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The Art of Reading: A Conversation with Chronicle Books

(Image courtesy of Chronicle Books's Instagram. Image depicts the book What is Love? by Mac Barnett and Illustrated by Carson Ellis.)

To understand the marvel of any book, I think it's important to recognize how rare it once was. For a book to be published before the printing press, a scribe needed to write every word identical to its source material. The energy and resources required to create a single book would be equivalent to an annual income of a middle-class family. Today, a person can access any book via a library, bookstore, or online forum. Chronicle Books differ from other publishing houses because their works combine written and visual storytelling to capture the hearts and minds of readers. I had the chance to speak with Cynthia S., Senior Marketing Manager for the Food and Lifestyle Division, to learn more about Chronicle Books.

(Image courtesy of Chronicle Books's Instagram. Image depicts the book Spike by Spike Lee being held by the author and Trevor Noah.Trevor Noah discussed his book on his show The Daily Show. Noah stated, "I love that this isn’t just a book of pictures from Spike Lee’s work, it’s a snippet of your thoughts, your ideas. Reading through your mind, understanding what’s going on…” )

1. What do you do?

I oversee marketing for the Food and Lifestyle products at Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books is an independent publisher based in San Francisco. I've been a part of the team for the past three and a half years and have worked in publishing for more than fifteen years. Before my time at Chronicle Books, I worked for Goodreads, an Amazon subsidiary, as well as other publishers in New York and San Francisco.

(Image courtesy of Chronicle Book's Instagram. Image depicts the Chronicle Books's One Line a Day journals)

2. How has your division shifted its efforts in the face of the COVID-

19 pandemic?

The book industry overall is rather resilient, and consumers continue to consume content during the pandemic but in different formats; for example, audio and e-books. Chronicle Books is, at its core, a traditional publisher and we produce beautiful physical items: books, journals, games, and stationery. We saw a huge demand for our puzzles and games as well as children’s books at the start of the pandemic. Plus, remember when everyone was baking their own bread? Chronicle publishes some of the leading cookbooks in that category (Tartine Bread). Looking ahead, we can see that mental health is going to be an important topic to cover so we’re increasing our product offerings to incorporate all kinds of tools that help people, whether that’s books, journals, or other giftable items that you might give to someone who might need it.

(Image courtesy of Chronicle Book. Image depicts Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. This book is describes the author's philosophy of bread making when it says, " To Chad Robertson, bread is the foundation of a meal, the center of daily life, and each loaf tells the story of the baker who shaped it. Chad Robertson developed his unique bread over two decades of apprenticeship with the finest artisan bakers in France and the United States, as well as experimentation in his own ovens. Readers will be astonished at how elemental it is.")

3. How do you incorporate societal trends in the books that you publish?

There are two ways: what we choose to publish and how we promote the products. Traditional publishing operates on a rather long timeline, as it can often take more than a year from when a project is acquired to when it hits the market. Our product teams review trend reports and have honed their editorial instincts of what might be the Next Big Thing, from plant-parenting to moon signs to comfort-food cooking. Chronicle develops a lot of products in-house, and our product offerings help us find, attract, and partner with trend-setting creators. Our marketing team stay on top of how consumers are discovering our products and utilizes emerging tools to reach those customers. Channels and strategies that worked before the pandemic might no longer be the best way to connect with customers today, so we’re constantly learning and adapting based on what trends we’re seeing.

(Image courtesy of Chronicle Book's Instagram)

4. How do you incorporate Chronicle Books's mission and vision into your product offerings?

At Chronicle, we have a solid team of professionals who are inspired every day to see things differently and partner with diverse artists, writers, and creators to spark the passion in others. The products we offer—from bespoke coffee table books like Dolly Parton, Songteller and SPIKE to the best-selling Letters to My . . . book series (one of Oprah’s Favorite Things!), to calming Stacking Stones that are actually erasers—are meant to appeal to people looking for gifts or looking to buy something fun for themselves.

(Image courtesy of Chronicle Book's Instagram. Image depicts the book Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics . This book, " reveals the stories and memories that have made Dolly a beloved icon across generations, genders, and social and international boundaries.")

5. How can Chronicle Books help people alleviate the fear of reading?

I think that people who say they don't like to read just haven't found the right book yet. I’ve seen how a love of reading begins at a very young age. I have a two-year-old son and I will always get him a book as a treat whenever we go into a store. Chronicle publishes a number of best-selling children's books, including Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and my personal favorite, the Touch Think Learn series by Xavier Deneux. Books allow people to focus their attention on a particular topic and dive deeper into it. Chronicle offers products ranging from humor to grief journaling, from baking to fermenting… there’s really something for everyone.

(Image courtesy of Linda Woolverton (screenwriter), Kirk Wise (director), and Gary Trousdale (director) September 29, 1991 Beauty and the Beast by Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation, and Silver Screen Partners IV)

6. What is the future of Chronicle Books?

We will continue to produce beautiful products that people will want to buy as gifts for themselves or for others.

(image courtesy of Shuttershock)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my blog! Please reach out if you have any ideas for content, partnerships, and more!

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