Focus on imprints

One of the most important changes we implemented in the last two years was the introduction of additional imprints (beyond Sunbury Press) to address the variety of categories. This came about for several reasons:
1) Some authors of serious (academic) history books were complaining they were on the same label as children’s books. This would be an issue when peer-reviewed.
2) Nasty scary horror thrillers were branded with a positive upbeat rising (yep — not setting) sun.
3) Customers were confused about fiction books actually being nonfiction due to the Sunbury Press label.
It was clear that Sunbury Press as a brand had become associated with history and biography — especially about Pennsylvania. We felt our other categories were likely suffering due to the lack of identity.
We are committed to continuing to publish in a variety of categories and created a number of imprints to address this. We have been publishing new titles under these imprints since then and have been refurbishing our back list as we are able. This will continue over the next couple years until all of our active titles are properly branded.
Now, while that is going on, we need to bring more attention to these brands and categories. To that end, I am suggesting we start quarterly brand meetings involving the authors under that label and the marketing staff. The goal will be to come up with brand-specific activities, opportunities, or collaborations that we can work together on.
For instance,
1) Imprint-specific contests
2) Imprint-specific conferences or conventions
3) Group advertising / marketing opportunities
4) Reviewing each other’s books
5) Imprint-specific show(s) on the BookSpeak Network
… and many more.
As a reminder, here are our imprints. Become familiar with which imprint your book(s) are published under. Some of you deal with multiple imprints.
Ars Metaphysica — paranormal, psychic, metaphysical, spirituality, Eastern philosophy F & NF
Brown Posey Press — literary fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, politically left F & NF
Catamount Press — this is our new imprint for the Northern Appalachian region F & NF — more on this in upcoming newsletters (it has not launched yet)
Hellbender Books — horror / thriller / fantasy F only
Milford House Press — mystery/detective police procedural comedies romance YA this is our main Fiction imprint
Speckled Egg Press — currently coming out of hibernation — children’s F & NF
Verboten Books — edgy humor — rated R+ F only
Sunbury Press — our primary NF imprint — history / biography / memoir / religion / science / economics / politics non-partisan
Schedule:
Jan/Apr/Jul/Oct – Sunbury Press / Hellbender (& Verboten) Books
Feb/May/Aug/Nov – Ars Metaphysica / Milford House Press
Mar/Jun/Sep/Dec – Brown Posey Press / Speckled Egg
Look for invites coming your way soon! These will be conference calls.

Imprint update

The feedback regarding our new imprints continues to be very positive. However, sales of the new imprints continues to lag our main imprint, Sunbury Press. This is primarily due to the following efforts that are ongoing:
1) Updates to Bowker — all of the books in print — to include imprint information.
2) Updates to Ingram to apprise them of the imprint changes.
3) Updates to Amazon for the same reason.
4) Updates to Baker & Taylor and Follett.
I am repeating the following reminder since so few of you reacted to it last month. Please give the following some thought:
This is a great time to think about other updates you might want to make to your metadata. Books that are selling will receive a rebranding — change to the cover and interior. Have a look at your books and think about any improvements you might want to make:
1) Categories — is there a more targeted category?
2) Reviews — have you received any reviews from VIPs?
3) Awards — have you won any awards?
4) ECommerce — check your book on our website. Is it up to date? Do you have an author page on our site? We can help set this up.
5) Keywords — think about keyword assignments you might want to try. This could improve your book’s performance in online search.
Lastly, please be sure to like your imprint on Facebook. As we get into next year, we will be working with groups of authors associated with each imprint. Social media will be a big part of this.

Imprint update

So far, so good. This whole imprint strategy seems to make so much sense! There seems to be a lot of energy behind the new brands, and we hope to see an uptick in sales over the next year, as we fully implement.
Right now, we are engaged in a huge data update regarding your books:
1) Updates to Bowker — all of the books in print — to include imprint information.
2) Updates to Ingram to apprise them of the imprint changes.
3) Updates to Amazon for the same reason.
4) Updates to Baker & Taylor and Follett, too — more on this later.
This means, before long, you will see your books listed at the various online retailers under the imprints, assuming you have been assigned to something other than the base Sunbury Press imprint.
This is a great time to think about other updates you might want to make to your metadata. Books that are selling will receive a rebranding — change to the cover and interior. Have a look at your books and think about any improvements you might want to make:
1) Categories — is there a more targeted category?
2) Reviews — have you received any reviews from VIPs?
3) Awards — have you won any awards?
4) ECommerce — check your book on our website. Is it up to date? Do you have an author page on our site? We can help set this up.
5) Keywords — think about keyword assignments you might want to try. This could improve your book’s performance in online search.
Lastly, please be sure to like your imprint on Facebook. As we get into next year, we will be working with groups of authors associated with each imprint. Social media will be a big part of this.

