In 2002, Marta Hallett—a very experienced and successful publishing executive and packager— founded Glitterati Inc., a New York–based boutique press that focuses on art and photo books. In effect, Glitterati is a smaller version of the kind of illustrated publisher Hallett had been managing for decades; she was previously the publisher of the illustrated divisions of Rizzoli, HarperCollins, and Smithmark.
“It was 2001 and Rizzoli had just closed its art book division,” Hallett said while sitting on an elegant couch in the living room of a 57th Street apartment, which serves as both her home and as the offices for Glitterati. “I was 50 at the time and I decided to stop working for big companies. I had the skills, I had authors, and I still had contacts. So I decided to do it on my own.”
Glitterati launched with four titles in 2002, with distribution by PowerHouse Books. The first, The Sleeping Beauty: A Journey to the Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre by Nikia Polyanksy, is a kids’ book that’s still in print; it was produced in collaboration with Saks Fifth Avenue and included note cards and a music CD. This year, the house will publish 14 titles, and Hallett plans to do 22 books in 2014. She acknowledged that the 2014 list “may be maxing out, but there’s so much talent out there—artists who can’t sell 25,000 copies but can sell 5,000 copies.” She also noted changes to the book market: “There are fewer Rizzoli stores, and fewer physical stores in general. We know our audience.”
Glitterati’s titles are now distributed by the Antique Collectors Club and sell for $30–$150 each; deluxe editions—limited-edition boxed sets that include signed and numbered prints—sell for $250–$500 apiece. “They do well,” Hallett said of the deluxe editions, noting that they’re produced in runs of 100 copies, and that many are on their third printings, with each new batch getting a different signed print. “If you have the value, you can charge the price,” she added.
With a staff of three in addition to Hallett—including Sara Rosen, who worked with her at both Rizzoli and PowerHouse, and who handles publicity and marketing—Glitterati boasts a number of high-powered authors, artists, and photographers, most of whom have published multiple books with the press. Hallett signs them directly, unagented; “I’m used to making judgments about content,” she notes. The list includes celebrity photographer Douglas Kirkland, renowned Columbian artist Fernando Botero, photographer/artist Christopher Makos, beauty photographer Anne Menke, and travel photographer/publishing executive Michael Clinton, among many others. Glitterati also has a small children’s list featuring Julie Muszynski’s Henley books, a retro kids series featuring a dog, which “do really well,” Hallett said, adding, “They look like classics.”
First printings are “usually” in the 3,000- to 5,000-copy range. In addition to her apartment in New York, Hallett has an office in London (a leftover from her days as a packager of co-editions) and authors with foreign audiences. “Douglas Kirkland is big in Italy; others have followings in London, and we do events in foreign markets,” she said. Hallett uses lots of social media—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—and Glitterati authors have very polished Web sites. As for e-book editions, she said, “Our books are specialty items, so mostly we don’t do digital.” She added, “We use digital to talk about our books, but our customers are collectors and they want books to take home with them.”
Coming in spring 2014 from Glitterati are The Way We Wore: Black Style Then by Michael McCollom (foreword by Geoffrey Holder), which features vintage personal photos of African-American style from the author’s family and such friends as Tyra Banks, Bobby Short, James Baldwin, and Oprah Winfrey; Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground by Paul Zone, featuring vintage photos taken by Zone in the mid-1970s, when he was 14 years old, during the birth of glam and punk rock; and White Trash Uncut, a new edition of the celebrated “throwaway” 1977 photo book by Makos, chronicling New York’s punk scene, with new uncropped photos added and a new trim size.
Just over a decade after it began, Glitterati is on firm ground: “We’re profitable, we’re focused, we do a lot with a few people, we’re in constant communication, and we can fix stuff fast,” Hallett said. With new technology and the Web, the landscape of contemporary publishing allows “small publishers to get traction.” She noted, “Printing is faster; we get reprints in eight weeks so we keep watch on our inventory.” She added that Amazon “has been good for us, especially where there are no physical stores. It gives us access to markets we don’t know.”
“Publishing is an art form for me,” Hallett said, adding,“it’s how I express myself.”