanna Kearsley, which was a bestseller in the eBook Fiction and Combined Print & eBook Fiction category in The New York Timesas well as a USA Today bestseller. (See our review of her recently released The Shadowy Horses here!)
Finally, Stocke commented on the fact that Sourcebooks has a great relationship with its authors. He called upon the success they have seen in distributing their authors’ work, but also that the community of writers working with Sourcebooks feels almost like a “big second family” to them.
Sourcebooks is contributing greatly to the digital scene while adding valuable works of text to the industry. It is an accomplishment for Sourcebooks to be able to gain exposure for their authors but also to have a bond with them that goes beyond what is expected.
Indie Groundbreaking Publisher
Pushing the Boundaries of Print and Digital Publishing
Imagine leaving a job at booming ad agency to create a startup in a whole new industry. Now picture the job you’re leaving as a career with Leo Burnett (the 9th largest ad agency in the world), and that your startup has to get off of the ground with only $17,000 of your own retirement money. CEO Dominique Raccah took this bold chance when she decided to launch the company that we now know as Sourcebooks, Inc. from her upstairs bedroom in 1987.
This month’s indie groundbreaking publisher, Sourcebooks, was kickstarted and remains headquartered in Naperville, Illinois. Here, Raccah first began publishing “professional finance titles and books for bankers.” A few years later, the company branched out into an entirely new market of gift books and beauty tips for women. Today, Sourcebooks publishes multiple categories of nonfiction, children’s works, mysteries, and even romance.
Todd Stocke, Vice President and Editorial Director of Sourcebooks, commented on the company’s growth and expansion into other genres: “One of the more remarkable aspects of our story is that we have, in many ways, done everything you’re not supposed to do—everything they tell you you can’t do. When you’re a small or indie publisher, the common wisdom is niche, niche, niche. There are, in many ways, obstacles to you being able to get outside of your niche.”
He continued, saying that in order for Sourcebooks to step outside their niche, they had to have staff on board who were willing to venture out to buyers with whom they were unfamiliar and into the “I don’t know” of a new market. “You have to have some remarkable employees who are willing to go and make that happen,” Stocke said.
Sourcebooks has grown exponentially, acquiring other companies over the course of its history. Stocke explained that Raccah has always encouraged her employees’ dedication to clients and focus on numbers to contribute to Sourcebooks’ success.
“One of the things that Dominique instilled right from the start has been client management. She worked with major corporate brands, and the attitude that has been required to do that has been instilled in us from day one.” He also noted that Sourcebooks highly values not only the success of their authors and readers, but also the close relationships they have with them.
According to Stocke, Raccah’s background has instilled in the company the importance of keeping the numbers in sight. “A portion of [Dominique’s] background is in mathematics—she’s a statistician,” he said. “Data is important to us. We believe that good data builds stronger instinct.” And while Sourcebooks “uses data as a weapon,” Stocke insists, “We use it creatively. It is the creative aspect of it that’s what’s really important to us. I believe you can use data as a creative lever. It can spur you to places you haven’t been before.”
Making informed decisions has paid off for Sourcebooks, but it isn’t all about calculated moves for this company. Sourcebooks does not shy from taking risks in its endeavors in digital media. Stocke emphasized the importance of having experience working with digital media and testing the waters. “You have to experiment because some of it isn’t going to work. There will be different things that do work, and I’d like to be at a slow jog rather than a standing start,” Stocke said.
One of their first digital projects was The New York Times bestselling book, We Interrupt this Broadcast by Joe Garner. Sourcebooks paired the text of the book with a CD that was integral to the book’s content, creating an extremely successful endeavor for the company. Mixing medias—which was also done in Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni—is now a mission of Sourcebooks’ imprint Sourcebooks MediaFusion.
Stocke finds the integration of media to be an opportunity for Sourcebooks to do more with their texts. He says, “Technology has finally caught up to what you might’ve hoped to do with texts.” He calls upon the ability to use modern technology to seamlessly “add additional experiential materials” to text-led, narrative-driven books. Since its original digital initiatives, Sourcebooks has gone to venture into creating eBooks for all backlisted and newly published books, a project which started long before the most recent push toward digital media. Sourcebooks has also created apps (such as the Fiske Interactive College Guide and Most Baby Names), begun Discover a New Love (an eBook romance readers club), and started other web-based initiatives.
“What’s been interesting for us has been watching different segments of business transform at different rates,” describes Stoke. “When you publish a romance list and a children’s list at the same time, your eBook conversion will be vastly different for those two audiences.” For Sourcebooks, it all has to do with how readers interact with the text. “A lot of that has to do with the experience of reading those works on digital devices.”
Looking to the future, Stocke mentioned that the upcoming months will bring even more experimental digital initiatives in different areas for Sourcebooks. He says of the new initiatives, “They are hopefully pushing the boundaries of some of the technologies that we have and pushing the boundaries of how people will experience the content.”
The determination of an individual created Sourcebooks, and the company’s continued willingness to experiment with innovative technology has made it a driving force in the industry. Sourcebooks pushes the boundaries of how individuals interact with texts digitally, and their future digital initiatives sound even more promising.
We want to wish a happy birthday to Sourcebooks, who turned 25 on September 30th. Stay tuned with what comes next at their website www.sourcebooks.com or on their blog, which also has tons of info about digital publishing initiatives.
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Ariel Bronson is a senior at the University of Michigan studying as a dual concentrator in English and Communication Studies. She worked as an editorial intern at Sleeping Bear Press in 2011 and is currently an Online Content Editor at LEAD Magazine on Michigan’s campus. Please contact her with any comments, questions, or criticisms at firstname.lastname@example.org