Amber – publisher of world bestsellers – as the first publishing house in post-communist Poland, introduced all the biggest foreign writers.
Robert Ludlum, Ken Follett, Frederick Forsyth, Clive Cussler, Stephen King, John Grisham, Thomas Harris, James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts – are just a few of the leading names among Amber’s writers. Later by J.R.R. Tolkien, almost 400 volumes of Star Wars, Simon Beckett, Veronica Roth, Meg Cabot and many more joined them. And recently – the master of German psychological thriller – Sebastian Fitzek.
Amber was created from the dream of young people who loved freedom and books, who took a great risk. They had only borrowed 5 000 dollars and an 8-year-old car.
As the first Polish private publishing house established in 1989, Amber was the pioneer of modern publishing in Poland: we published quickly, with modern jackets and in gigantic print runs (100,000 - 300,000 of each title). We caught up on the years with banned books and introduced reading to mass culture. Only after 3 years statistically in every household there was at least 1 our book. Since 1994 till 2000 Amber was the biggest trade publishing house in Poland in terms of number of titles published (with over 450 titles published per year).
We started with political, legal and psychological thrillers. We introduced the cannon of the Golden Age of SF & fantasy, as well as women fiction. Each year we added new genre of fiction and non-fiction: from Nobel awarded authors, through YA, children books, paranormal novels and erotica, closely following and predicting next trends.
Up to date we have published 8000 titles in 65 000 000 copies.
Now we publish about 200 titles per year – including new titles and reissues. Our lead genres are still psychological thrillers (Sebastian Fitzek, Sharon Bolton), literary crime novels (Ann Cleeves, Ragnar Jónasson), adventure novels (Clive Cussler), women fiction (Danielle Steel), picture books (David Melling, Katy Hudson, Giles Andreae, Brendan Wenzel), historical romance (Julia Quinn, Eloisa James), non-fiction: history and prehistory (Fingerprints of the Gods and Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock), mysteries of history interpreted by controversial scientists (Erich von Däniken, J. Douglas Kenyon), World War II and psychology.
Amber is an independent, family publishing house, run by Małgorzata Cebo-Foniok and Zbigniew Foniok. For the past 34 years our motto has been to give Polish readers “books that the whole World reads”.
AMBER – the publisher of world bestsellers and the first Polish private publishing house founded during the political breakthrough in 1989 – is now 34 years old. We sold 8 000 titles in 65 million copies published in 52 series.
AMBER was born out of the enthusiasm of two young fans and experts of science fiction & fantasy – Zbigniew Foniok and Dariusz Chojnacki. Without money, without staff, without an office, without legal or economic advisors. Without experience, without examples to follow. They only had borrowed 5 000 dollars, a ten-year old Fiat and the absolute conviction that they must succeed. They wanted to offer “the books which the whole world reads” to the Polish readers. In July 1989 they published the first book in 320 000 copies...
AMBER was founded on the 28th of February 1989 by Zbigniew Foniok, scientist at the Polish Academy of Sciences, and Dariusz Chojnacki, graphic artist (who died tragically in 1991 in a car accident).
Since 1992 AMBER has been owned and run by Zbigniew Foniok and Małgorzata Cebo-Foniok, translator and critic of French literature, member of the Polish Writers’ Association and Association of Polish Translators and Interpreters.
AMBER was the first to introduce in Poland the authors of world’s best thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, horrors and women fiction: Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follett, Thomas Harris, Jack Higgins, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Danielle Steel, Ursula Le Guin, Andre Norton and all the authors of the “golden age” of science fiction and fantasy. We were the first Polish publishing house which shocked and ravished with colourful, embossed, and gold-stamped covers. We were the first to invest in huge, very expensive promotional campaigns on the radio already in 1989. The first to pay large royalties in dollars. We hired the best translators. We were quick and very effective. Soon the results exceeded our expectations: queues formed outside the bookshops and the number of readers in Poland was growing fast.
AMBER became the sign of the times, the symbol of changes. And soon of the new pace and style of work. Thanks to AMBER, books gained the truly mass culture rank. After years of censorship, thrillers were read voraciously. Commercial fiction finally reached Poland. Millions of Poles read for pure pleasure, for relaxation. They made up for all the past years of communist interdictions.
1989 was the year of crazy work and terrific ideas. We were starting from scratch – Zbigniew Foniok recalls: We had to learn everything on our own, very often from our mistakes. We published 3 titles in 870 000 copies.
