Hello, readers! You have stumbled upon The Robot Watcher, a blog project that will take an in-depth look into global genre publishing house Angry Robot Books. In particular, I will be analyzing the creative and contrarians ways in which Angry Robot is adapting to the current publishing climate.
Angry Robot, based in Nottingham, was founded in 2008 by Games Workshop veteran Marc Gascoigne. They first began releasing books in the UK in 2009, expanding their sales into the US in 2010. Angry Robot produces original adult-oriented science fiction and fantasy prose novels, or as they playfully describe on their website, “SF, F, and WTF?!?” Their titles are released as e-books and paperbacks, with a slight emphasis on the mass market paperback format. By the end of 2013 they will have published 26 novels, which is on the smaller end across all genre publishers.
Their mission, as they condense it on their website, “is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction.” In particular, they view the quality of their novels as the most important element of their catalog. They seek to produce thought-provoking and genuinely great works that will get both critics and readers talking excitedly. Discoverability, they find, is the key to such a buzz worthy catalog: “the sheer joy, though, of being able to jump onto a table…and tell the world about how bloody great a chosen writer or novel is, is what drives Angry Robot.”
By all accounts, Angry Robot has succeeded in their mission quite dramatically. The first two novels they ever published, Slights by Kaaron Warren and Moxyland by Lauren Beukes, garnered critical recognition and were awarded with minor industry awards. Just two years later in 2011 Beukes’ follow-up novel Zoo City was awarded the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the highest honor for any work of fantasy. That same year, at the World Fantasy Convention, Marc Gascoigne was given the World Fantasy Special Award (Professional) for his work at Angry Robot.
While this accumulation of accolades within such a short period of time certainly makes Angry Robot notable, it is not the most intriguing element of the company. In addition to their commitment to quality, Angry Robot has taken on many eye-popping digital initiatives that defy industry standards. A full year before Amazon launched their MatchBook program, Angry Robot conducted a trial run of their Clonefiles program, which allowed readers to download a free e-book copy of the Angry Robot paperback which they purchased at a participating independent bookstore. Their sales tripled within just two weeks, and in September 2013 they announced their plans for the full version of Clonefiles.
The fact that Clonefiles is not the only original, internet-based initiative to bring Angry Robot increased revenue is fascinating. Through this blog, I will examine why and how such a small, young publisher is willing to take such risks in order to support both print and digital. I will examine the blogosphere, publishing news websites, and social media conversations in order to fully ascertain Angry Robot’s impact and influence within the industry. I will also look at comparable situations amongst other publishers (both genre and literary) in order to examine how other publishers are reacting to the same circumstances, what their motivations for such reactions are, and whether or not Angry Robot’s brand of innovation is the solution to publishing’s current woes.
I will leave you with the book trailer for the first two novels in Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series, just to give you a taste of Angry Robot’s demented little catalog (WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE).