BOOK PARTNERSHIPS THAT WORK: Notes from Our May 2010 Program

Publishers are forging successful partnerships with filmmakers, libraries, and advocacy groups. Disney/Pixar, Bancroft Library, Demos–find out how they’re partnering with Chronicle Books, Heyday and B-K at our May event! This month, a trio of distinguished local publishers and their equally notable business partners come together to discuss how to forge a successful publishing partnership. They’ll discuss how partnerships help publishers to expand sales reach, broaden their readership, and double their marketing muscle. They’ll also share the nuts and bolts of partnerships–from how to choose a publishing partner, to how to handle editorial issues, to how to best market and publicize books that come from partnerships of various kinds.

OUR PANELISTS:
Sarah Malarkey, Chronicle Books Sarah Malarkey is the publishing director at Chronicle Books where she oversees the entertainment, art, and gift categories. She has partnered with Lucas film, Playboy magazine, DC Comics, and Pixar, among others.

LeighAnna MacFadden, Disney/Pixar LeighAnna MacFadden is Editorial Director, Animation Publishing for Disney Publishing Worldwide. She oversees content development for Disney/Pixar¹s animation tie-in books, working closely with global licensees such as Random House, Disney Press, Hachette, and Egmont. MacFadden was previously Senior Editor at Chronicle Books, where she acquired and managed novelty publishing programs such as Eric Carle, World Almanac, Paul Frank, UglyDolls, and DC Comics.

Malcolm Margolin, Heyday Books
Malcolm Margolin is executive director of Heyday Books, an independent
nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution, which he founded in 1974. Each year Heyday publishes between twenty and twenty-five books on various aspects of California culture, history, nature, literature, and ethnic studies plus News from Native California, a quarterly magazine devoted to California Indian history and culture. Heyday sponsors more than 200 events annually and works in conjunction with many of the state¹s leading museums, universities, and cultural institutions. Margolin is author of several books, including The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco ­ Monterey Bay Area, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the hundred most important books of the twentieth century by a western writer. He has received dozens of prestigious awards among which are a Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Francisco Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, the Helen Crocker Russell Award for Community Leadership from the San Francisco Foundation, and a Cultural Freedom Award from the Lannan Foundation.

Susan Snyder, The Bancroft Library
Susan Snyder grew up on history in the valleys and foothills along California’s Highway 99, and now lives in Point Richmond, Contra Costa County. She worked as a teacher, illustrator, artist, and Japanese language interpreter before landing in The Bancroft Library, the Special Collections library at the University of California at Berkeley, where, in her capacity as head of Public Services, she has spent seventeen years exploring, moving, and serving the library’s collections. She is the author of Bear in Mind: The California Grizzly, and Past Tents: The Way We Camped, both co-published by Heyday Books and the Bancroft Library. She’s currently working on a book about illustrated diaries, 1776 to the present.

Johanna Vondeling, Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Johanna Vondeling is Vice President for Editorial and Digital for Berrett-Koehler Publishers in San Francisco, where she has worked since 2004. She has edited books by, among many others, Jared Bernstein, Thom Hartmann, Rinku Sen, Peter Barnes, Greg LeRoy, Deanna Zandt, Linda Tarr-Whelan, and Chris Rabb. Prior to joining Berrett-Koehler, she worked for Jossey-Bass (a Wiley Imprint), W. W. Norton & Company, and Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Carol Villano, Demos
Since moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in July of 2009, Carol Villano has been the Demos West Coast Representative, helping to expand their profile on the western side of the country. Prior to moving west, Carol was the Director of Executive and Administrative Services for the organization. Carol came to Demos in 2005, after a 23-year career in teaching. During that time, she developed curriculum, taught reading, composition, and computer courses to students and teachers, and was President of a major reading council. Carol made professional presentations at State and International Reading Conferences and did teacher training in Guatemala and for American graduate education students.

MODERATOR:
Katie Sheehan has been a Publicity Manager at Berrett-Koehler Publishers for the past two years. Katie grew up in Canada and completed her BA at McMaster University, just outside of Toronto. After attending Graduate School at San Francisco State University she stayed on in the Bay Area and pursued a career in marketing and public relations in a variety of industries. She has worked in radio, television, high-tech, and the non-profit world. Her prior book publicity experience came out of her work as the Publicity Director of a small independent publishing company in Santa Cruz, CA. Katie’s love of books and language is what keeps her coming back to the world of publishing.

Sheehan’s opening question for the panel was how their partnerships were formed. Many of the respondents said their partnership was formed through existing social relationships. Malarkey was a the right place and right time: she met MacFadden at a party just as their previous publisher dropped out. Margolin and Snyder had been working together for years when Snyder asked him at a party if he wanted to see the project she was working on. Margolin loved the Grizzly bear project she was working on, and that’s where their book collaboration began. With Vondeling and Villano, their grouping began when the Demos founder approached Berrett-Koehler about publishing his memoirs, though Berrett-Koehler was already aware of the Demos reputation as an advocacy group.

Sheehan asked the partners, “What do you look for in a publisher?”

Vondeling said that Berrett-Koehler has shared values, objectives and (most importantly) mission. She liked that “Berrett-Koehler is small but they’re feisty.” She also emphasized their support of e-readers and social media. A common mission was also important to Snyder. She said, “We have a stick-in-the-mud reputation. It’s important that this collection gets seen and that’s what Heyday does.” Disney is a little different in that they have forty to fifty partnerships per movie. But mission was not entirely lost on MacFadden,  who stressed the import to have a “very mutual desire to see the book exist.” The key words for her were quality and vision.

