When Erika Heilman and Jill Friedlander launched Bibliomotion, publisher of business and parenting titles, in April 2011, it wasn’t clear to authors what kind of press it was trying to be. There were no advances, but Bibliomotion offered graduated royalties.
Fast-forward five years, and Bibliomotion’s decision not to take a more traditional publishing route has paid off. The Boston-based press has quintupled its staff—from founders Heilman and Friedlander to 10 people today—and it is in the black. In 2013, Bibliomotion doubled sales from its first year of sales, Friedlander said. For each of the past two years, the press has had sales increase 30%.
One of the reasons for Bibliomotion’s early financial success is that “we never give up on our books,” Heilman said. “When a book moves to backlist, we still work on [it].” As an example, she cited Michelle Icard’s Middle School Makeover, which sells more copies now than it did when it was first published in 2014. In part, that’s because Bibliomotion coaches its authors to get the message out by using social media and other methods. These efforts, for example, helped Icard develop a national following. She had a regional reputation when the book was originally released. “[Our] philosophy,” Heilman added, “is that every author is an A-list author.”
About 20% of its authors have re-upped with Bibliomotion for another book, even though the press doesn’t have an option clause in its contract. Whitney Johnson, who published Disrupt Yourself with Bibliomotion last fall, is working on a second book; Vicki Hoefle, whose Duct Tape Parenting (2012) is the press’s top-selling parenting book, is working on a third book. “We do a lot of things that big publishers outsource,” president Friedlander said. “We handle author book sales, belly bands, and bulk e-book sales.” Bibliomotion was also one of the first publishers to bundle e-book and print books together when their authors attend conferences, so that attendees could read the e-book in advance and buy the book at the event. “That’s all part of our high-touch [strategy for] working with the author,” Friedlander said, describing the personalized service it offers its authors. “We try to keep our interests aligned.”
Bibliomotion, which is distributed by Perseus Distribution, has gotten a significant boost from special sales; 45% of total print revenue last year came from B2B sales, according to Friedlander. But the press is careful not to compete with its customers by selling directly to consumers. A new Bibliomotion website, slated to go live soon, will not offer direct sales. “It’s really designed for prospective authors, book groups, agents and subagents, and booksellers,” Heilman said. “We don’t think, in this day and age of Amazon and other e-tailers, it’s a good use of our time” to sell directly.
Going forward, Bibliomotion will continue to publish eight to 10 books a season, primarily in business, with some self-help and parenting titles. And it will maintain an active backlist, which currently numbers more than 65 titles. The press also plans to continue to publish more academic books under its Lamprey & Lee imprint in cooperation with New England institutions, such as Massachusetts General Hospital (Voices of the Massachusetts General Hospital 1950–2000: Wit, Wisdom, and Untold Tales) and Angell Memorial (Angell Memorial at 100).