1990 was the year of AMBER’s stunning prosperity, the year of Ludlum, Forsyth, King, Follett and hundred thousand copies sold of each title.
In 1991 AMBER was already the most popular and one of the biggest publishers in Poland. We set new records in print runs: from 100 000 up to 300 000 copies… And we took up new challenges: Amber-Video (the production of movies for children on videotapes), Amber-Architecture Office and the plan of the first luxury housing estate, Amber-Magazines and the project of… a private airline.
Zbigniew Foniok was offered the membership by the newly created Business Centre Club and was invited to join the culture committee. But he did not have the time to do these honours.
AMBER means success. Six people publish 100 titles per year – „Kurier", a daily, wrote.
And then 1992 came – the great crisis and collapse of the book market. Print runs decreased dramatically. Bookstores were filled with AMBER-like books, but the readers kept on asking about AMBER, as they knew that AMBER has been publishing just the best authors. AMBER’s logo survived as the quality mark.
In 1993 Jurassic Park and The Firm heralded AMBER’s successful recovery. The same year AMBER introduced Star Wars in Poland.
In 1994 AMBER was officially became the biggest Polish publisher of fiction. And started publishing one bestseller a day. We had been already publishing world’s bestsellers simultaneously with their original editions. We introduced new names and new series. We started the year with the new series Contemporary Women Fiction starring Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts, and we closed it with Golden Series, Polish premieres of world literary events, with such names as William Golding and Kurt Vonnegut.
1995. In the ranking of Polish publishers printed in “Rzeczpospolita” AMBER was no. 1 Polish publisher of fiction and no. 3 in terms of the number of titles published (following just 2 biggest educational publishing houses) and no. 4in terms of turnover(following publishers with foreign capital such as Harlequin and Egmont).
AMBER entered the realm of non-fiction. We started by publishing The Biography of 20th Century Legends and the world’s best titles on alternative medicine.
In 1996 we began publishing popular science books, for specialists and enthusiasts of: history, science and biology, new interpretations of the timeless mysteries of human civilization and esoteric. We started publishing self-help health books presenting the most recent developments in conventional and natural medicine.
In 1997 AMBER published 378 new titles and started expanding towards new directions – the luxury, highly illustrated multi-volume series licensed from Time-Life Books: History of the World, Lost Civilizations, Treasures of the World, World War II, Myth and Imagination of Mankind, What Life Was Like. For the lovers of nature, AMBER offered the 10-volume Illustrated Encyclopedia of Wildlife. Also, the experts and collectors of art had the highest opinion of our multi-volume Great Encyclopedia of Applied Arts, created by Sotheby’s.
1997 was also the year when we had the pleasure and honour to prepare and publish the works of Polish distinguished personalities: Acupuncture in Modern Medicine – a comprehensive illustrated 2-volume book for doctors and patients by the father and founder of Polish school of acupuncture, professor Zbigniew Garnuszewski and the highly illustrated 2-volume Encyclopedia of World War II by Bogusław Wołoszański, the TV personality, writer and specialist of WW II and then the publisher (Magnum).
1998– AMBER still widened its list: Your Heart recommended by the best Polish cardiologists and the 1000 pages long illustrated The Medical Advisor were acknowledged as the most important books on health published in Poland in 1998.New series Library of Successful People – motivational and business self-help books – became a success.
1999 – AMBER’s 10th anniversary.
Małgorzata Cebo-Foniok and Zbigniew Foniok became members of Business Centre Club.
In the years 1989-90 many AMBER-like publishing houses had been founded, but only AMBER was able to survive and maintain the leading position amongst the publishers of commercial fiction (“Rynek książki w Polsce 1999” / “Polish Bookmarket 1999”).
In 2000 there was another boost in sales and the number of published titles (456). AMBER is still the Polish publisher of nearly all bestsellers from the top of “New York Times” and “Publishers Weekly” bestseller lists (“Rynek książki w Polsce 1999” / “Polish Bookmarket 1999”).
We continued to publish Harris, Ludlum, Grisham, Crichton, le Carré, Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, all in several thousand copies.
This year has been memorable thanks to the visit of the Grand Master of Adventure and the great friend of AMBER, Clive Cussler with thousands of people waiting for the signing. (Before that our guests were Ken Follett , the peace Nobel Prize winner Sergei Kovalev  and one of the most outstanding Russian writers and AMBER’s friend - Vasily Aksyonov ).
