When Angela Engel launched the Collective Book Studio, a comprehensive publishing company distributed by Independent Publishers Group (IPG), her goal was to create an operation that would partner with authors and adhere to their creative visions every step of the way—from creative development and editorial to project management and design and layout to finished books, sales, and marketing.
“Spend time doing what you love and we will manage the rest,” Engel says, summarizing her message and commitment to each author the Collective works with.
Engel began thinking about the Collective Book Studio in November of 2018: she saw the way Amazon had affected publishing and firmly believed the industry needed to reinvent itself. In January of 2019, the Collective Book Studio was born, with an experienced staff that includes industry veterans such as Elisabeth Saake, director of operations and acquisitions, and Dean Burrell, managing editorial director. Since then,the team has grown to 13 staffers with more than 100 years of collective industry experience. Engel, who cut her teeth at Chronicle Books and worked with brands such as Dwell and Moleskine, founded the company with help from Lauren Bensinger and other colleagues from her decades in publishing.
The main difference, Engel says, between the Collective and other publishers is the way the house collaborates with authors and invests in their projects. The Collective, which specializes in the food and lifestyle, gift, and children’s categories, is a partnership publisher, something Engel describes as an established and successful business model. Projects that come to the Collective are rarely agented—though Engel says she’d welcome that—and the Collective doesn’t pay advances. Instead, it offers authors a collaborative publishing process—and one that is personal and accessible.
“Our clients choose us, and we choose them. It has to be mutual,” Engel says. She emphasizes that an editor screens each proposal before a project is acquired, and that the Collective works to discover great books other houses often overlook. Unlike the isolation of self-publishing, the Collective’s partnership publishing model offers authors the chance to work with a dedicated team. “You need people, not an interface,” Engel says. “Authors want to own their intellectual property, and we make space for authors to have that ownership and agency.”
Exceptional book design, production, and packaging help make the Collective’s books stand out. “It defines the standard of work we set as a collective, “Engel says, noting that she and her team “believe the bookmaking process is an art form.” Their discipline extends to careful consideration of every detail—the small touches that make their authors’ books distinctive. “These principles set the standard for the work we do,” Engel says. “For us, it’s all about creating a quality experience for both authors and readers.”
The novel coronavirus has had an unprecedented effect on the publishing industry, but for the Collective, the pivot was relatively smooth. Its team has worked remotely from the beginning, and flexibility is built into the company’s business model to ensure high quality throughout the production process. Engel notes that Burrell, who has more than 30 years of experience in publishing, has not missed a beat. And in its second year, the Collective—which is ready to accept orders from booksellers through IPG—continues to grow and forge new partnerships.
“We were already prepared, and our work model is adaptable to the current conditions, which have only made the team stronger,” Engel says, emphasizing that the Collective works with emerging and experienced authors alike. “We are a team of creators, thinkers, and bookmakers. We are disrupters who are rising to new challenges and offering authors a vital, new publishing platform based on decades of experience.”