Skip to Content

Hachette acquires new ebook publisher

6 March 2017

Hachette UK's acquisition of Bookouture is the biggest publishing news of the week, showing how traditional publishers are acquiring the talent and technical nous to enable them to profit from the digital revolution. As well as acquiring the company - and leaving it to operate independently within the group - Hachette is taking on Oliver Rhodes, Bookouture's founder, as digital publisher for the group.

Bookouture is a highly successful ebook publishing start-up, but it is one which has adapted traditional publishing to an ebook dynamic and then used new web marketing strategies to build a small but highly successful list of authors.

If you look at this publishing output you would be forgiven for thinking that it looks exactly the same as the books published by imprints such as Avon, on both sides of the Atlantic, over the last twenty years, which is to say women's fiction, including chick-lit, romance and historical romance. The covers are in a long tradition of paperback artwork, suggesting that the publisher believes this market still wants its books to look the same. They are not adapted for the web, as recent convention has demanded.

It's hard to tell since the authors are relatively unknown, although presumably in the process of being built by Bookouture, but the impression is that the books themselves are similar to those successfully published in these genres over the years.

There's a great deal of research to suggest that women readers who buy in these genres are big buyers of ebooks, so the format makes sense. As part of the acquisition, Hachette will be publishing some authors in print formats.

It's difficult to tell from the minimalist Bookouture website, where even the Submission guidelines are elusive, but it gives the impression that submissions directly from authors are welcomed, although probably many come from agents. The reason for the ‘probably' is that Bookouture offers a royalty of 45%, a considerable increase on the 25% which is standard in publisher contracts. This is something that agents have been arguing for on ebooks for a number of years.

But Bookouture is also looking for authors which it can acquire directly, so presumably their submission procedure enables them to find the most talented unpublished authors whom they can acquire and invest in.

Although this is not exactly the same model, this is strikingly similar to Head of Zeus's success with selling ebooks internationally, reported on last week, British publisher provides challenge in US market.

Next week we'll be reporting from the London Book Fair, on these and other issues affecting authors.