2001 was the best year for AMBER – year of records, unprecedented number of bestsellers (as many as 68) and spectacular advertising campaigns.
AMBER’s books were most often featured on Polish bestseller lists: almost 400 times in 2001! No other company has been able to introduce so many bestselling titles. For the past 13 years AMBER has been the leading Polish publisher of world bestsellers, and one of the biggest and most dynamic Polish publishers of fiction, popular science and self-help books (“Rynek książki w Polsce 2002” / ”Polish Bookmarket 2002”).
AMBER’s position on the market was still growing and we were amongst 13 biggest Polish publishers (as for the sales) and no. 2 (among the trade publishers) – with 473 titles published. Sales grew by 23%! Record-breaking turnover of 26,5 million PLN!
AMBER is the most steadily developing Polish publisher of fiction. While the competing publishing houses suffered from decrease in sales in years 2000-2001, AMBER maintained the constant increase. (“Rzeczpospolita”)
AMBER’s successes wouldn’t be possible without the effective promotion. No other Polish publisher has invested that much in promotion campaigns. The success is the resultant of good selection of titles and efficient promotion. (“Rynek książki w Polsce 2002” / “Polish Bookmarket 2002”).
In 2001 another guest visited Warsaw and Cracow: David Morrell – he signed 1 000 books, gave 15 interviews.
AMBER began promoting new series: the humorous Dilbert and in fiction: Historical Romance and chick-lit. We also introduced books for younger readers which became AMBER’s strength in the next years.
2002 was the year of record-breaking results: almost 50 000 copies sold of each new novel by Ludlum and Grisham; over 100 000 copies sold of the Illustrated Lord of the Rings; almost 30 000 copies of Shrek. This year AMBER published 554 in 2 800 000 copies. 71 titles appeared 158 times on Polish bestsellers lists.
In the meantime, dark clouds gathered over the book market: the biggest wholesalers went bankrupt, the delays in payments started increasing...
In 2003 AMBER expanded its offer and published world bestselling middle grade and young adult titles: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot were selling in dozens of thousands copies and got the Empik Award for the Best Children Book. Intensively promoted 1421: The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menziesbecame a bestseller and the author was our guest.
Tom Clancy joined AMBER’s stars.
2004– we published 459 titles, including 247 new titles printed in 2 300 000 copies. AMBER became no. 2 Polish publisher in the number of titles on bestseller lists. AMBER was still investing in expensive promotion campaigns. We introduced the hardcover biographies The Great of History. On the list of “100 biggest companies managed by women” published by “Home & Market” AMBER and Małgorzata Cebo-Foniok won the 19th place – before Glaxo Smith!
To celebrate our 15th anniversary, AMBER published and sold nearly 16 000 copies of the philosophical tale, Good Luck: Creating the Conditions, revealing 10 secrets of happiness. Its Polish title, the question – Happiness or good luck? had very often been asked about AMBER’s successes over the years. Was your publishing success just a strike of good luck, as many suppose? – Zbigniew Foniok was asked in an interview for “Rzeczpospolita” already in 2002. – Good luck? Just few people working hard for eighteen hours a day, determination and passion – I believe that does not go hand in hand with miraculous coincidence. 500 publishers strived for success at the same time we did, and last year their number reached 2000… But AMBER won, because since the very beginning we focused on publishing the best fiction in the best way.
2005 – AMBER slowed down: 350 titles published (including 236 new titles).
2006 was the year of The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett, German bestseller Glennkill by Leonie Swann and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield –spectacular successes of Małgorzata. World debutants: Simon Beckett, Leonie Swann and Diane Setterfield outrun Ludlum, Grisham, Harris and Clancy. They became not only literary and publishing events – but the new symbols of AMBER. The Chemistry of Death was deemed the best literary crime novel and was sold in 40 000 copies (82 000 copies have been sold up to date). Philosophical and comic crime novel Glennkill (Three Bags Full) broke the records: 77 000 copies sold, no. 1 on Empik bestseller list for 7 weeks, no. 2 for 6 weeks and got the Award of Empik for the Best Book of the Year... The Thirteenth Tale (almost 40 000 copies sold) enchanted with the atmosphere and the beauty of mysterious prose.
