If you were to take a look at my book buying record for the past few days, you could draw a couple of reasonable inferences about me. One, I buy more books than is healthy, wealthy, or wise. Two, Bloomsbury Press must be my favorite press. Why else would I have 20 of their books recently purchased?
Bloomsbury is turning out to be my most popular-bought-from publishing house, but the 20 books is explained by the fact that Amazon ran a 60 nonfiction book sale (“one day only!”) last Thursday. 20 out of 60, though, is a mighty high yield rate, so Bloomsbury certainly publishes, and discounts, to my taste. Before writing this post I knew nothing about the press, however. So in the interest of continuing my series (of two so far) featuring intriguing publishers, I dug up some quick information on Bloomsbury.
The reason Bloomsbury rang no brand-conscious bell in my head is because the press is a UK, rather than American, house. In this capacity, Bloomsbury may be most famously known as the publisher of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. (It also published Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question, which is stubbornly stuck at $5 on Amazon. Please Bloomsbury, won’t you discount that back to the $2.99 that you had it at before?) Like all publishers with enough cash to make the move though, Bloomsbury has established a US branch. This is a relatively recent event, having happened in 1998.
Here’s what Bloomsbury USA has to say about its vision for publishing
Our mission at Bloomsbury Press can be simply stated: to publish the best non-fiction being written today.
We look for books that change the conversation . . . Equally important, we seek works that revel in writing as a creative art—books that are a pleasure to read.
The subjects we publish in range from history, politics, and economics, to science, art, and philosophy. Our list includes some of the most distinguished journalists, academics, and independent scholars at work today, and we believe, writers who will become known as the leading authors of the future.
Here’s how I interpret that statement: Bloomsbury publishes “up and coming” mid-list authors with good credentials (academics, journalists at reputable outlets, independent scholars with a track record of good sales). In other words, it aims for the middle of the road where an author is not a very well-known, selling name but does have a decent reputation. The first is important because well-known, celebrity writers have super celebrity agents who bargain away all the profits a press could possibly make from a book; the second is important because nonfiction readers are, like me, snooty and will only give book a chance if its author is vouched for by a big-name institution.
Bloomsbury also takes an aggressive approach to discounting their books. A significant portion of it e-stock can be found at below the $3.99 mark at any point in time. As I write this, then besides the 60 books that were part of Amazon one-day sale, Bloomsbury has Elizabeth Royte’s Bottlemania at $2.51, Rawn James’s Root and Branch for $2.99, and Jay Dolan’s The Irish Americans also for $2.99 among others.
So I didn’t know (and probably still don’t) enough about Bloomsbury for it to be my favorite press. But if you judge my favoritism by what I buy, and not what I profess by cheap talk (that Harvard University Press, The University of Chicago Press, Yale University Press are my favorite university presses while Oxford University Press is my favorite commercial publisher), then Bloomsbury is the runaway winner.