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Saga storms ahead

Lindhardt og Ringhof’s digital publishing company Saga is rapidly becoming one of the world’s largest publishers of e-books and audiobooks. With more than 20 publications a day and several thousand titles in its hold, the Copenhagen publisher is moving full steam ahead

By Gustav Højmark-Jensen

Last year Saga rounded 20,000 publications. At the time, that was a milestone, but the publisher is now rapidly approaching 30,000 titles and thus a ranking among the world’s largest digital publishing houses. Ambitions are high, but its publishing director is not quite ready to divulge just how high.

‘We’ve set a new target, and it’s pretty ambitious. The beauty of this business is its scalability. The format is the same and the same shops handle sales. If we can do this in three countries, we can do it in 15.’ 

According to Lasse Korsemann Horne, publishing director at Lindhardt og Ringhof’s digital publishing company Saga, the next two years will be a race between the publishers that want to re-issue old classics in digital form.

‘We have a window of opportunity now to secure a slew of rights. We have every opportunity to overtake all the mastodons of traditional publishing. We’re convinced our business is scalable and confident that revenue running into hundreds of millions is within our reach in the near future.’

Seeing books as old or new makes no sense
In the quest for more titles Saga buys up thousands of rights, often to older works by authors like Morten Korch, Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood. But according to the publishing director, it makes no sense to talk about books as being old or new.

‘The question in a digital era is whether it’s even relevant to consider a book as new or old. How about focusing on whether a book is good or bad?  That’s a far more pertinent question. A classic is exactly that: a good, old book.’

And quality has been the very principle governing rights acquisition throughout the digital publishing company. Saga has set its specific sights on award-winning authors like those already mentioned, because they often enjoy a revival in the form of screen adaptations that then generate high e-book sales.

New, streaming-friendly format
With Saga’s large catalogue of titles, the publisher also has the opportunity to decode which genres and types of books sell best. For this reason, the company has hired an editor to develop new digital publications. The new, digital publications are often shorter than physical books and come out in serial form.

‘Readers prefer having all you can read to buying each title separately,’ says the publishing director, continuing:

‘The advantage of writing a crime story in episodes is that we have a larger presence on streaming services, but also that we make it easier for readers to take on the book. It’s a format we intend to focus more strongly on.’

Order out of chaos
Overview is the name of the game for Lasse Korsemann Horne, because the journey from physical paper to digital publication has many stages.

‘The core of Saga, and the reason we can grow so fast, is our software. For example, we’re currently using Jira, which means we can track all our titles, wherever they are – in-house or out at purchasers, editors, graphic designers or lay-outers.’

According to the publishing director, other publishers often use Excel spreadsheets to oversee their titles. But if, like Saga, you’re working on between 5,000 and 6,000 titles at a time, it is crucial everyone knows exactly how far along the various titles are in the process, Lasse Korsemann Horne explains.

Read more about Saga.