It was the imprint of the future. That was at least one of the more dramatic claims made in the media about HarperStudio when Bob Miller's lean unit was announced at HarperCollins two years ago. The idea, though not entirely new—Roger Cooper launched the similarly drawn Vanguard in 2006—was pitched as an author-driven model in which writers would agree to lower advances in exchange for higher royalties and bigger marketing budgets. While the media may have played the biggest role in decreeing HarperStudio the next big thing in an otherwise traditional—and perhaps broken—industry, the imprint drew an outsize amount of attention for its small list—24 titles a year—and approach.
So how is the no-advance model faring now that HarperStudio is no longer? PW talked to two of the original no-advance evangelists, Eric Kampmann at Beaufort Books and Cooper, and both said they are faring well, if still facing the same uphill battles as everyone in publishing.
Cooper, who does more of a mix of fiction and nonfiction than Kampmann (who largely focuses on nonfiction), said that he's been slightly more successful publishing his nonfiction titles. He noted that each contract is drawn up differently in relation to marketing budgets, observing, “There's no formula we're being slavish to.” Vanguard's print runs vary widely, between 25,000 and 150,000 copies, and Cooper said the idea is that a book “doesn't have to be a home run every time. The stakes are to do the best job possible.” With this model, he said, that goal is more feasible.
Kampmann said the Beaufort model was more like the Vanguard one in that neither gives advances, while HarperStudio offered advances as high as $100,000. And, like Vanguard, the indie caters to authors, he said, “who are willing to become more a part of the publishing process.” While Kampmann said Beaufort was really put on the map—and in authors' and agents' minds—when it published O.J. Simpson's If I Did It (working with the Goldman family) in 2008, his colleague, associate publisher Margot Atwell, said that HarperStudio did bring attention to Beaufort and Vanguard's models. “I think HarperStudio brought a lot of attention to the profit-share model,” she said. “Before, it was a little harder to explain what we do.”
That attention has changed, slightly, the acquisition process. Although both Cooper and Kampmann said projects come in via solicitation and from agents, (and, sometimes, in other ways) more people in the industry are taking notice. Beaufort is publishing Jeff Foxworthy's next book in October, and, Kampmann said, the comedian's agent, Peter McGuigan at Foundry, brought the project to him. Erin Smith, who handles publicity at Beaufort, said she believes “there are certain agents thinking outside the box and trying to find ways to work with their authors,” many of whom can benefit from the setup of getting less money upfront with the chance of getting more down the line.