The business of telling iconic stories: Karl Fowler

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 27, 2012 18:50 hrs

Opus Media is in the business of publishing luxury coffee table books on iconic figures, subjects and institutions. In India, it will be launching a special edition on Sachin Tendulkar sometime early next year. A similar book on Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan is also being planned. Karl Fowler, CEO, Opus Media, tells Aabhas Sharma what it takes to bring out these luxury books and how his company plans to market them in India

Tell us about the concept of Opus books and which was the first one that you launched?

The first Opus was on Manchester United and we launched it in 2007. We tell iconic stories in a way that they have never been told. Every book is a collector’s edition and has pictures that have never been published before, apart from other things. For example, the Formula One Champions Opus is 852 pages long and weighs 37 kg. Each copy has a page signed by 22 living F1 champions. Typically, an Opus also contains a number of showpiece gatefolds through which images are displayed on a bigger scale.

Is there a market for such luxury books in India? Who is the intended buyer?
There certainly is a market out here. In fact, one buyer came and bought six of these F1 champions Opus — one for himself and five others to gift people. There are two types of buyers — one who is into luxury purchases, the high net worth individual, and the other who is willing to make sacrifices to buy an Opus. For example, for the Sachin Opus we have had a group of fans coming together to book a copy. These are passionate fans who want to own a piece of history.

How do you market these books in India?
We’ve collaborated with Delhi-based firm R K Global and our model is very different from other publishers. We don’t go to retailers directly and rely on pre-bookings. When you go to the retailers, the margins are very low. And since these are books which are priced extremely high, we prefer not to go down that route. For the F1 book, we would be putting these copies in the Paddock Club End to target the HNIs there.

What is the average print run of an Opus?
Since these are limited edition books, we rarely go for second or third print runs. For example, for the Manchester United Opus we had 10,000 copies. For Sachin Tendulkar, we might, however, have second or third editions. The Sachin book will be the first one which would be available at an affordable price of about $200. However, the first 10 copies of it will be sold for Rs 500,000 each. Similarly, for the Formula One Book, we have two editions — the Champions edition (priced at Rs 17 lakh) and the Classic Edition (priced at Rs 1.7 lakh).

Since these books are on such a grand scale, how many writers are generally involved in each project?
On an average, we have about 35-40 writers involved with any project. Since these are stories which are told to a diverse audience, we like to have a bigger perspective on the book. These are freelance writers who share a passion for the subject.

What other books have you planned for India?
After the Sachin Opus, we have plans to come out with books on Bollywood — Shah Rukh Khan is certainly an icon we are looking at. Even when we wanted to do a book on an iconic sportsperson, we looked at Pelé, Maradona and Roger Federer but finally zeroed in on Sachin. He is someone who transcends sports and is a global icon.

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