Imprint strategy

We’ve received a lot of positive feedback and creative ideas from many of you regarding our new imprints. So far this transition has gone very well. But, there is so much more to do.
Step One of our imprint implementation was to separate our books by imprints on our e-commerce site. This has been completed. If you are curious, have a look at http://www.sunburypressstore.com/IMPRINTS_c161.htm
Step Two was to produce monthly bestseller lists for each imprint. This has been completed and has provided new energy for many of our fiction books. Suddenly, we have more than one best-selling book. It gives us more to talk about. If you have not seen the lists yet, they have been posted on our blog:
We also have a sales baseline for each imprint to compare to as we roll out the strategy. Following are the imprints from strongest to weakest:
Imprint % of Titles Sold % of Sales$ Ratio $/Title
Sunbury Press 52.67 70.27 133.42%
Milford House Press 24.43 19.13 78.31%
Brown Posey Press 10.69 6.1 57.06%
Hellbender Books 6.1 3.38 55.41%
Ars Metaphysica 4.58 1.02 22.27%
Speckled Egg Press
1.53
0.1 6.54%
Nearly three-quarters of our titles sold and nearly 90% of our sales dollars come from our two top imprints — Sunbury Press and Milford House. Sunbury Press’s titles typically sell 33% more than the average book company-wide. Milford House’s fiction sells at 78% of the average book. This again confirms our sales bias towards nonfiction. In other words, the typical NF book returns almost twice as much in sales as a typical fiction book. (This is not unique to our press — it is true within the publishing marketplace.)
The bottom four categories are most interesting and have the most upside. These are smaller categories that have been peeled off from the behemoths and appear to be weak and unsuccessful. This is because they have not been differentiated in the past. Now that they are parked in their own category, we should begin to see a leveling effect. I would expect Brown Posey and Hellbender to approach Milford House levels in ratio while Ars Metaphysica trends towards Sunbury Press. Speckled Egg barely has a pulse and needs some new titles to get moving again.
Look for some other activities regarding imprints in the coming months:
1) Cross-marketing with other books in the imprint — at Amazon and within the books themselves.
2) An imprint promotion plan where we run regular specials in each imprint.
3) (Eventually) development of more imprint-specific web page design within the e-commerce site.
4) A newsletter for each imprint sent to customers who buy within the categories.
There are many other ideas we will try. It should be a lot of fun!

Announcing our new imprints …

I’ve made a career of implementing change in the IT world. For years, I’ve been the guy who comes in and leads large implementations to transform organizations. I’ve been the guy a lot of people groan about because I have been a harbinger of change — often difficult. Ideally, these changes work out and organizations become more efficient. I suppose I would not have survived for 35 years in IT if that were not the case.
Then comes Sunbury Press. While I am the owner, I was dreading changing anything. Everything seemed to be working well enough. Why should I disrupt what we are doing? Maybe it will screw things up!  Maybe I should just ride it out a little longer … funny how I, too, am nervous about change over my own domain — not so much when it is someone else’s!
After a lot of thought, and listening to advice from many quarters, including reviewing what other publishers in the industry have done, I have decided to go ahead and launch our new line of imprints. These will serve to better target our reader communities and hopefully develop loyalty in more of our offerings.
This decision was not easy.  We are not a large publisher from a financial perspective, and creating five additional brands could be cumbersome.  But, it is also necessary to achieve the level of success we are collectively seeking.
First, before I unveil them, know that we are still Sunbury Press, Inc. The corporate name is not changing. We are only changing the imprint or brand under which we register our books for sale. This means, depending on your category, your books will begin to have this new targeted branding. Nothing changes regarding our contracts, or from a legal perspective with the book trade.
So, here we go:
Sunbury Press — remains as our primary nonfiction imprint. Our history, self-help, science, political, biography/memoir titles will continue to be published under our traditional brand. This makes a lot of sense since it has been very successful with these categories. In fact, many bookstore buyers think of Sunbury Press as a history-oriented press.
Milford House Press — is our new general fiction line, including mysteries, historical, sports, westerns, and young adult titles. Several years ago, I was on my way to Boston and stayed over in Milford. There was a lovely classic revival mansion in the town which had been converted to the library. At the time, I thought of Milford House Press as a potential brand and had the logo in my head until just the other week, when I designed it. Some of you are already holding books with this new logo.
Hellbender Books — is our new imprint for our horror, thriller, fantasy, and science fiction titles. It has been clear for some time that segmenting these titles into a more appropriate brand would eliminate confusion. Usually, in my experience, a rising sun, as in the Sunbury Press logo, is the bane of the nasty things that dwell in the night. So, why would we want such a positive enlightened logo on our more disturbing material? I know Tom Malafarina and Keith Rommel are happier now. Hellbender came from the large salamanders found in streams in the northeast. While not creepy themselves, the name was cool. And, the logo has kind of a horned “H” thing going on. Anyway, I think it works.
Brown Posey Press — is our new imprint for our literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and arts-oriented titles. For these books, we wanted a more boutique feel — something more niche sounding. Tammi and I were watching a movie some time ago, and the actor mentioned brown posies. I actually reserved the URL that evening and have held it for quite awhile. Now it’s being put to use.  The logo includes a wood carving from the Middle Ages overlaid with two shade of brown.
Ars Metaphysica — permits us to segment our spiritual and metaphysical fiction and nonfiction. It will also be home for our paranormal titles. This imprint was cooked up last year, while talking to Susan Kiskis about a potential blog under this name. I pulled a mystical design from ancient times.
Speckled Egg Press — has been resurrected to be used for our childrens (juvenile) titles. While we had taken a hiatus from publishing them, we are looking at reintroducing a line of paperbacks under this brand. Tammi designed the logo several years ago, and it had been used on a limited number of books.
So, how will this work?  New books will be assigned to their appropriate imprint. As we release your new books, we may take that opportunity to rebrand your other titles, especially if they are in the same series. This takes time, and money, and will likely require many months to accomplish.  The goal is to complete the rebranding effort of active titles over the next 12 months.