t may have been a “fluke Hit,” but Akashic Books publisher Johnny Temple says Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes’ bestselling kids book parody, Go the F**k to Sleeep, has spent six months on the bestseller lists and has more than 500,000 copies in print. It’s so successful Akashic will publish a real kids’ book based on it next year. While the parody has also spawned a TV sit-com and a horde of copycat titles it is allowing the independent house to stabilize its finances and plan for the future.
Friday, October 28, 2011
In a phone interview with Temple, he said Go the F**k to Sleep has more than 515,000 copies in print and has been licensed internationally to 31 different territories, representing about 27 languages—including the Norwegian dialect of Nynorsk. “it’s hit the bestseller lists of Germany, Australia and the U.K.,” Temple said.
Go The F**k to Sleep has been such a hit, it didn’t take Temple and the book’s creators very long to decide to create a “real kids book” based on the adult parody—“but with no profanity,” Temple said. In April 2012 Akashic will release, Seriously, Just Go to Sleep, an actual kids book that will “have the biggest initial release we’ve ever had. It will likely be tens of thousands of copies with a big promotional push,” he said. Temple described the book as “100% children’s book, rated G. It’s by the same creative team and its still about a parent trying to get a kid to go to sleep.” Temple said the book has similar rhymes and drawings to the parody original, “but they’ve added visual depth and new elements that will really appeal to kids.”
The book has also caught the attention of Hollywood: it’s been optioned for a film by Fox 2000 and Mansbach has sold the book’s concept to CBS for a new situation comedy starring Jerry O’Connell about how the author of a parody kids book ends up becoming a parenting expert. It’s generated a flood of copycat titles as well as “inundating” the publisher with proposals for “kids’ parody books. It’s amazing how many people think they’ve stumbled on a new idea,” Temple said. “It’s not like Go The F**K To Sleep is high literature, but it does have intregity,” said Temple, who was a successful rock musician before he launched Akashic, “every verse and illustration is beautifully conceived. But these copycat titles are like everything that was wrong with the music business—people copying other’s successes.”
Temple praised his distributor Consortium for guiding him through the process of handling a surprise runaway bestselling hit, a process that has wrecked some small presses. Indeed he said, a bigger publisher offered the small house “a $1 million” to takeover the publication of the book. Temple turned them down and said Akashic has made far more money than that. “There was no better better ally during a stressful situation than Consortium,” said Temple. Indeed, the book has generated so much income, Temple said he can look down the road and make plans around the houses’ future and offer his hardworking staff something rare for a small house—more money.
Akashic has signed with Benay Enterprises, an accounting and managing firm that manages the back office affairs of such independent publishers as Granta, Steerforth Press, Soho Press and the Overlook Press. “We’ve needed this a long time but couldn’t afford to do it,” Temple said, “I’m trying not to grow too fast. We’ve been unstable financially but now we can tuck some money away. We won’t get into bidding wars over authors but now we can pay the staff long-overdue bonuses. They work so hard—myself included—it’s just not sustainable; there’s a risk of burnout around here.”