by L.M. Browning
“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”
At the age of 27, I was offered every writer’s dream: a book deal (and not just a one-book contract but five-book.) I enthusiastically signed and went from scribbler to author, only to be quickly disillusioned by the entire process. The manuscript I had worked on for so long was taken from me, it was changed significantly from its original vision, it wasn’t edited, a horrendous cover was slapped on it, the interior design was childish, and I was marketed on a platform that went against everything in which I believe. It was at that point that the five-book deal was re-negotiated into a two or three-book deal so that I could break from the “publisher” sooner. At the same time I was going through this ordeal, I got a job at an independent poetry press in Boston and started learning the ins-and-outs of publishing and began to ponder opening my own house, wherein I could operate as I felt a publisher should: with courtesy and transparency.
In 2011, with under $600.00 to my name, I opened Homebound Publications. I left a teaching position where I had a steady income and health insurance to open the publishing house in the middle of a recession, at a point in time in the industry where everyone was convinced print was going to be extinct and e-readers would be king. The first year we did four titles—two of which were new editions of my own books that I had fought to regain the rights to from the former publisher. That year, we cleared under $5,000 but our reputation was buzzing among authors. We offered higher-than-average royalties, consulted authors during the editorial and design phase, and worked to market all our titles. The four titles we did that first year went on to win respected indie awards so we knew we were doing something right even if things weren’t exactly high-grossing. We continued on like that for a number of years. Putting out 15-20 solid titles each year but never reaching that sustainable income figure. Something had to change.
This past February, we celebrated our 6th anniversary and I once again had to get in touch with the entrepreneurial bravery with which I founded the company—with which any indie author puts forth their work into the world and any publisher decides to open for business. I needed to renew that bravery because it was time to take a huge leap. . . .
This is not to say we weren’t “successful” as a publishing house. Homebound Publications did well. We have nearly 100 titles in print, a healthy backlist, four divisions, two imprints, and our titles routinely gather indie awards. Yet it was clear to me that we were rapidly reaching the cap of what we could do. I knew that we were root-bound in our current model. The answer: The press needed better distribution.
Distribution is the linchpin of the publishing endeavor and we were falling short. It is all well and good to publish stellar titles but if no one knows about them then what is the point? So, with fear and trembling, I reached out to some of the likely candidates—IPS (Ingram Publishing Services), Midpoint Trade Books, and so forth—to find the company that is right for us at this point in time.
I negotiated the distribution deal for six months (paring down the risk where I could) and approaching investors to help gather the money we would need in order to make the transition from print-on-demand to the short-runs model required to stock the warehouses of distributors. Even when everything was in place, I was still uneasy because I didn’t want to risk this house that I’d so painstakingly built.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes of success and failure saying, “Both are proud and terrifying.” Well, that was where I was at: proud to have reached this point of success and terrified at the thought of everything getting bigger—the deals, the money, the returns, the risk . . . In the end though, I tried to remember the entrepreneurial bravery with which I founded the press; I tried to remember all that I had learned from my years in business and trust in my ability to handle issues as they come up and learn from mistakes; I measured the risk and only signed the deal when it was feasible to do so (all the while keenly aware that even the safest deal has risks). In the end, I picked up the pen and inked the deal.
Homebound Publications is pleased to announce that, as of May 1, 2017, Midpoint Trade Books shall be the distributor for our entire house and all its divisions including Owl House Books and Hiraeth Press. In this landmark agreement, Homebound Publications has achieved global distribution of its entire library. Now retailers will be able to order our titles with ease through their preferred source, including industry leaders Ingram and Baker & Taylor. In addition, the press signed a supplement deal with Gazelle Book Services in England, which will handle sales in the United Kingdom and abroad. This is a huge stride forward for our burgeoning press. All our offerings will now be readily available in your independent bookstores as well as larger retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Founded in Connecticut in 2011, Homebound Publications is one of the rising independent publishers in the country. Collectively through our imprints, we publish between fifteen to twenty books each year and we have almost seventy-five titles distributed worldwide. Over the years, our authors have received dozens of awards including: Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, Nautilus Book Awards, and Saltire Literary Awards. Highly-respected among bookstores, readers, and authors alike, Homebound Publications has a proven devotion to quality, originality, and integrity. As an independent publisher, we strive to ensure, that the mainstream is not the only stream. It is our intention at Homebound Publications to preserve contemplative storytelling. We publish full-length introspective works of creative non-fiction, travel writing, poetry, and novels.
Midpoint was founded in 1996 by a group of industry professionals, including current President Eric Kampmann and Executive Vice President Chris Bell. Their office is located in the Flatiron District of New York City, and represents independent publishers across the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. Today, Midpoint retains the same entrepreneurial spirit with which the company was founded.
We look forward to this exciting time!
Leslie M. Browning
Founder and Publisher, Homebound Publications