Sphere is setting up an online hub for crime, thriller and mystery e-books, commissioning new content as well as acquiring titles which have not previously been available in the UK, with the aim of becoming a "powerful marketing platform for digital-first titles".
Last year sister publisher Gollancz launched SF Gateway, a website dedicated to science fiction, which will publish new and forgotten science fiction and fantasy e-books.
The new site, The Crime Vault (thecrimevault.com), will launch on 1st December 2012 with hundreds of titles from across the Little, Brown Book Group and new books from international authors including Charles Finch, Sara Blaedel and Jennifer Hillier. The site will not sell titles directly to consumers, but will offer click-through to purchase at the retailer of their choice.
Little, Brown associate publisher Daniel Mallory described the site as "a custom-designed showcase for an array of titles available nowhere else in the UK" and said the publisher was still in the process of "acquiring rapidly" for launch. He said the approach was well-suited to crime, calling it the "most reliably and enduringly popular genre at booksellers tills", adding that "crime readers are a very more-ish lot".
He said though backlist and current frontlist bestsellers would be on the site, "the bulk of our energy is devoted to the acquisition of titles not currently available in the UK‚" citing examples of American detective stories from the 1940s or 21st-century novels by writers such as Bryan Gruley. Titles specially acquired or commissioned for The Crime Vault will be priced at £2.99, as will certain backlist titles. The bestselling titles will move into print after their initial digital publication.
The site will be backed by a monthly e-newsletter with special offers, competitions and crime-fiction news, as well as exclusive information about brand authors. Mallory said the publisher was "investing heavily in the web architecture", with a dedicated Twitter feed and forums.
New titles will be added each month, with Mallory saying they "won't be fixing a monthly quota". He said: "Depending on the number of authors and the size of their backlists, we could be adding anywhere from half a dozen to more than a hundred titles a month."
Mallory said authors and agents have reacted positively to the plans as it provides a fresh "and in some cases a first" route to market in the UK.