Quirk Books started participating at San Diego Comic-Con back in 2009. Since then, Quirk has released a number of best-selling books, including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, among others. President Brett Cohen recently visited with me at San Diego Comic-Con to discuss the origins of the mash-up genre, preview the upcoming sequel, Hollow City, hint at Tim Burton’s involvement with the Miss Peregrine movie adaptation and potentially pay you $10,000 for your quirky love-story manuscript.
What happens in the average day for the President of Quirk Books?
– “At Comic-Con, basically, we’re here selling books, talking to fans and talking to bloggers. The best thing about coming here is it’s really a good opportunity to interact with the fans and get their feedback. It’s been great. The response is so strong and people love what we’re doing. Back in the office, what I do as President, I oversee production of the books, marketing, sales, publicity, our Website, our digital stuff, our accounting and the HR fun stuff… so basically, everything on the sales and business side.”
How long have you been with the company?
– “I’ve been with Quirk for 12 years.”
Have you been with Quirk from the very beginning?
– “Basically, I started right before we started publishing books. Before that, we were packaging books for other publishers. We did The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook series that were huge bestsellers. Then we eventually segued into publishing ourselves.”
Quirk Books basically created the classic-literature mashup. How did this idea originate?
– “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was definitely the first mashup. Our Publisher, Jason Rekulak, basically came up with the idea. He saw all this mash-up culture online and said, ‘How could I do that with books?’ Basically, he thought of what was available, public-domain wise, made a list of titles, then a list of things to mash them up with and started drawing lines. Eventually, he saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and that was it. We’d been working with Seth Grahame-Smith on a couple of books and Jason thought he was the right author for this. Together, they worked on it and I guess the rest is history.”
Quirk Books is somewhat responsible for the entire Zombie pop-culture resurgence.
– “We sort of hit it at the right time. It was right when The Walking Dead graphic novels and the Max Brooks World War Z books were hitting… It was that spark where it went very quickly, almost like a Zombie infestation, from zero to 50. We were right there, at the beginning of it. It was good timing and a really good product.”
How long before it was a bestseller?
– “Instantaneously. We moved up the release date because the demand was so strong. Right out of the gate, it was a New York Times bestseller and stayed there for, I feel like a year, at least.”
I’m guessing PPZ is one of Quirk’s all-time bestsellers?
– “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is and then we have Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which is also a bestseller released more recently. It’s climbing quicker. That was on the bestseller list for over 60 consecutive weeks and it’s back on, with the paperback release. And we just released William Shakespeare’s Star Wars two weeks ago, which is already a New York Times bestseller. We obviously have high hopes for that, as well.”
Recently, Tim Burton optioned the rights to Miss Peregrine. How did that happen?
– “We worked with our film agents and we’re really excited about it. Obviously, it’s Tim Burton. His aesthetic is perfect for the book. We’re looking forward to proceeding in whatever way that happens, whether he stays attached to it or however it comes together, it’ll be great.”
Could you preview the Miss Peregrines upcoming sequel?
– “We did a title reveal a couple of months ago, it’s called Hollow City. It sort of picks up where Book One left off. The kids are leaving the island and it follows that journey as they go to London. They meet a bunch of other peculiars: animals, people and kids. There’s a lot more great vintage photography in it. There’s an excerpt available online.”
How did the Blogger’s Initiative get started?
– “It’s another thing that was born out of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, really. It was 2009 and really the start of social media. Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff was really coming into play. We saw how the power of the cover and the book trailers spread really quickly online. How do you feed that? How do you engage that? It’s a new, burgeoning thing, just like traditional media. I think we were one of the first to hire a Social Media Coordinator, at least in the publishing industry, who was really responsible for working directly with bloggers and providing a voice and face for our social media. We think it’s as powerful as any other more-traditional media, like TV or newspaper.”
Could you highlight the upcoming Quirk Books releases?
– “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars just came out, so that’s really exciting. Ben Winters’ second book in his Last Policeman trilogy just released. That’s an Edgar Award-winning trilogy. For those unfamiliar, that’s the biggest mystery award in the industry. We won that and were really excited. We have a couple of great cooking and craft books coming out this Fall and a bunch of kid’s books. We’re sort of branching out a little further, making quirky books for kids, too.”
Does Quirk Books take unsolicited book ideas?
– “We do. We’re one of the few publishers that does take unsolicited (ideas). Right now, we’re actually running a contest. We’re offering a $10,000 advance for a quirky love story. So, if anybody has a manuscript sitting around that’s shark-meets-girl or pirate-meets-vampire, whatever, send it it. It’s on our site.
Attending conventions, what’s the most frequent comment you hear from readers?
– “The best thing we hear a lot — and this is not something the publishing industry is known really well for — is branding their books. Everybody knows the author; everybody knows the title, but you don’t really look at the spine a lot. Obviously, it’s more and more important now to have a brand. The first year we came (to San Diego Comic-Con) in 2009, people came to the booth and looked at the books. The first thing they said was, ‘I have that book, that book, that book and had no idea they were from the same publisher.’ And now, we’re sort of a destination for a lot of people. It’s good to see your five-year growth at this show and it’s good to see that recognition when people realize, ‘I’m a Quirk fan.'”
Will Quirk Books be appearing at any future conventions?
– “Right now, we go to San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con and C2E2 in Chicago. Obviously, we do more boring, industry stuff, where we sell to retailers and libraries. Boring in the sense that nobody’s dressed up. (laughs)”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
– “We just want to thank everybody for their support. I think here and on the Internet, it’s been really overwhelming and really fun. It’s just great to have people who are so excited about the stuff we’re excited about.”