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Imprints that Work Best in Print: Insight Editions’ Success Story Features Complex Formats

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Show rather than tell. That might be the motto of Insight Editions, where video and other visuals are key to selling pop-up and lavishly illustrated movie tie-in books.

These are among the best ways to highlight titles with special features, special trim sizes, and removable elements, company executives say, and sales figures prove the point. Insight has sold 300,000 copies of Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book, and almost 200,000 copies of Harry Potter: A Sticker Collection, which lets readers put their own touches on his adventures.

Long before wizards, however, Insight’s publisher Raoul Goff (photo right) had found magic in popular culture. Starting in business as a print broker, he established Palace Press International in 1987 to package elaborate entertainment media tie-in products for such publisher clients as Chronicle, Abrams, and Avalon. Based in San Rafael, CA, this firm continues its work in partnership with the publishing company Goff created in 2002.

Through Insight Editions and two other imprints, Goff can now also explore topics he is personally passionate about, publicity manager Natalie Nicolson
By the end of the year, the company will have almost 600 titles in print, more than half of them for the Insight Editions imprint, which focuses on photography, music, and popular culture with books designed to be “visually stimulating,” and both “elegant and informative.”

Originally, one important audience was baby boomers. The first Insight Editions title was Rolling Stone: 40×20, presenting twenty photographers’ pictures of the band’s first 40 years. Similar early titles include All Access, with Ken Regan’s photographs of rock and roll performers, and House of Cash: The Legacies of my Father, Johnny Cash by John Carter Cash.

Today, many Insight Editions titles are oriented to slightly younger nostalgic readers. For example: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago; Henry Winkler’s I’ve Never Met An Idiot on the River: Reflections on Family, Fishing, and Photography; and Capturing Archetypes: Twenty Years of Sideshow Collectibles Art, by and about the company that manufactures Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics and Lord of the Rings figures.

A second imprint, Mandala Publishing, publishes books about the arts, health, ecology, and spirituality of Vedic traditions. And a third, Earth Aware Editions, covers such subjects as climate change, conservation, the accelerating loss of diversity in species and cultures, and the continued erosion of Earth’s biosphere and ethnosphere.

As it transformed itself from solely a print broker to publisher as well, this company has faced many demands, Nicholson says. The first was adding editorial staff, and staff challenges today include what she calls “keeping our ears to the ground.”

Obviously, the publisher is a man of many interests that are shared by others, and with imprints focused on topics ranging from music photography to science fiction, and from Vedic culture to video games, “It’s a challenge to keep up with our varied audiences,” she explains. “We’re constantly creating new ways to produce our books that will excite our fans and give them a deeper experience into the subject matter.”

Keeping up—and keeping on schedule—with those dozens of new titles each season requires about three dozen employees, most of them full-time. The staff is supplemented with many freelancers and contractors.

Pricing, Promotion, and E-Absence

Another challenge for Insight Editions is cost. The extremely complex production requirements of sophisticated pop-up and extensively illustrated books mean higher than average price points, and that means careful negotiating with vendors and an emphasis on prepublication promotion, Nicolson says.

“We work closely with the authors, studios, and/or PR teams involved in each project from the get-go to exchange marketing and publicity ideas, strategies, and media connections, and to parse up the workload in order to play to the strengths of both parties,” she explains.

Tapping into everyone’s existing fan bases is the primary goal. “As an example, Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. have been instrumental in the promotion of both our Pacific Rim: Man, Machines, & Monsters by David S. Cohen last year and our Godzilla: The Art of Destruction by Mark Cotta Vaz this spring, including approving spreads from the book to be shared with media and sharing news about the books on their social media platforms.”

Some Insight Editions strategies can be used even by much smaller publishers. Consider, for instance, book trailers and microsites such as godzillabook.com that feature one title. For the Godzilla book, the company had Godzilla director Gareth Edwards interviewed for YouTube (video below) to increase the online presence for both the movie and Insight’s tie-in. And in its first five days online, the video was seen by at least a thousand viewers a day.

Working with film studios, video game developers, and other entertainment industry firms does create its own kind of challenges. “We’re often on tight deadlines and unable to use marketing assets from a book about a forthcoming movie or game in advance of the release date to avoid spoilers,” says Nicolson.

Surprisingly, one current issue for other publishers is not a concern at Insight Editions. The company doesn’t do e-books. Because its titles are “tactile,” to use Nicholson’s term, and “often full of unique features that aren’t found in a typical trade book,” the Insight Editions executives not only don’t expect any digital duplication of their quality and ingenuity; they also don’t have to manage conversions to e-books that many publishers are struggling with. Instead, Nicholson explains, they keep watching and listening for the next movie, video game, or band to capture their customers’ attention.

Linda Carlson writes for IBPA’s Independent magazine from Seattle.

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