10 QUESTIONS FOR
In Marin / Q&A
1 How would you describe the typical Chronicle book? At Chronicle Books we always try to
look at an author’s words, a photographer or
illustrator’s art and think about how we might
publish it in a way that no other publisher
would think of. We let the books be determined by the aesthetic demands of the subject
and the materials so that they’re always fresh
and they’re not cookie cutter. So there really
is no typical Chronicle book. That said, there
is definitely a recognizable Chronicle Books
sensibility. Fans often tell us, “I knew it was
Chronicle Books the minute I picked it up.”
2 What makes a successful book? When every- thing just clicks. That elusive alchemy
when the content, the design, the production,
the marketing, all come together perfectly to
create something exceptional. One example
is Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, a
rhyming bedtime picture book about construction vehicles settling down for the night. An
editorial assistant saw its potential and plucked
it out of the slush pile. The children’s publishing
team found the perfect illustrator, the designers
pulled out all the stops to get the package just
right, and it all melded beautifully. Fortunately,
kids (and their parents) agree, and Goodnight,
Goodnight, Construction Site has gone on to sell
over 1 million copies and has been translated
into 26 languages.
3 How many books does Chronicle publish a year? We’re now up to about 300 titles per
year; about one-third of them are gift formats.
4 Any idea how many books Chronicle has pub- lished? Chronicle Books has published
more than 7,000 books and gift products with
Nion (pronounced like lion) McEvoy has an infectious curiosity that has likely helped him
combined sales of more than 250 million
be successful as CEO and chairman of Chronicle Books for the past 18 years. Hailing from
Bay Area media aristocracy, McEvoy has used that curiosity, combined
with what seems to be a genetic disposition for business and the arts, to
not only keep the company going but also have a good time doing it. We
asked this independent book publisher, based in San Francisco, for thoughts on how
his company stayed in business for 50 years. MIMI TOWLE
units in 96 countries — not bad for our
first 50 years!
5 What are your best-selling books (which genre)? Our all-time best-
seller is The Worst-Case Scenario
Survival Handbook with nearly 3
million copies sold, followed closely by
Mama, Do You Love Me? and The Beatles
Antholog y. Chronicle Books has had 35
New York Times best-sellers in its history.
6 Is there a book you regret publishing? Never. We learn something from every title we
publish, whether it’s a commercial success or
not. But still, there is the occasional book ...
7 Is there a book you regret not publishing? When Everyone Poops came in as a proposal,
Chronicle’s editorial board declined it, even
though the book had been popular in Japan and
was illustrated by the wonderful Taro Gomi. A
children’s book about poop? Who would have
guessed it would sell and sell and sell (for another
U. S. publisher)? Lesson learned.
8 Advice to young writers? Or old writers who want to get published? Read everything. Write
constantly. Live. Remember. Repeat.
9 Is there something you as a publisher were not expecting to learn? Never underestimate the
appeal of cats.
10 What is the future of print? Very bright. The power of print and the tactile pleasure of
books and paper are inherent to all we hold dear at
Chronicle Books. m