After leaving traditional publishing, in which he served in executive roles with Nelson Books and at Simon & Schuster’s Howard Books division, Jonathan Merkh has joined the ranks of hybrid publishers. His new company, Forefront Books, will release its first two books this fall, and Merkh plans a list of five to six titles for the spring. “My goal is to work with a small number of high-volume clients,” Merkh said.
His first author certainly fits that description. Peggy Rowe is the mother of Mike Rowe, the television host and narrator best known for hosting the TV shows Dirty Jobs and Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Merkh had known Rowe from his days at S&S ,and learned that his mother had produced a self-published book that sold out of 10,000 copies in three weeks. The Rowes had printed the 10,000 copies themselves, and when they sold out of the first run so quickly, Mike Rowe thought it was time for some professional help.
Merkh said the Rowes liked his model, which, like that of most hybrid publishers, calls for no advance but a split of the profits—“the higher the platform, the bigger the split," Merkh said. Authors also pay a one-time fee for Merkh’s services, which he said covers “walking authors through the publishing process.” After the manuscript is ready, Merkh will advise authors on the next marketing and publicity steps they should take and recommend some companies.
In the case of the Rowes, their biggest platform is Facebook; Mike has about 5 million followers, and he does a regular bit on his mother called “Mondays with Mother.” When Rowe started promoting the book, orders poured in.
About My Mother: True Stories of a Horse-Crazy Daughter and her Baseball Obsessed Mother will be released November 13 and will be distributed by Forefront’s distributor, S&S. Pre-sold copies now total to about 15,000, which includes both print and e-books.
About My Mother is Forefront’s second book. On October 9, it published Iconic by Scott McKain, an author and speaker who, among other accomplishments, is in the Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame. His new book explains what it takes to become an iconic organization or leader.
And Merkh already has what he thinks will be a big title for the spring. Climb Every Mountain is by Trudy Cathy White, the only daughter of the founders of Chick-fil-A. Set for a February release, Climb is described as the "inspirational true story" from White in which she "shares personal stories to support foundational Biblical truths." White and her husband had served as missionaries in Brazil and cofounded Lifeshape and its Impact 360 Institute.
Merkh said that Forefront will focus on the types of books he published at Nelson and Howard—nonfiction inspirational books, memoirs, and business books.