It’s not that Wonderwell isn’t a hybrid publishing company. The LA-based firm has been setting the standard for excellence in hybrid publishing since it was founded in 2013, originally as LifeTree Media. In fact, publisher and CEO Maggie Langrick was part of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) working group that wrote the official criteria for hybrid publishers back in 2017. Langrick is a frequent and outspoken advocate of the hybrid model, speaking on ethics in hybrid publishing at IBPA’s Publishing University and lecturing on the model at NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. The Wonderwell imprint is frequently mentioned in roundups of high-quality hybrid presses from industry insiders such as Jane Friedman and Josh Bernoff.
But it’s hard to pigeonhole Wonderwell as only a hybrid publisher. “It’s more accurate to think of us as a multi-faceted, bespoke content studio that develops life-changing adult trade nonfiction books in partnership with authors on a variety of publishing paths,” Langrick says.
The company describes itself as “publishing model-agnostic,” which means it works with values-aligned authors of every publishing persuasion. “Our acquisition process is editor-driven,” Langrick says. “With every submission, we ask: ‘Is this a truly remarkable book that will make readers’ lives better?’ If the answer is no, we decline. And if it’s ‘not quite, but it could be,’ then we ask, how can we take it from good to truly remarkable? And then we do those things.” Sometimes that means re-outlining and re-titling the book to sharpen its differentiation and positioning, or providing intensive writing coaching to the author, or even ghostwriting the manuscript.
Take international bestselling author Annie Grace, whose book This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life (Avery) has sold more than a million copies worldwide. When Grace wanted to publish a passion project better suited to self-publishing, she turned to Wonderwell to expertly manage its content development and execution. And the company’s editorial team is now creating the content of Grace’s next adult trade nonfiction book, from outlining and titling to manuscript development.
Wonderwell runs a popular book planning program called the Big Leap, which is open to authors on all paths. Some are working toward acquisition by a traditional publisher. Others want to self-publish. And, of course, for those who fit the profile of a hybrid publishing author, Wonderwell can provide a path to market with full trade distribution and foreign language rights licensing under the Wonderwell imprint.
The boutique company publishes only about a dozen titles per year, but it punches above its weight, with more than half its titles recognized by peer-reviewed awards or placed on trade bestseller lists. “We are strongly market-focused,” explains Jennifer Jensen, Wonderwell’s sales and marketing director and a traditional publishing veteran who also leads the charge on author brand-building. “What do readers want, and how do their needs overlap with the author’s unique qualities? That’s the sweet spot that we guide our authors into.”
For readers, it’s all about the content and production excellence. For authors, this means deep support where they need it most. This ethos is also reflected in Wonderwell’s generous royalty terms.
Wonderwell authors in the assisted self-publishing program keep 100% of proceeds (after printing and the retailer fee). Authors in the Best Book (hybrid) program earn up to 65% of net receipts on every copy that the company sells and distributes into stores under its imprint.
Langrick is particularly proud of the long-standing relationships the company has forged with its authors. A case in point is Lindsay Sealey, whose third book with Wonderwell, Made for More, will come out in September.
For Langrick, Wonderwell’s publishing focus on books that help, heal, and inspire is a deeply personal one. “Nonfiction books saved my life,” she says. “For every emotional or practical problem I’ve faced, and for every passion I’ve felt drawn to pursue, it’s always a book that I turn to first.” This passion and deep commitment to reader impact is one of the major draws that Langrick says new authors appreciate when choosing Wonderwell. “Time and again, they tell me, ‘You are the only hybrid publisher that has shown this much interest in the book itself and that seems to share my mission.’”