If you are like me, you often get “we don’t like to brag…” emails from our friends at New in Chess, where of course they revel in their recent achievements. I have nothing against this, only I am not sure how well it works with a sophisticated audience like the people who buy chess books. This is the main reason we are not doing something similar with out blog or newsletter.
Obviously we like the fact that people occasionally buy our books when they visit the blog, but we are actually more focused on the positive debates and ideas we get from it. Do not forget that the Grandmaster Preparation series (including the name!) is based on a suggestion here.
It is the same way with the books we produce. We try to focus on the product and then let sales work out for themselves. This is not because we do not like bestsellers; we like them a lot. They keep the lights on and allow us to take a salary (which in John’s and my case has only been for the last three of the soon ten years we have been going that this has been happening).
We did at some point try to make “commercial” books. Easy, quick and profitable. I think 2-3 books were aimed at this. We are talking 2005-8 maybe. No one really bought these books and we hated the process and the product. So we decided not to think like this anymore.
At times there are books where we think will only do limited sales, but they become runaway successes. I remember joking that PUMP UP YOUR RATING was the new version of Excelling at Chess. But I did not believe many would buy it (John did the final edit and was far more optimistic, based on quality). Actually it has already sold 500 copies more than we expected from 10 years sale. Still, when Axel came to me and said he had wanted to write this book for years, had worked towards it and only wanted to do it with us; I became both flattered and interested. So I personally worked over some chapters with him, to help him communicate his ideas better. Once he got the hang of it, he did not need my help anymore and wrote the rest of the book with great confidence and skill. He very deservedly won the ChessCafe 2013 Book of the Year award.
One day I will maybe give the general writing advice; if John will let me!
Oh yes; the title is all me. I know it is corny, but we were trying to get people to read this gem of a book.
Another big surprise was the success of Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation. This was based on an idea Dvoretsky told me about back in 2002; to sort the exercises by thinking method and not chess theme. It was just a way for me to use training material I had around and was supposed to be a slow, low burner. Rather surprisingly it looks like it will become my biggest seller for Quality Chess and won the ACP book of the Year award. We did not think this was the best book of the year, but who are we to argue with the public.
The book we loved most (of our own) is Judit Polgar’s How I Beat Fischer’s Record. Luckily the critiques have their high-brow award as well, where quality beat popularity. Judit won the ECF book of the Year award 2013, after missing out on the ACP award by only ONE vote. The book has not been as fully successful as we hoped, but then we were very optimistic.
Finally, we regained the lock on the ChessPublishing Opening Book of the Year vote with The King’s Gambit. This has very little promotional value; it translates to just about no sales. And this year it was an unpleasant experience altogether.
Still, it is nice to see that John’s five years of agonizing, procrastination and finally immense work effort is rewarded with not only good sales, but also praise from the opening theory fanatics. We are very grateful for the support and very proud winners. The book will be reprinted soon and the cover will show how proud we are.
Previous winners have been Marin (2009), Avrukh (2010, 2011), Sherbakov (Everyman, 2012).
So, we do not like to brag, but… Quality Chess has for the first time won the Grand Slam. The four awards all chess authors can compete for. The only one that got away from us this time around was FIDE’s Boleslavsky award (where only FIDE trainers are eligible): quite fittingly it went to Jeroen Bosch as a sort of lifetime award for the SOS series and various other writings. Congratulation to him, it is very well deserved!
It will be interesting to see how Pump will do in the other awards this year…