Meet the new face of publishing!

HarperStudio: First Full Show

They’ve been busy in the atelier on 53rd Street.

HarperStudio has released its initial titles, starting in late April, and is now in its first full season, with 12 books coming out between August and December. The HarperCollins division also has acquired more than 50 books that will appear over the next two to three years.

Most important, the division is conducting business in a way president and publisher Bob Miller envisioned for HarperStudio. It’s offering books nonreturnable, signing up authors for relatively low advances and splitting profits, expanding books technologically (for example, adding sophisticated video segments to e-books), and constantly experimenting with creative ways of marketing and publishing titles, in many cases using online communities, blogs, vlogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter in new ways. (See following story.)

Working with authors has been as Miller hoped, saying, “It’s a collaborative process from the beginning.” Many upcoming titles are by well-known people like Tom Peters, Michael Eisner, Erica Jong and Brad Meltzer who have “pet projects that might not fit their previous titles.” Miller is proud of how these titles developed, saying, “These books are generated from ideas rather than bidding the most at auction.”

On the sales side, most major bookselling accounts are buying nonreturnable, but “only some” independents are on board. Miller said, “I understand it’s a tentative time in the economy to ask people to make changes in how they do business, but because indies historically have lower return rates, they can be rewarded if they buy nonreturnable.” Oddly big box stores, which buy most of their inventory nonreturnable, have not signed up to buy books nonreturnable.

Of the first titles that have appeared, Who Is Mark Twain?, HarperStudio’s debut book that contained unpublished short pieces by Mark Twain, and Emeril at the Grill by chef Emeril Lagasse “did really well,” Miller said. “And we’re really proud of Burn This Book,” the collection of essays about censorship published with the PEN American Center that was edited by Toni Morrison.

Miller continues to see the HarperStudio as an alternative to traditional ways of publishing at the big New York houses. As people debate the publishing model, Miller again said he would propose the HarperStudio approach for consideration: “We contribute everything we can and the authors contribute everything they can, and we split the profits while we at HarperStudio take the risk.”

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