Last but not least in our Imprint…… of the Future (cymbals crash) series, following Vanguard and 12, is former Hyperion publisher Bob Miller’s new imprint HarperStudio. I was lucky enough to attend a lunch with Bob this past Friday, and here are the deets.
HarperStudio combines some of the elements of other imprints of the future — much like 12, HarperStudio will publish a small, exclusive number of books, in this case 24 books a year. And like Vanguard, the author is asked to take a lesser investment up front in exchange for more of a share of the (hopefully) success down the line.
What makes HarperStudio different is the publishing model. HarperStudio will pay authors no more than $100,000 advances, and instead of royalties, utilizes a profit sharing model that incorporates expenses on one side of the ledger (expenses will include publicity and unit production, but not editorial and overhead), and income on the other side. Profits are split 50/50, and accounting reports four times a year, translating to a break-even point at around 25,000 copies sold.
Miller hopes to publish the type of nonfiction that he specialized in at Hyperion — some celebrity driven works and some high concept nonfiction (such as THE LAST LECTURE and DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF). And particularly since authors have a personal stake in the advertising, Miller envisions a very close, collaborative relationship between author and publisher.
And lastly, in a still-evolving part of the model, as other media outlets have reported, Miller hopes to incorporate some form of no-return sales and is currently working out some different scenarios to try and make this possible.
This venture is both an experiment in a new publishing model and a reaction to the two ends where publishers are getting squeezed — for the big projects they are paying huge up front investments in the form of author advances, and then on the back end some projects are swimming in returns, creating quite a bit of risk for the publisher. Miller is hoping to chop off those two ends and build a brand around books that are safer bets.
To be sure, the model is for a particular type of author — someone who either doesn’t need the advance and is willing to wait for the profit share, or for projects that HarperStudio has creatively acquired for a smaller advance and sees promise in. But I’m always excited about people trying something new, and Miller has the intelligence, experience and vision in spades, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with this venture.