2007 was highlighted by the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Children of Húrin – almost 80 000 copies sold and another Award of Empik for the Best Book of the Year.
The world crisis on the book market has begun in the meantime. AMBER closed the popular science and self-help book series. We regretfully stopped publishing middle grade and young adult novels. We continued only with The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, whose visit draws thousands of fans.
In 2008 the crisis on Polish book market worsened dramatically. Readers’ preferences change. Vampires devoured lovely princesses overnight.
AMBER reacted instantly and began publishing The Vampire Diaries. We also invested in the luxurious crime series in hardcover. The print runs of fiction and of AMBER’s biggest authors decreased dramatically. The sales of new novels by Grisham, Ludlum, Crichton, le Carré and Harris reached just half of the previous results. The top of bestseller lists became prevailed by Polish authors (fiction and non-fiction), which since 2000 has been dominating the Polish book market. Memorable days in September when our big friend Clive Cussler, whose novels have been always selling, visited Poland for the second time.
2009 – AMBER as one of the first Polish publishers entered in paranormal novels (again – just the world best titles in the genre). Paying therecord-breakingadvance, we bought the biggest book of Frankfurt Book Fair 2009: All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.
Celebrating AMBER’s 20th anniversary, Małgorzata and Zbigniew Foniok appointed Ewa Turczyńska, who since 1996 has been the Editorial Director, the board member.
2010 – we moved to our own office which we built in one year.
Vampire still have been ruling in the young adult and women fiction published by Amber.
2011 – deep crisis on the book market, which has been continuing for the next years. Introduction of VAT for books caused enormous returns from the wholesalers’ warehouses, panic and confusion. Print runs continue to fall down dramatically. AMBER’s turnover diminished by20%. Leonie Swann’s Garou: Ein Schaf-Thriller, continuation of Three Bags Full, and Simon Beckett’s The Calling of the Grave became bestsellers of 2011.
In 2012 erotica dealt a sudden and deadly blow to the vampires. AMBER closed paranormal series for YA and adults. We had to fill this gap. So we quickly launched two new non-fiction series: misery-memoires/Harmed- the true stories of children abused and tortured by their closest ones (The Boy Who No One Loved by Casey Watson, Don’t Tell Mummy by Toni Maguire) and My Story - autobiographies of women who went through hell and suffered unimaginable violence. The series started with the autobiography of 2012 in the UK – Trafficked by Sophie Hayes (over 25 000 copies sold). Series Harmed has been published under the honorary auspice of Nobody’s Children Foundation and with media support from Children Rights’ Protection Committee; My Story –with the patronage of Women’s Right Centre and Feminoteka.
We also launched a series of intelligent, thrilling and emotional literary crime novels (including titles by S.J. Bolton) with original jacket designs based on Beckett’s covers. The series also includes prominent Scandinavian crime authors (Kjell Eriksson, Ninni Schulman).
In October 2012 AMBER as the first Polish publisher dared to start with erotica on a big scale. We licensed world bestsellers and published at least two titles per month in the elegant black, grey and white covers. Just after the Polish premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey (unfortunately not ours), we promoted Eighty Days Yellow and sold over 22 000 copies. The risk was worthwhile. Our erotica series became an immediate success.
2013 marked the beginning of a slow stabilization. Our biggest authors – Clive Cussler and Danielle Steel – have been successful as always. Our literary crime authors were joined by Ann Cleeves with Vera series on which a TV series was based. We continue to publish world’s literary fiction (Z: The Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler). And we have been continuing our erotica (including the masterpiece of erotica Story of O), autobiographies and biographies.
We finished the year with the publication of Simon Beckett’s novel Stone Bruises before the English premiere, which sold in almost 20 000 copies in just 2 months. And the sales of Beckett’s previous novels reached 200 000 copies.
We continue to publish one of our most stable series – Historical Romance (Amanda Quick, Mary Jo Putney, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn).
Publication of the new editions of The Hobbit with movie cover (70 000 copies sold) and 6 richly illustrated movie tie-in books and the new editions of Tolkien’s illustrated works (Lord of the Rings, Silmarillion) opened and closed 2013.
In 2014 we published 201 books (including 118 new titles) in 930 000 copies. But our books have been selling quicker and we have got more satisfying sales results. We continue on our paths, as always reacting quickly to the new world trends. We have introduced our New Adult series with the biggest bestsellers from this genre – Falling Into You by Jasinda Wilder, Wait for You by J. Lynn.
