I like Osprey. I think they are very smart operators and they know what they are doing and why. They have also built two very nice niche brands (Osprey and Shire) that are almost instantly recognizable in their markets, certainly by the kind of people who buy books and information in those spaces. So the news that they have bought the HarperCollins science-fiction and fantasy imprint Angry Robot is pretty exciting.
Here’s how Angry Robot put it:
Following an acclaimed first year of publishing, the revolutionary science fiction imprint Angry Robot Books has parted company with HarperCollins UK. It will now run as an independent publishing imprint, with the full backing of niche publishing experts, Osprey Publishing.
And here is what Osprey told us:
We at Osprey/Shire/Angry Robot (we are going to need a group name) are all about publishing for specialists, whether your specialism is Panzer variants, timber-framed buildings or zombie novels. We want to publish books (and not just books these days) for people who are enthusiastic, knowledgable and passionate about their interest whatever it is.
What this might mean?
Tor.com has made it clear since its foundation that emphasizing niche can be a successful strategy for reader engagement and Angry Robot is doing a good job of replicating that in the UK with their Robot Army. I’d love to see even more accessible content that just their great and active blog but what they do now is good.
In terms of strategy, Angry Robot is a strong and build-able brand. I’d expect to see more community features over time and perhaps even some kind of membership much as Osprey has created on their home site.
The bigger questions are for HarperCollins. The sale of Angry Robot leaves them with Voyager as their main Science-Fiction and Fantasy imprint. That’s a fine imprint but their engagement strategy is a little up in the air right now. They moved from a community site which I always felt was far too sales pitchy toward a more blog orientated site.
The new site is much better, both visually and in terms of reaching out to readers but it lacks the openness of Tor.com’s site. Unless they address that soon, I fear they may fall behind. When you consider their authors and the passion these superstars generate, this seems a shame. I think they could learn quite a bit from the imprint that have just sold off or simply by copying some of what Tor.com is doing.