Blackstone Publishing Hits the Ground Running
Blackstone is somewhat dissimilar from other book and audiobook publishers in a number of ways. One of the most obvious differences being that the company began as an audiobook company and then became a print and eBook publisher, whereas most multi-format publishers started by doing print books. In fact, because of our strength and reputation in the audio market, we have never accepted a manuscript for print and eBook only.
Another component to our acquisition process is that for manuscripts that we are interested in, we involve our marketing, publicity and sales people before we make an offer. It is important to us that they believe in each book we publish and that they feel they can maximize the project for both us and for the author, and that they are comfortable that the author will be an active participant in the marketing of their book.
The reason for that last point is that we like our authors to be involved in the marketing of their books. We want, and value, their ideas, strategies and thoughts. We are not the kind of company that says to the author, “You do the writing, and we’ll do the marketing, and stay out of our way.” Instead, we value author input and involvement and want them to be a part of our team, and to think outside-the-box with our marketing, publicity and sales people.
Also, regarding acquisitions, we never acquire books that we aren’t passionate about; as a result, we never release books and then just see what happens. We set up and work every book we publish. We feel that is something we owe to both the author and to ourselves—to try to maximize every book we publish.
“...we are more like a fine racing sloop that can turn and maneuver quickly, is agile and can change direction as needed based on any developments that arise...”
Another way that we differ from many publishers is that we are family-owned, which gives us much greater flexibility than those publishers that are owned by corporations, and who have to do things according to the rules and regulations of their parent company. An analogy that illustrates that is that we are more like a fine racing sloop that can turn and maneuver quickly, is agile and can change direction as needed based on any developments that arise—whereas a number of other publishers are more like a mammoth ocean liner and need much more time and effort to be able to alter their course.
Even though we only began publishing print and eBooks a few years ago, we have already become a significant company in those formats. That is due to a number of factors, the first of which was that before we even started publishing print/eBooks we had a strong reputation and ongoing relationships through our audiobooks with most every retailer, distributor, library and supplier that sells and stocks print books and eBooks. It enabled us to "hit the ground running" from day one.
Another factor was that we set out to have meaningful authors and books right from the start so that we would be taken seriously as a player in the print/eBook arena. To that end, early on, we acquired and published the Louis L’Amour and Max Brand catalogs, signed multi-million-selling authors P.C. & Kristin Cast and launched new books in their bestselling House of Night series, acquired virtually the entire James Clavell catalog including Shōgun, one of the classic books of all time, obtained Gregory McDonald’s catalog, including his beloved Fletch series, did deals with bestselling authors Rex Pickett (of Sideways fame), Daniel Hecht, Natasha Boyd, John Altman, D.J. Molles, Cory Doctorow, M.C. Beaton, Shelley Shephard Gray, Adrian McKinty, Don Winslow, and Nicholas Sansbury Smith (Hell Divers series). More recently, we have signed, and will have new books coming from Cadwell Turnbull, Matthew Mather, Orson Scott Card, Kris Lackey, Susan Purvis, Mark Rubinstein, Francine Pascal (of Sweet Valley High fame), Catherine Ryan Howard and more to come.
In addition, we have been active pursuing and signing a host of debut authors as well as writers who have made a name for themselves through self-publishing, but who want to be able to spread their reach and their brand farther than self-publishing allows for. Those authors include the aforementioned Nicholas Sansbury Smith, Nick Pirog (Thomas Prescott series), and Nick Jones (Downstream Diaries series).
While all of that print/eBook activity was going on we kept maximizing our audiobooks as well.
Audiobooks have exploded over the past five years, during which time their growth has outpaced every other publishing format. Because of their transportability and ease of use, especially with mobile devices, the public has embraced audiobooks to a degree that they never did before. The result of that is that many, many more titles are released on audio, and the competition to acquire titles for audio has ratcheted up and become more intense, with more companies publishing audiobooks than in the past.
“...Blackstone has been a market-leader in audiobooks for thirty-two years with a reputation for publishing quality audios with excellent narrators and stunning graphics (which is also a hallmark of our print books and eBooks)...”