Divergent trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant) has been one of our lead titles of 2014 and 2015.
We have been publishing our biggest authors – Danielle Steel, Clive Cussler, Veronica Roth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Star Wars, historical romances, thrillers and crime (Simon Beckett, Sharon Bolton, Ann Cleeves and Kjell Eriksson). We introduced with great success Jodi Ellen Malpas to out erotica series. Our new literary French, German and Swedish novels got a big coverage in the media. As for non-fiction, we continue with biographies, autobiographies and we came back to history.
2015 was the year of new directions and new ideas.
We were overtaken by the colouring craze! Anti-stress creative colouring books for adults became the new trend and new category of books. And we published few new ones each month, which also became bestsellers of empik.com.
In 2015 we also began practicing mindfulness and published the most approachable books teaching how to live here and now.
Our number one bestseller was the Divergent trilogy, which we have reissued several times, including editions with movie covers.
We finished the year with an event connected to Divergent – the author, Veronica Roth visited Warsaw. At a meeting in Empik she was enthusiastically greeted by fans and gained new ones.
2016 was the year of our most popular genres - psychological thrillers & women fiction - and also new authors. We published 280 books.
Sebastian Fitzek, the great German master of psychological thriller, became our new lead author. Our publications of his international bestsellers – Passenger 23, Splitter, Cut Off - were promoted by “Newsweek” and Onet (one of the biggest Polish news websites).
Next to our established literary crime novels (Sharon Bolton, Ragnar Jónasson), we started publishing domestic noir psychological thrillers about dark family secrets, the trend started by Girl on the Train.
We also successfully returned to our history books. We presented new titles, including for example new titles by the most famous controversial researchers of human pre-history: Magicians of the Gods – new bestseller of Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods and Göbekli Tepe. Genesis of the Gods by Andrew Collins, author of Gods of Eden.
2017 has been successful with the highlights of new novels by Sebastian Fitzek, Clive Cussler and Danielle Steel.
It is also the year of new psychological thrillers and crime novels from the international bestseller lists (Saving Sophie Sam Carrington, What Alice Knew T.A. Cotterell, Safe With Me by K.L. Slater).
Women’s fiction has been for over quarter of the century our flag genre next to thrillers. In 2017 we’ve started publishing Isabelle Broom’s romantic and uplifting novels (My Map of You).
We continue to expand our series of mysteries of history and we’ve published new books by most famous controversial explorers (Robert Bauval, Robert Schoch, Luc Bürgin, Nicholas Redfern).
2018 is the year of “Amberek” – our series of biggest world bestsellers amongst picture books for children 3-5 year-old, popular science, psychological bestsellers and nature books.
Children from all over the World – and now also in Poland - love Hugless Douglas, Too Many Carrots, Giraffes Can’t Dance – and many other beautiful and smart books from our series “Amberek”!
“Newsweek Polska” and “Charaktery” (most popular magazine about psychology), “Świat Wiedzy” (most popular magazine about science), biggest websites and blogs about popular science books wrote about our psychological bestsellers (The Memory Illusion by Julia Shaw and The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot). The Memory Illusion was also shortlisted for the award Mądra Książka Roku 2018 (competition for the best popular science book organized by the Jagiellonian University).
Kartsten Brensing’s Das Mysterium der Tiere /The Mystery of Animals got many enthusiastic reviews from readers and acclaimed zoologists and our illustrated nature books (Gartenvögel lebensgroß / Life-Sized Garden Birds) became bestsellers.
2019 is the year of "Mądra Książka Roku 2018" (Smart/Wise Book of the Year 2018 Award), given by the Jagiellonian University, Fundacja Euklidesa and Mądre Książki website, to The Memory Illusion by dr Julia Shaw. It is also the visit of the master of psychological thriller, Sebastian Fitzek, to Poznań, Warsaw and the International Festival of Crime and Mystery in Wrocław. And it is also the year of next titles and further sucesses of "Amberek" - the most beautiful picture books for 3-5 year-olds (A Little Bit Brave, The Golden Accorn, We Love You, Hugless Douglas).
And in 2020 pandemic struck forcining us - as everybody on the publishing market - to change publishing plans, slow down our production, but thanks to careful planning and good choice of books, we are moving forward.
In February 2023 we celebrated our 34rd anniversary - 34 fascinating, difficult and beautiful years.