A former venture capitalist and PriceWaterhouseCooper consultant has launched an unusual publishing house specializing in books tied to social issues and using them to raise money for charity.
Franchee Harmon launched HPH Publishing in Chicago in 2005 to self-publish Making Purpose Work, about finding meaning through one's work. That book brought her to the attention of James Jack, a retired detective who had written a book about the 1955 murder of three boys in Chicago and was looking for a publisher for his Three Boys Missing: The Tragedy That Exposed the PedophiliaUnderworld.
“I felt compelled to publish it,” said Harmon, who released the book in October 2006. She said Jack's book “helped me frame the mission for the house.” The books Harmon publishes are focused on social issues, and authors donate a minimum percentage (5%) of their royalties to charities of their choosing. (HPH offers a 20% royalty and does not pay advances.) In turn, HPH works with the authors to plan speaking engagements far beyond the conventional book tour.
“We hired a PR firm for Three Boys,” Harmon said, “but it was a disaster. We do things differently. We try to give information about issues and make social change.” Using a staff of interns and freelancers, HPH “acts like a speakers' bureau,” said Harmon, providing support for travel, shipping books to tour events and working closely with the charities to use the books to raise awareness of the issues in question.
Coming in the fall is My Maggie, a book by popular Chicago sports anchor Rich King about his late wife, who suffered from a rare disease that makes its victims deaf and blind. King is donating 13% of his royalties to the Lighthouse for the Blind and the American Cancer Society; this is the first time that HPH will also donate a share of its profits. King is a media figure in Chicago and local celebrities and Chicago teams are joining in to support the book.
HPH plans two books a year and uses wholesalers Ingram and B&T to distribute, “in order to get the maximum funds to the charities,” said Harmon. First printing for Three Boys was 10,000, and the first printing for My Maggie will be at least 10,000. While HPH is “a labor of love,” Harmon is quick to remind authors that she has an M.B.A. “HPH is a for-profit corporation,” said Harmon. “If we don't sell books, we can't fund other books and tell those stories.”