Oliver Rhodes is leaving his role as chief executive of Bookouture, the digital publisher he founded, in July, after which Jenny Geras, currently publisher at Bookouture, will take over as managing director.
Rhodes has run Bookouture since he founded the company in 2012 and also serves as the digital publishing director of Hachette UK. He said he was leaving the company to start another publishing business, which since Bookouture sold to Hachette UK in March 2017, he had been planning to do at some point.
Geras will become managing director of Bookouture from 1st July and will also become a member of the Hachette UK board. She will assume a new role as managing director designate with immediate effect.
Rhodes said in a statement: "My time at Bookouture has been the most incredible journey, from a one-person start-up to a highly successful division of Hachette with over 30 million sales. Behind that commercial success lies both an amazing team and the most supportive and inspiring group of authors, who it has been my absolute privilege to work with for the past seven years.
"As well as being an outstanding publisher and manager, Jenny is already at the heart of everything we do at Bookouture. I know she will do an excellent job in leading the team and I have complete confidence that Bookouture will continue to go from strength to strength.
"I knew when we sold Bookouture to Hachette that I’d likely want to start another publishing business at some point and now feels like the right time both for the company and for me personally. I am very much looking forward to having time to focus on what that new business will look like."
Rhodes told The Bookseller further that although his imminent departure was "bittersweet", he wanted the company to go on to "great things" without him. He said: "It has got to a place where I’m very confident it can do that. That was a major factor in my thinking."
Before becoming part of Hachette UK, Bookouture sold 81,000 e-books globally in 2013; 362,000 in 2014; 2.5 million in 2015 and 6 million in 2016. Doubling in size over the past couple of years to 35 staff, it hit the 30 million sales mark in October 2019. In terms of its print publishing, for 2019, through Nielsen BookScan Bookouture sold 78,984 books, up 14.9% year on year, and earned £674,667, up 13%.
Although unable to reveal more at this time, Rhodes indicated his next publishing venture was "realistically, likely" to be related to e-books, and that it would benefit from better funding than Bookouture had initially. "I am excited at the prospect of starting something new," he said.
He added: "Any new venture would be much better funded that Bookouture was originally, and it's a nice position to be able to say that. Starting a business on your own is great for learning but in terms of growing quickly it’s great to have more people involved. I envisage more people being involved from the very start this time."
Commenting on Rhodes' departure and succession by Geras, David Shelley, c.e.o. of Hachette UK, said: "I have loved working with Oliver. He is a true publishing visionary and in Bookouture he created one of the most exciting new publishers of modern times. And in the past three years he and his team have taken it from strength to strength, with record sales and constant dazzling growth. Also, in his role as digital publishing director he has taught us all here so much about e-book publishing and has helped us greatly as a group to grow and to develop in a fast-changing world. Oliver will be much missed by all of us here in so many ways – as a guiding force, the head of a large division, and as a person – and we wish him well.
"And when Oliver leaves us in July I am greatly looking forward to working with his natural successor Jenny Geras – a smart, dynamic and intuitive publisher who has big plans for Bookouture and is the very best person to take on the reins from Oliver. Bookouture has an incredible list of bestselling authors and I am really excited to see what Jenny and her brilliant team will do next."
Before joining Bookouture in 2017, Geras was Arrow publishing director for four years (2013–2017) at Cornerstone. Before that she was editorial director at Pan Macmillan where she concentrated on publishing women's fiction and book club fiction. At Bookouture, she set up a new fiction publishing team, and in 2019 moved into an expanded role heading all three of Bookouture's fiction teams.
She said of the changes: "I came to work at Bookouture because I was passionate about the publishing model, and inspired by the way in which the company worked. The things that I love about Bookouture were all essential parts of Oliver’s founding vision for the company, that remain just as true today as they were when he started out in 2012: a new type of publisher that, from the point of acquisition onwards, treats every author like a bestseller and aims to make every single book it publishes into a bestseller; that combines big publisher expertise with small publisher focus and attention to detail; that uses data alongside creativity to continually improve the way in which we publish.
"The pace at which Bookouture has grown, even since my arrival, has been amazing to watch, and I genuinely believe we have the best publishing team in the industry. I am excited and honoured to be leading Bookouture in this next phase of our growth."
Bookouture will be recruiting a publishing director to succeed Geras and also has plans for further expansion in 2020.
In terms of what this expansion will practically involve, Geras told The Bookseller it would be keeping the Bookouture model "as it is" and wouldn't be straying from its current editor-to-author ratio in pursuit of new markets and signing more authors. However, an exciting development is that it is expanding into non-fiction, which Claire Bord will head. Further details will be announced in the coming months.
"We are still only 35 people and the e-book market is huge. There is no sign we're going to stand still. We're looking for different niche genres and different ways of reaching the market. And we're still largely concentrated on a few main commercial sub-genres and there are many more," said Geras.