Founded in 2002 by the husband and wife team of Robert Lasner and Elizabeth Clementson, Brooklyn independent Ig Publishing is celebrating its 10th anniversary against all the odds. The house debuted with For Fuck’s Sake, a novel by Lasner, which did so well at the time, Lassner said, “We both thought, hey, publishing is easy.”
In addition to Lasner’s novel (which sold 6,000 copies with limited distribution), Ig published a series of “dive bar” books focused on distinctive bars in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston. Originally the house did not have a distributor, but in 2003 signed with Consortium/Perseus.
After starting with four books in 2002, Ig Publishing will release 12 titles in 2012. All of its titles are released as e-books through Perseus’s Constellation e-book distribution unit, and e-books are 8%–10% of Ig’s total sales, “Kindle is dominant,” Lasner said. The house generated just under $500,000 in revenue in 2011, and in 2012 Ig will hire its first employee, to bring the staff to a total of three. “Depending on the book,” he said, the house pays advances in the $1,000 to $7,000 range, and sometimes up to $10,000. “We’re expanding because we have the money to do so. We can do eight books by ourselves, but with 12 we need another person,” Lasner said.
“We had some lean years, almost going under,” Lasner acknowledged, “before we really focused editorially in 2005–2006 on literary fiction and cultural and progressive nonfiction, and things have been getting better each year since then.” In fact, Lasner joked that as their initial enthusiasm for publishing waned, the better the books sold. “The closer we got to burnout, the better things got. Agents never submitted to us—now we get agent submissions and often authors are choosing us over other publishers,” he added.
Ig Publishing’s bestselling backlist title is Propaganda by Edward Bernays, originally published in 1928; Ig first published the book in 2004 and has since sold 50,000 copies. Turns out Bernays was a pioneering figure in the practice of public relations and the science of shaping public opinion, and his book, long out-of-print, had been photocopied for class use for years. Lasner heard Noam Chomsky mention the book on BookTV, called Bernays’s daughter, and bought the rights for $500. “We had no idea there was even a market. We printed 2,000 initial copies, and we just keep reprinting it,” Lasner said.
Big books for 2012 include The Terror Factory by Trevor Aaronson, nonfiction based on a Mother Jones cover story that examines the controversial practice of FBI informants infiltrating and essentially enabling what appear to be utterly ineffective “potential” terrorist plots. Novels include a thriller/family saga, Ghosting by Kirby Gann, the second novel Ig has published by Gann, and Jonah Man by Chris Narozy, a novel set among drug dealers in 1920s vaudeville. And in June Ig will publish Outerborough Blues by Andrew Cotto, a mystery set in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Lasner said the house will throw a 10th anniversary party at Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore in May, and there will likely be other events. Looking back, Lasner said, “We literally started with nothing—our original third partner, the money guy, left soon after we started, and here we are 10 years later doing books we love and making money at it.”