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Front Page » July 30, 2009 » Business journal » Romance sells ...
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Romance sells ...


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By COLLIN MCRANN
Sun Advocate writer

With sales of romance novels up over the last year, it should come as no surprise that Price's sole book publisher has found great success specializing in the field.

Although the romance genre is not typically known for its cultural contributions, literary classics like Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina or even Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead contain elements that would feel right at home in any romance novel. And with declining sales of anything in print, bright spots have taken center stage in a struggling industry.

Mojocastle Press in Price started as the ambition of Carrie Anne King, a Carbon County native, who after spending years working in the publishing industry around the country, decided she would return home.

"It took a couple of years to get the publishing company off the ground, but we're (currently) ahead of schedule," said King, "I've had a lot of help and too many coincidences."

Shortly after the company started, the New York Times ran an article in which Stephanie V. Kelsey, the editor in chief and chief operations officer at Mojocastle, was quoted. This created a massive unexpected response on the company's web site.

"All of a sudden our web site crashed from all the traffic," said King. "We had to get our own server."

Unlike traditional publishing companies Mojocastle began its operations offering "ebooks" (books that are read on computers) or more recently mobile devices. This type of media allowed King to initially keep costs low and although since expanding she has gone to print, all her offerings are also electronic.

The company's driving force to expand into print came from a deal in which national book seller Barnes and Noble required King to have print media. Up until the B&N deal, Mojocastle was primarily making sales through its own website (www.mojocastle.com) as well as Amazon.com.

"Amazon will take anything," said King, "with B&N we had to go to print."

A key point to a successful book publishing business is obvious; good literature. But good writers are common and in order for a good writer to become a profitable one, they need to show a full commitment.

"I don't just pick up writers; we have a different approach with a focused, select few." said King.

Mojocastle's approach to marketing involves heavy emphasis on creating a following for each of its authors which differs from the shotgun approach of larger publishers. Mainstream publishing companies can have hundreds and even thousands of writers, but the majority of them don't make money. Big publishers tend to rely on the heavy sales from popular authors and series to pay for the rest.

However, Mojocastle requires each author to turn a profit and although they might not make the massive sales of popular book series, they have been able to build a sound, loyal fan-base.

"Writers have to be good, but you need to pimp your own stuff," said King. "That means going to book signings, going to conventions and just making yourself available. People want to see the writers."

With around 20 writers signed and 70 titles available, Mojocastle makes around 50 percent of sales over its own website with the rest going through Amazon.com and B&N. By publishing industry standards Mojocastle is considered an "indie," or independent which means that when one of its authors become popular, bigger non-indie companies offer them more money.

"They'll try to take your writers, they can offer a lot of money and huge advances," said King. And while author cherry picking is hard to avoid, King just hopes to see cross sales from the greater exposure.

Unlike the two classics mentioned at the beginning of this story, romance novels always have a conclusive and happy ending. And with nearly 80 percent of clientele being woman, the romance genre tends to cater to feminine audiences.

According to King, however, this is changing. Male readership is on the rise in part because, as King believes, they can now read the books more discretely through the invention of the ebooks and portable electronic readers.

"This has really allowed men to read romance. Statistics show over the last four years, male readership is up," said King.

Although King herself does not read much from the romantic genre outside of work, she believes that it gives her an edge as she can be more objective.

"It makes me great, (for finding good material)" King related on not being a romance fan.

Carbon County on the other hand has no book store and although Mojocastle does not sell books locally, King is saddened by the lack in the literary scene locally. However she has been able to find one local author and hopes his FBI file story about Ted Bundy will entice new readers.

As for the future King sees nothing, but new possibilities and avenues for expansion. But she adds that she will always be a great fan reading and hopes more people will discover it as an exciting pass time.

"Reading is sexy," concluded King.

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July 30, 2009
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