When we first founded Entangled, I was determined that we would always operate with complete transparency. My feeling is if you share the highs and lows of publishing with your authors, truly treat them like business partners, you’ll not only earn their respect and admiration but they’ll want to stick with you even through the tough times. So with that thought in mind, we hold monthly Town Meetings, frequently share marketing strategies, sales numbers, and even openly discuss opportunities and how they’ll affect our authors. There are no secrets here, not even how we’ve become so successful in such a short amount of time…
It seems like a decade has passed since our humble beginnings releasing five titles each month in both digital and print on demand. I have to keep reminding myself it was just August of last year. Wow, ten months. A lot can change in ten months. And I’m happy to say, for us, it was all for the better!
Back in July of 2011, Entangled launched its first book, a teaser novella from the amazing Nina Croft that we internally referred to as “vamps in space”. Heather giggled over my acquisition—hell I giggled, too… all the way to 8 weeks on the bestseller list at Books On Board. (And now Break Out is going on to even bigger fame with 20,000 additional words and mass market distribution in print in August.) Yeah, I thought, we got this!
And then we launched our first ten titles in digital and print. Le sigh. Print On Demand. Sounds like a great idea, right? Not so much if you want to see your books on bookstore shelves. Barnes and Noble looked askance at our beautiful new books, so we immediately recognized the need for a better strategy. We’ve always wanted our authors to have the opportunity to wander into a local bookstore and see their name staring back at them (every author’s dream), and that just wasn’t happening with POD. Luckily, I sold my left kidney and was able to secure distribution deals with powerhouse distributor Publishers Group West, and Midpoint Trade Books.
We now have three single-title print lines—Entangled Select and Entangled Teen distributed through PGW, and Entangled Books distributed through MTB—all with guaranteed print runs. Each imprint offers a wide variety of genres, including contemporary, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, historical, and our highly successful young adult titles. You name it, we’ve probably got it. Our first mass distributed print titles were released in May and have been spotted on end caps and new release shelves across America. And now three of our adult titles have been picked up for the “Summer Beach Reads” promo by Wal-Mart.com!
Speaking of print books, another big coup was luring Stacy Cantor Abrams away from Walker/Bloomsbury to become the new Editorial Director for our print imprints. When asked why she would consider ever leaving her steady NY paycheck for a gamble at Entangled, she replied, “I’ve edited award winners and lead titles already and never saw an increase in pay as any sort of incentive or reward for a book’s success. I know I can pick a best-seller, I’m confident I can edit one, so why wouldn’t I take a chance on myself?” With a 1,000% increase from her first Entangled royalty statement to this last one, I’d say she made a good bet!
Of course, I’ve skipped over the part where our finance department calculated the amount of liquidity we would need to bridge our finances from print run to payment: about five months per book. Five titles per month, between $5,000-$10,000 per print run, not even remotely recouped in less than five months, plus possibly mass returns, lower royalties due to distribution costs, and freight costs—omg the freight costs—equals a lot of cash. A. Lot. Entangled has solid backing from it’s parent corporation, Savvy Authors, but we were talking even bigger money. We were approached by tons of investors, but the minute you allow unrelated parties with an eye only on the bottom line to start having a say in how you run your company, you might find the ideals you’d cherished so much when founding the company tossed aside for the almighty dollar. Plus, we have zero debt and I plan to keep it that way, so what to do…
Our first step was to create a product that would allow our authors to play in the successful $0.99-$2.99 digital space and enable us to more cost-effectively build our authors’ platforms. This idea became a huge success. Led by Adrien-Luc Sanders as Senior Managing Editor, Kerri-Leigh Grady as Managing Editor, and with an assist from Stacy Abrams as Editorial Director, our novellas have become their own imprint—Ever Afters for books between 20,000-40,000 words, and Flirts for books between 5,000-15,000 words. Cari Quinn’s Flirt, No Dress Required, has sold a total of 58,000+ copies so far, and hit the USA Today bestseller list!
With marketing now out of the way, it was time to tackle the cash flow considerations necessary to really get this print model off the ground. We didn’t want to sell out. We didn’t want to cut corners. We didn’t want to move away from our founding principle that putting our authors first and our bottom line second will yield a far greater return, both in monetary terms as well as satisfaction. What we needed was a high-margin product in a space not already over-crowded with competitors.
In February, we launched our first digital-only category romance imprint, Indulgence. We weren’t sure what would happen when it launched, but we knew we had some amazing titles and were super excited to share them with the world…and the world loved them! We’ve sold 435,000 copies worldwide in just three and a half months, garnered ten foreign rights sales, and have watched with excitement as one book hit the USA Today and NY Times bestseller lists and, just this week, hit the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list! Editorial director Alethea Spiridon-Hopson and the managing editor Libby Murphy (who happened to edit this fantastic book) couldn’t be more proud, nor could we!
