Once upon a time, an author who wanted to see their work in print had two options: try to attract a traditional publisher to produce and market the book in return for rights and royalties, or self-publish, owning all the royalties but bearing much of the up-front printing and publicity. In the past few years, an alternative to that all-or-nothing model has evolved. This brave new world is known as hybrid publishing, where the terms and risks can be more equitably shared between the parties.
One of the most active of these hybrid outlets is Girl Friday Productions. Founded in 2006, after new moms Leslie “Lam” Miller and Ingrid Emerick found themselves desiring less rigidity in their schedules than their traditional publishing house offered, the new company started “with the key value of keeping radical flexibility at the forefront,” says Miller, Girl Friday’s CEO. That’s allowed them to connect with a wide variety of authors and clients whose needs don’t fit neatly into one literary box but whose primary goal is to see their book on the shelves of a bricks-and-mortar retailer—and Girl Friday has the national sales relationships to make that happen.
But a writer’s motivation isn’t always tied to sales, and there are myriad reasons why a person might want to publish. “Many thought leaders and entrepreneurs write book-production costs off as a marketing expense, since they recognize the legitimizing value of a byline to their authority,” Miller says. “A book can also function as a lead-generation tool to drive conversion to contract sales.” And this applies to creative writers as well. Miller quotes publishing expert Jane Friedman, who says, “Most writers, regardless of how they publish, are motivated not by money, but by some other reason. Prestige. Infamy. Status. Visibility. A million other things.”
Girl Friday began its business life as an editorial firm for authors and packager for bestsellers like Anthony Bourdain Remembered and Modernist Bread and expanded from there into independent publishing services. “After several years of that division growing by leaps and bounds,” Miller says, “we opened the hybrid arm of the business so that we could better meet and serve the needs of authors for whom in-store distribution was a critical component of their success.”
But that’s not all the company can do. “We offer traditional-quality end-to-end editorial, design, and production services for all our books, in all formats, from POD to e-book, audio, or offset-printed with all the bells and whistles,” says Ingrid Emerick, president of Girl Friday. “Our marketing department supports our hybrid clients with comprehensive and strategic cross-channel reader marketing plans, including branding assets and website design, social media, podcast pitching, Goodreads activations, email promos, Amazon ads, and much more.”
Plus, Girl Friday Productions boasts national sales representation not only at booksellers but also at retail outlets like Target, Urban Outfitters, PaperSource, REI, and more. “Our sales team personally represents our hybrid titles to our distributor,” Emerick says. “Two Rivers, a selective division of Ingram, is our distribution partner; access to this national network of sales reps is not something that is available to self-published authors anywhere.”
With only a couple of seasons under their belt so far, they’ve had several notable successes. “We were proud to publish Karena Dawn’s memoir, The Big Silence, which has enjoyed strong initial sales and a 20-city book tour,” Emerick says. “Our gift title A Little Book of Self-Care for Those Who Grieve by Paula Becker has become an evergreen seller in the gift and bookstore channels, and Laura Davis’s The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story has received critical acclaim and a gold Independent Publishers Book Award.”
Looking ahead, Miller admits the publishing industry, including Girl Friday, “has a ways to go in better understanding, acquiring, and championing the full diversity of narratives. There are so many authors whose stories need to be told, and we all need to do the work to deliver a publishing future that reflects all readers.”