Today sees the launch of Endeavour Ink: the new print division of the UK's leading independent digital pubisher, Endeavour Press. But why, five years after it launched, is a successful digital imprint going back to the future, and investing in paper and ink? Publishing Director Amy Durant gives us the inside story.
Working for Endeavour Press, I have seen the digital market thrive. Our sales increase month on month, and from enrolling in Amazon's Kindle programs, such as Kindle Unlimited and KDP Select, we have seen upward spikes in borrowing and sales that suggest, if anything, people are reading more than ever.
Though other publishers have reported sales plateauing in digital, we have seen a huge increase - and generally, from speaking to other, small, independent digital publishers, the trend is the same. From talking to readers both informally and via data we have collected (through our mailing list, book blogger network and general conversations with the public), it is clear that more and more people are shifting towards digital.
The reasons they cited are pretty predictable: ebooks are easy to access (you can download a new book immediately after finishing the last one, and a Kindle/ phone/ iPad etc is easier to carry around than a book); your library is portable (so you can dip in and out of books whenever you want); you can adjust the font size (particularly useful for the older reading market who are used to buying large print titles); and you can read as many books as you like if you are homebound (we have a couple of reviewers on our list who fall under this category and they have said that digital books have been a real lifeline).
However, most of those readers also reported that they still enjoyed reading in print as well.
Endeavour focused on creating print-on-demand editions for a lot of books last year, and though the sales were nowhere near as high as the e-sales, it is clear there is still a strong and active market for print publishing. That's why we have decided to launch a traditional print publishing imprint - Endeavour Ink - which we are officially launching today.
We haven't really pushed our print-on-demand sales – the returns are very low, as the costs of creating each copy are high. We have had the odd book sell quite nicely, but generally we've used the print editions as tools to push the ebook sales, as Amazon have told us that ebooks tend to sell better when they are linked to a print edition, and it helps when pitching for deals.
We believe the importance for success in the current climate is not to just focus all your attention on either print or digital, at the cost of the other, but to excel in both, and push different books in different mediums. We have been experimenting with small print runs for books which were e-only first, and which sold very well digitally, and that will partly be our model moving forward. We are also commissioning new works from bestselling authors, in genres we know we can sell, both digitally and in print, such as historical fiction and crime fiction.
Digital is influencing our decisions on print more in the way of content than format, in the sense that we will publishing some titles digitally first, and then we will opt for print editions based on their sales record. We aren’t doing gift books. We are just printing normal books in the popular genres that we think readers will love. Digital is thriving but it will never push print books out of the marketplace, and there are plenty of readers out there who still want to read a ‘real’ book, so we are just trying to make our books available to as many readers as possible.
We are still primarily a digital publisher, and we will still be focusing a lot of effort towards pushing our ebooks. We are still in the very early stages of launching Ink so we can’t say much in terms of distribution yet, but again, we want to be as inclusive as possible, working with both big chains like Waterstones, and smaller independents, who may have a connection to the author, or the content or setting of the book.
To keep up with the future of books it is important to keep experimenting, and to listen to readers, not just to industry buzz. We are keen to use our existing digitally-savvy staff as the main engine behind Ink, so although we are taking a lot of advice on how to make print work, and we are using a lot of freelancers for the print production, at the moment we aren’t hiring anyone specifically for the new division. Endeavour Ink is an exciting new venture for us, which no doubt will throw up hurdles along the way, but we are determined to keep our flexible digital-focussed attitude and apply it to print: thinking up new ways to sell and market books, and ensuring readers are getting the content they want.