The third question for the panel was on the top benefits of their partnership

Malarkey said that in addition to making money, “we get to date our crush,” admitting that everyone had a crush on Pixar. Snyder liked that the collections are spotlighted throughout the state. It has allowed additional partnerships with smaller groups they’d love to work with but couldn’t afford. They were both proud of the beautiful product, “to have access to this treasure is an absolute thrill,” Margolin said. The “deepening friendships” were of value as well. Villano said that though each have they’re own strategies they compliment each other well because they’re stronger working together. She gave e-readers as an example of something Demos wouldn’t have been able to tackle on their own. The keyword for Vondeling was sales. Without Demos, the books wouldn’t have done as well. Berrett-Koehler doesn’t have a huge travel budget and Demos has lots of East Coast staff and events. Also, they don’t just limit partnership to the books. “Their social network folks are tremendous.” she said.

Sheehan’s next question was about the business model of the partnership

Berrett-Koehler has a lot of different partnerships. Theirs involves co-branding on all books, mutual involvement on the cover and the title and a minimum purchase on books. They spell out the marketing commitment. Vondeling said, “at first this was spoken, then contracted” because the spoken agreement “didn’t cut it.” Margolin and Snyder’s collaboration was affected in that both Heyday and the Bancroft library are a non-profits. The library is expected to arrange museum shows where Margolin gives speeches. Sometimes the agreement is simple, like content exchanged for royalties. Otherwise, expenses are handled by the library and distribution is handled by Heyday. The Disney-Pixar contract, on the other hand, “is probably a hundred pages long” and handled by lawyers.

Vondeling got a WOW from Sheehan and the audience for offering to share the details of their contract. “Go ahead and e-mail me. We’re very non-proprietary,”

How do you handle conflicts” Sheehan asked next.

MacFadden said, “Disney is unique in that we handle most of the content and maintain a lot of control. The studio collects the art.” They sit down with Chronicle to hash out development but “at this point we only succeed because of [the movies’] very harsh deadlines and great project managers on both sides.”

Heyday doesn’t do any licensing Snyder got a sympathetic “Awwww” out of her collaborator when she said, “After the Grizzly bear book I was silly and nave and I thought I could write a book about anything. Heyday gives me a reality check when my enthusiasm needs to be dampened.” In terms of content, Margolin said, “Susan works it out into something that’s publishable. The first rule of publishing is work with someone you like.”

At Berrett-Koehler, each book comes into being in a different way (they have five). One was pitched by the Demos director, another  came out of a snatch of conversation with the communication director. One rule: the author has to be a Demos fellow. On some occasions they have made someone a fellow when Berrett-Koehler wants to make a book with them. Once it’s signed, the process is “just like any other book” and Berrett-Koehler is responsible for developing the content.

How do you coordinate marketing and publicity?” Sheehan asked.

Sheehan was able to offer some of her own input as the marketing director at Berrett-Koehler. The fellow put in a $25,000 grant. They hired two outside publicists. Demos took the progressives, NYC, NPR. Berrett-Koehler handled publicity with the industry magazines and the outside publicists did nationwide radio pitches. The author did 120 events and is still touring.

At Heyday, the marketing was mainly done by Margolin. They worked together on framing the Grizzly story. The Bancroft library did outreach to Universities and libraries and arranged her speaking engagements. She has a relationship with the museum coordinator and they set the book up as a show. Snyder said, “we have a different idea because they don’t sell books. Our mission is to get the heritage out there.” The Disney-Chronicle collaboration again provided a contrast in that they have “like a hundred million dollar campaign with ads and billboards.” Pixar also connects with animation geeks on their blogs and sells books at their Emeryville headquarters.

Sheehan wondered what kinds of creative publicity efforts their partnerships engendered.

With Pixar and Chronicle, every year the studio has a huge fair and Chronicle will have book signings there and a gallery showing of the animation from the film. The books are given away, not sold.

Margolin and Snyder have a “food-themed publication party.” For the Grizzly bear book, they had salmon, bear nuts and camping food. Snyder mentioned again that “we’ve been able to take advantage of Heyday’s other alliances, like the park system.” Margolin jestingly the import of “getting Ron Turner to dress up like a bear.”

For Psy-Con’s NY launch, Psy-Con brought along his personal pal Pete Seeger. Sheehan spoke about Psy-Con’s music tour, where he sold his book. They also threw book parties around the country and worked with his music label to team up on marketing efforts. Vondeling said Demos is great at getting people out to events. They live stream and archive the event, which Berrett-Koehler edits down and uses for publicity. They did their own plug for a June 22 event: MacFadden-9pm at the World Affairs Council will be free cocktails and progressive speeches.

That introduced the Q&A portion of the lunch. The first question from Adrienne was, “Do you think of your partners when planning books?”

Berrett-Koehler does. Villano mentioned the two authors who weren’t fellows and through Berrett-Koehler’s urging they became fellows. “Most fellows don’t get financial support but huge commercial and marketing support.”

Malarkey and MacFadden said, no, that question was really applicable to Disney. Margolin said, “Books that I’d love to do don’t always work. Partnership can make that possible.”

Sheehan gave the forum a chance to give their last words.

Margolin said, “Intimacy of a book is that it’s written alone and read alone. But between the author and the reader is a complete zoo.”

Vondeling stressed, “Stay in constant contact. Meet in person, if possible. Have lunch. Don’t take the partnership for granted.”

And Villano closed the session as it began: “A shared mission makes a huge difference.”

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