Bloodhound Books is best known as an independent specialist publisher of commercial crime fiction and psychological thrillers. Our co-founders Betsy and Fred have a passion for crime literature. (Betsy is a crime writer in her own right.) So, what did we need to consider when we decided to broaden our list and acquire in subgenres beyond crime and thriller?
1. Attracting talent
When we first decided to publish a wider range of manuscripts, our key acceptance criteria stayed the same. In order to make it onto our list, a manuscript has to be exceptionally well written. It also needs to be commercially viable, in order to make it out of the submissions inbox. That means we need to be able to envisage it charting highly on Amazon… and it must have sales potential as an audiobook as well as an eBook. The subgenres we’ve branched out into are all popular in digital formats, which was a vital consideration because we are a predominantly digital publisher.
Bloodhound Books is popular with crime writers and with literary agents who specialise in crime and thrillers. We set up a strategic partnership with Red Dog Press, as part of our plan to reach a wider readership. We’d already worked with BookMachine’s creative agency to promote ourselves within that community, too.
Next, we needed to address how to attract authors who might not have heard about us through their connections. While a chunk of our new titles come in from agents, we also rely on a steady stream of unsolicited submissions. In order to really expand our reach, we needed to look at how authors were hearing about us.
Our efforts involved:
- Literary scouting: approaching authors through social media or their websites, having discovered them on Amazon or through writing communities online. Enquiring about any works-in-progress, and the possibility of re-publishing existing work.
- A push for submissions on social media, culminating in our #PitchHound event on Twitter. Authors were invited to submit a short pitch for a chance to have their first three chapters – and perhaps then their full manuscript – considered by us. We were inundated with incredible submissions in a range of subgenres.
- A call-out to agents, asking to be added to their pitch lists for more commercial fiction subgenres. It also meant approaching some agents we’d never worked with before, and growing those relationships.
- Networking is ongoing. I’m attending a ‘meet the authors’ event with New Writing North soon, to try to add more diverse talent to our list. Others on the team are attending talks and events to get the word out there, too.
2. Pushing what we publish
Once we’d started to attract a wider range of submissions, we needed to look at our processes. Namely, whether our marketing and publicity offering was a fit for titles beyond crime. Designed with crime and thrillers in mind, would it need refreshing to be just as effective for romance, for example? It turns out it didn’t, because we market for our audience and the format, rather than for the genre specifically. There were a few changes that we needed to consider, though.
- At Bloodhound we market dynamically, responding to what works well for each individual title. To start with, we allocate the same amount of spend to each new eBook, so that every one has an equal chance of becoming a bestseller.
- Because of our data-driven marketing approach, we didn’t have to change what we do; the methods we use can be applied to any and all subgenres.
- But we did need to tap into a different list of PR contacts. We’re selective and only contact people we think will actually be interested in a particular eBook. This was made easier for us because our PR and Marketing Manager Hannah had worked with romance and other similar subgenres before. She had an extensive relevant network looking for just those types of books.
3. Positioning and branding
The specific additional subgenres we’ve chosen to publish in are already popular with Bloodhound Books’ readers, and with eBook and audiobook readers across the board. By knowing our audience and our readership, we have been selective about what type of books we’re going to take on. That way, we won’t lose our tone and identity. We might consider setting up a new imprint as time goes by and the list expands further… but for now, we think the new acquisitions sit well alongside the rest of our list.
We decided against rebranding by changing the logo and the website. That’s because crime and thrillers are still our bread and butter. We might now define ourselves as an independent publisher of commercial fiction more generally, but we didn’t feel the expansion into other subgenres was a sufficiently big departure for us to need to rebrand. We didn’t want our crime writers to feel displaced, and we wanted to continue to reap the rewards of our established reputation within the industry.
Rachel Gregory is Commissioning Editor at Bloodhound Books. She loves historical fiction and quirky debuts in particular, but reads avidly in any and all genres. She is a digital publishing expert with experience of working in all formats, and in almost all areas of publishing!