Up Close: Motorbooks


Leader in Illustrated Publishing: Launched in 1976, U.K.-based Quarto is a longtime leader in the world of illustrated non-fiction publishing. While diversifying and adding numerous imprints over the decades, its ongoing mission has remained the same—to make and sell books that entertain, educate and enrich the lives of readers around the world. One of the most exciting current manifestations of this comes from their Minneapolis-based Motorbooks imprint, which Quarto acquired in 2007. Since 1965, Motorbooks has been among the world’s leading transportation publishers, creating volumes about cars, motorcycles, aviation, racing, etc. 

Looking to expand beyond the transportation topic, publisher Zack Miller and executive editor Dennis Pernu launched a dedicated music program in 2021, drawing on Pernu’s prior experience in music book publishing under Quarto’s Voyageur Press imprint. Under their creative, visionary leadership, they have built on the success of their first book—the authoritatively written (by Dave Hunter) and lavishly illustrated Fender 75 Years, the officially licensed celebration of the legendary instrument company—to publish a series of dynamic works celebrating some of rock’s greatest artists and albums.

The Anniversary Aesthetic: According to Pernu, Motorbooks’ goal with the line of heavily illustrated upscale coffee-table music books is to merge unique text with archival artist and memorabilia images from agencies, individual photographers, and collections. He works closely with the company’s talented art department to bring the books to life. “We want to approach these artists and historic recordings from different angles than those published previously,” he says. “The @50 and @75 concepts offer a fresh way of telling the stories and allow our authors some leeway in curating the high and low points of a career. We created a list of artists, bands and albums that have anniversaries and birthdays approaching. Our criteria included which are still touring, their popularity overseas, cross-generational appeal and album sales over the course of their careers. We’re also starting to branch away from the anniversary concept, but that’s been a strong starting point for this program.”

Celebrating Iconic Artists: In September 2022, Motorbooks kicked off their current slate of titles with Elton John @ 75 (by Gillian G. Gaar) and Bowie @ 75 (by Martin Popoff). Their early 2023 titles include Alice Cooper @ 75 (by Gary Graff), Pink Floyd and The Dark Side of the Moon (by Martin Popoff), and AC/DC @ 50 (by Martin Popoff). Coming this fall are Ozzy @ 75 (by Daniel Bukszpan), KISS @ 50 (by Martin Popoff) and The Who and Quadrophenia (by Martin Popoff). Also in 2023, Motorbooks will be marking the 75th anniversary of the LP with a broad, illustrated history.

Contact Motorbooks, 612-344-8186