Almost one year after SparkPoint Studio acquired the hybrid publisher She Writes Press, the purchase is providing the type of synergy that SparkPoint CEO Crystal Patriarche had hoped for. Though SparkPoint, which has its roots as a publicity firm for high-tech and Fortune 500 companies, already had its own small publishing unit, SparkPress, the SWP purchase ramped up its publishing operations, including giving its authors access to the trade through SWP’s distribution deal with Ingram Publisher Services.
Patriarche said she got into publishing as a bit of a fluke. After promoting a book for a friend following the launch of SparkPoint Studio, Patriarche began taking on more authors and publishers, which led her to form the BookSparks division six years ago. The firm has done publicity campaigns for about 350 authors at 25 houses, and Patriarche said the company was getting more and more inquiries from authors—at traditional houses and those self-publishing—to help them actually publish their books. “A number of traditionally published authors were looking to take the leap to self-publishing but didn’t want to go there by themselves,” Patriarche said. By December 2013, BookSparks was doing enough work with authors that Patriarche decided to launch SparkPress.
SparkPress works along much the same lines as She Writes Press: providing editorial and marketing services for a fee and paying royalties that usually give the author 60% of print net sales and 80% on e-book sales. Patriarche said she was attracted to SWP because of its innovative approach to publishing, which includes She Writes, its online community for women authors that was launched six years ago. Shewrites.com has 30,000 active members, gets approximately 150,000 unique visitors a month, and is currently undergoing a makeover.
SWP’s publishing strategy of focusing on women authors also fits well with SparkPress, which features mostly women authors, although it has published some men writers as well. SWP, which continues to be led by one of its cofounders, Brooke Warner, focuses on literary fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, while SparkPress does more commercial fiction and young adult books, Patriarche said. SWP just signed its 150th author and has published 95 titles since its launch three years ago. Patriarche believes the hybrid publishing model will be embraced by more authors as a way to build their brands. Authors can use self-publishing for one type of project and work with traditional publishers on others. She cited the case of Colleen Oakes as an example of that approach. SparkPress published her Queen of Hearts trilogy before it was acquired by HarperCollins, which is now preparing to repackage the series in hardcover while SparkPress will publish her Wendy Darling young adult series beginning in October. As an example of traditionally published authors who are using SparkPress, the company has just signed Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (The Nanny Diaries and How to Be a Grown Up) for their next book, So Close, set for release in spring 2016.
Patriarche estimated the SparkPress and SWP get a combined 20 to 40 submissions a month, which are vetted closely before authors are signed. For both imprints, “it is about the book, not the platform,” Patriarche said, noting that SparkPoint has all the assets necessary to promote an author’s book to both the trade and consumers. “For us, it is about the stories.”