I know everyone wants us to talk about The Marriage Bargain and royalties. Luckily, Jennifer Probst is more than happy to share her success story with fellow authors. To date, The Marriage Bargain has sold more than 313,000 copies for an author royalty of approximately $375,000. Crazy good news. And next month, PGW will be distributing this title in mass market paperback with front of store placement in Barnes and Nobles across the country! The cover price will be $7.99 and the release date is July 17th. Barnes and Noble already has the title up for sale AND it’s discounted to $4.79 for mass market paperback!!
Jennifer isn’t the only one who benefited from the success of this title. Her editor has earned more than $45,000, her copy editor and publicist more than $10,000 each. Even the cover artist made about $3,000 so far. But even more importantly—no one expected to earn out on an investment in any title within the first three months of sales. We have always approached our jobs with a longtail mindset…that we were building an annuitized income. Every employee earns royalties for the lifetime of the author’s contract. Just like a literary agent who opens a new agency, we realized it would take months for each of us to build up our personal catalogs, but after a year, cumulative royalties would start to add up in exciting ways. TMB just helped some reach their goals a little faster, as did all of our digital titles. Even our single titles are starting to perform in fantastic ways.
But let’s not forget about the other twelve Indulgences! The Marriage Bargain isn’t our only success. In fact, the line is on fire. With a little math, you can guess these titles sold an average of 6,000-12,000 copies each for a royalty of approximately $7,200-$14,400. Not too shabby. Some did a little better, some a little less, but the second bestselling title so far is…a tie! Tempting the Best Man by J. Lynn and Weekend Agreement by Barbara Wallace have both sold just under 18,000 copies to date for a royalty of approximately $20,000 each.
The Indulgence release schedule is completely full for 2012, so we’ve decided to expand this imprint up to ten titles per month beginning in the Winter. If you’re thinking of submitting to this amazing line, now is definitely the time. Check out the Indulgence submission guidelines here.
Our second category imprint, Dead Sexy, is geared toward mystery and romantic suspense lovers and helmed by successful suspense author Nina Bruhns. The first title Deadly Secrets, Loving Lies by Cynthia Cooke launched May 13, and on June 15, we’ll officially debut the line with titles from Anna DeStefano, Mallory Kane, and Misa Ramirez.
And August will bring even more excitement. We’re introducing a sexy category line helmed by Heather Howland called Brazen, which will launch with No Flowers Required, the steamy mistaken identity/one-night-stand follow up to Cari Quinn’s USA Today bestseller, as well as a sweet romance line from Stacy Abrams called Bliss. In addition, I’ll be personally overseeing a new contemporary paranormal romance line called Covet, which will launch this July with a fun best-friends-to-lovers romp called Take It Like A Vamp by Candace Havens. Our historical category line, Scandalous, will launch later this fall with exciting new short romances set in Regency England to the Civil War in America. The submissions we’re receiving for all of these lines are top notch, and we can’t wait for these books to come out!
Sure, we’re expanding our category imprints—who wouldn’t with these amazing sales numbers—but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop publishing single title books. In fact, quite the opposite. Our digital imprint successes allow us to also expand our print imprints and marketing reach. And, of course, we love it when our authors want to write for both our digital and single title imprints!
Here’s a quick look at our next six print titles releasing in June…
This has been an amazing journey for Entangled, our authors, editors, publicists, and additional staff (which at last count numbered 43). We’ve been hard at work behind the scenes creating top notch books for just about every reader, as well as imprints for most every writer. We look at every book we publish as an investment in that author’s career and hope they’ll be so satisfied with Entangled, they’ll want to continue to grow that career with us. With three single-title print imprints, six category imprints, and two novella imprints, we are able to give prolific authors a home where they can branch out and grow wherever their muse takes them…and be confident they can one day earn a living as a full-time author with our exceptionally high royalty rates.
We’re always looking for more experienced editors, copy editors, and publicists to join our team so that we can continue to grow. We’re also looking for more cover artists! We’re looking for the best of the best, and believe our numbers are strong enough to draw in talented individuals excited to work for a progressive company with so many talented authors. All positions are home-based, so working in your pj’s and fitting in meetings around your family’s schedule is just one perk of the job. If you’re interested in working for a forward-thinking, fun, and exciting company, seize this opportunity and send your resume or CV to Melinda Pierce (employment at entangledpublishing dot com).
So there you have it. Entangled’s ten month progress report, written into one of the tomes our authors have come to expect from me. There are a variety of ways we could measure the success Entangled has experienced thus far, but my favorite is simply knowing our authors and employees feel valued and can make a good living at their chosen profession. There were a lot of people who doubted this business model would work, and I’m ecstatic we’re slowly proving them wrong.
Liz Pelletier, Publisher