After more than 10 years as a packager known for inventively designed titles, Melcher Media is launching its own publishing program with seven titles on a list headed by a book from architect and designer Michael Graves. The books will now have Melcher Media on the spine, but the company will continue to partner with firms to provide a range of marketing and promotional support for the books on its list.

Charles Melcher, founder and president of MM, said the firm has produced more than 40 books over the 10 years—from Bulfinch's bestselling Harley Davidson title to a series for MTV Books—many of which ended up on the bestseller lists. "We'll continue to do some packaging," he said, "but we want to augment that with our own publishing."

Why take on the risk of its own list? "It gives us a chance to own something," said Melcher, "to generate long-term value, a backlist, do licensing for games or movies and to control promotion and publicity." And because the house is small—11 full-time staffers with 30 to 40 freelancers at any given time—Melcher said, "we're focused, we can put a lot into each book." Andrews McMeel will handle the distribution. "Their account base is deep; they're in all the trade and gift markets we need access to," said Melcher of Andrews.

Melcher titles are always visually and physically distinctive. He produced the Pop-up Book of Phobias (HarperCollins) and packaged a lavish, pink fake alligator hardcover Sex and the City tie-in (Pocket) in a shoebox. Each sold more than 100,000 copies. "If books are going to compete with digital media," said Melcher, "they need a physical presence."

Beginning this spring with Michael Graves Designs the Art of the Everyday Object by Phil Patton (designed by Pentagram, the design group), Melcher will see to it with his own titles. The unusual format book (6"x12" trim) surveys the architect's work designing more than 1,000 household appliances to sell through his relationship with Target stores. First printing is 25,000 copies.

This fall, Melcher Media will release Fortune: Seventy-Five Years of Photographs, for the magazine's 75th anniversary. The coffee-table book will feature photos by a host of world-famous photographers—Ansel Adams, Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson among them—who worked for the magazine over the years. And Melcher will also offer The Lexus Story, the first book to be produced on the luxury car. Each title on the Melcher list will have a partner providing support—Target will launch and sell the Graves title; Fortune will mount exhibitions and provide advertising for its photography book; and Toyota will feature the Lexus title at auto shows and more.

As a packager, Melcher said he was successful because he's learned to "collaborate with companies. The process of selling a list has given me great empathy for the publishers we've worked for. It's not easy selling into this marketplace."