Fortunately, Blackstone has been a market-leader in audiobooks for thirty-two years with a reputation for publishing quality audios with excellent narrators and stunning graphics (which is also a hallmark of our print books and eBooks), and because of that we have been able to maintain our place at the forefront of the audiobook marketplace. We remain one of the topmost content providers to most every audiobook-seller be they online or in brick and mortar, have led the way in the developing technology for audiobooks (for example, Blackstone was the first company to do audiobooks on MP3-CD, and we were cited by Google as the most innovative company in our State when they awarded their eCity of the Year awards), and we have a website that sells the entire audiobook industry’s products, downpour.com (which also rents audiobooks).
We continue to be the home for not only newer authors but for some of the greatest classics of all time including the catalogs and/or bestselling titles of Ayn Rand, James Bond, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A.A. Milne, Timothy Ferris, Made For Success, Knowledge Products, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, George Orwell, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Elena Ferrante, Karin Slaughter, Jeanine Frost, Arundhati Roy, and many, many other fabulous authors.
We are proud that Entertainment Weekly has called us, “The Best Unabridged Audiobook Company in America Today.”
In addition, because we do our own audiobook manufacturing in-house, and make audiobooks on CD and MP3-CD to order, we are now manufacturing, selling and marketing physical audiobooks for not only ourselves, but also for Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Disney, Brilliance, Skyboat Media, Harlequin, Scholastic, Bolinda, Lucas Film and Naxos.
Looking ahead to our all-rights releases (print/ebook/audio), there are a number of exciting projects coming up that I have personally signed, and while I don’t want to slight any author of mine, these have something unique or special about them. The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramierez by Rudy Ruiz is a magical fantasy that will be the first book we publish simultaneously in English and Spanish. Shadow Frost is the first novel (YA) from Coco Ma, a multi-talented teen prodigy who has gained wide acclaim for her piano virtuosity and who has performed with the likes of Itzaak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. A Mindful Year by Seth J. Gillihan, PhD and Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh will give readers a meditation a day and ways to improve their lives and happiness.
I have personally acquired the rights to a number of authors, books and series from Mark Gottlieb, and I truly value his taste in authors and manuscripts, his general acumen and agenting expertise, and his manner of doing business. He’s a nice guy on top of that. I must say that, like Mark, I truly like most every agent I work with. They all share a similar passion for their authors and projects, are bright and educated, generally erudite, and friendly. They make my job enjoyable.
“My philosophy regarding agents, authors and deals is simple—it has to be, and always is, a win-win.”
My philosophy regarding agents, authors and deals is simple—it has to be, and always is, a win-win. When a book is submitted to us that we agree to publish, it is a win for the agent and the author because they are getting an enthused publisher who will work their book, and it is a win for us because we get good books to publish and a way to make money (for us, the author and the agent). It is a symbiotic relationship that I enjoy and foster.
On a last note, Blackstone is expanding once again. We are opening an office in New York City to complement our satellite office in Portland, Oregon and our headquarters in Ashland, Oregon. We are scouting other locations as well for additional offices, studios and facilities, and we are actively looking for additional staff in key job areas. We have grown and been profitable every year of our existence, which we believe is due to a combination of passion, professionalism, caring, quality, great people, an enjoyable culture, and working with and for the best authors we can find and attract; and we are certain that is our road map to continued success as well. The future is bright for Blackstone on all fronts and we will continue to aggressively pursue new opportunities, meaningful partnerships and outstanding authors.
Rick Bleiweiss is Head of New Business Development for Blackstone publishing. In that role he serves many functions, including acquiring authors and books for Blackstone to publish. Among the best-selling authors Rick has signed to Blackstone are James Clavell, Gregory McDonald, PC & Kristin Cast, Rex Pickett, Daniel Hecht, Natasha Boyd, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda, Francine Pascal, HP Lovecraft, Arundhati Roy, Cory Doctorow and many others. In addition, writing under a pseudonym, a book that Rick wrote won two international literary awards. Rick was formerly in the music industry where he spent over forty years as a senior executive, songwriter and performer, and Grammy-nominated record producer.