January 24, 2023
There is no way to look back at 2023 as anything but a transformational year for Open Road.
For our signature Ignition program which markets eBook backlist on behalf of publisher partners, the number of titles under contract jumped by more than 40%, from 30,000 to 43,000. Many titles came from publishers joining Ignition for the first time, such as Harvard University Press and Tokyopop. Others were added by longstanding Ignition publishers like HarperCollins and Grove Atlantic. The accelerating growth of Ignition can be attributed to our unprecedented results: the average uplift in sales revenue for a title in Ignition is 100%—we continue to routinely double sales for publishers and their authors!
This past year also saw exceptional growth from Activation, which markets titles in all formats (print and audio as well as eBook) and at every lifecycle stage (pre-pub and frontlist as well as backlist). Activation revenues grew by 94% in 2023, as publishers came to us with an increasingly diverse range of titles and authors, from bestsellers by Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King and Danielle Steel, to debut fiction, YA and children’s titles, and multi-title campaigns for manga, history, and craft titles.
In the face of escalating book bans, we launched Free Voices as a specific Activation program aimed at enabling readers to find and buy books that had been targeted by book banning efforts. And we launched Metadata-as-a-Service, offering publishers the opportunity to continually optimize their metadata to enable discovery.
This past year also saw the launch of Re-Lit, our program for republishing titles that are out of print, and where rights have been returned to the author. We republished hundreds of such titles in 2023, including bestselling and award-winning works by authors ranging from the iconic New Yorker writer Roger Angell and The New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky to Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction author Clifford D. Simak and The New York Times bestselling romantic suspense writer Linda Howard. We also partnered with Alloy and Marvel, adding beloved children’s titles and globally popular characters to the Re-Lit initiative. The same marketing technology and direct consumer audience that powers Ignition and Activation supports all of our own publishing efforts, from Re-Lit to our entire backlist of 10,000 eBooks, to the publications of our UK-based, e-first publisher Bloodhound Books, including the #1 eBook bestseller, The Perfect Marriage.
Underlying our success is the power of our marketing technology platform, which is entirely proprietary: the data pipelines, the data science, the machine learning and the marketing automation. And it is worth calling special attention to a transformational change in that platform in 2023, with the release of our Similarity Engine. The Similarity Engine builds on more than a decade of proprietary data and tech development, utilizing machine learning to transform the way we vet titles for our marketing programs, optimize title metadata, segment and personalize our marketing campaigns, interact with our direct audience of three million power readers, and drive extraordinary revenue growth at scale. It is a powerful example of the speed of our innovation cycle, as our tech team, data team, marketing team, content team and audience team work closely together to drive continuous and accelerating technology advancement.
Having achieved record revenues in 2023, we now face a new kind of challenge in 2024. Our success in delivering results for publishers and authors is leading to an unprecedented surge in demand for our services. We are now working extensively with four of the “Big Five,” 19 university presses and more than 100 publishers overall, while marketing more than 50,000 titles. Our burgeoning pipeline of new business, across Ignition, Activation and Re-Lit will require an intensive capacity planning exercise that is now underway, as well as continued investment, as 2024 will be a year of astounding growth.
We have a unique mission at Open Road: To use technology to enable books to be discovered and rediscovered by readers. And we are developing a unique culture, one that values being proactive, being tenacious and taking responsibility for the success of one’s colleagues. Our mission and our culture are cornerstones of the great company that we are building together, as well as the foundation for serving the publishers and authors who have entrusted their books to Open Road.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone on the Open Road team, for all of the effort that led to a transformational 2023, and for laying the groundwork for everything we will accomplish in 2024 and beyond.
Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer