Leapfolio is a commercial collaborative publishing venture established by the executives and staff of the nonprofit company Tupelo Press, one of the most respected literary book publishers in America.

Conventional routes to publishing — often involving labyrinthine manuscript submission procedures and intermediary agents to (possibly) get noticed by a decision maker at a corporate media conglomerate — aren’t meeting the needs of all aspiring authors.

Leapfolio provides guidance, hands-on expertise, and a customized book-production process for independent authors and organizations who recognize that collaborative publication is a viable way to meet personal, professional, and creative goals in the midst of a publishing industry that’s undergoing enormous shifts and changes.

Collaborative Publishing: your questions answered

Leapfolio, LLC is a leading independent publisher and a wholly empowering non-vanity option for writers. Many writers understand that collaborative publishing is a viable solution to the industry’s future.

According to many, the definition of a vanity publisher is ‘any company that charges a client to publish a book…’. What, then, is the difference between a vanity publisher and a collaborative publisher like Leapfolio?

Vanity publishers provide a rigid and limited service: to turn an author’s words into book form (either physical or digital). That in itself is not a bad thing. It’s simply another avenue for book publication, and for some authors, it might be the perfect route – it means they have control (albeit within a range of limited options) and get to see their words in print. But the word “vanity” carries associations of a ‘last resort’ and, sadly, many of the services offered by vanity publishers tend to be low-grade and rather expensive, given what you get.

The Leapfolio Difference:

The difference with Leapfolio? Firstly, our authors aren’t clients, but rather, partners, who understand and appreciate the values and advantages inherent in a boutique or “bespoke” publishing model. Our partners play an active and integral role in every aspect of the book’s life, from initial editing to design to
sales and promotion and beyond. Secondly, as with traditional publishers, we pick and choose the projects we wish to publish, taking only books that we feel have both literary and sales potential, and we then sit with the author and work out exactly what they want to achieve with their book. The upshot is a project that works for the author, the publisher, and for the reader.

Let’s be clear – authors do contribute in a meaningful way to clearly defined costs of editing, production, and promotion to the extent appropriate for their particular project. For example, Leapfolio is very unlikely (at least at this stage in its existence) to publicize a book via print advertising campaign, but if an author
wants to fund that promotion, then it will be part of the agreement we put together. (We have a fine, experienced, reasonably priced ad agency at the ready.) Every author is different, every project is different, and what we do is develop individualized contracts, opportunities, and strategies for every author.

We suggest that collaborative publishing provides authors with all the benefits of traditional publishing: a project manager, an engaged, communicative content editor, knowledgeable staff, great design (we have terrific designers), a viable route to market, promotion, etc., with creative and commercial engagement at every part of the process.

Every aspect of the project is a shared experience, and authors may choose to engage with the publication process as much or as little as they want. Every project is unique – we can’t stress that enough – and every project is developed on and around its merits and strengths and the strengths of its author. Our aim is
to innovate, challenge, and excite – to establish new voices and give readers the opportunity to discover new talent.

Why the need for collaborative publishing?

Because the number, quality, and availability of traditional commercial vehicles for important books are terribly limited. Because authors should consistently be at the center of the publishing experience, from initial discussion and on throughout
the life of the book. Because every single project is unique, and every author plays a key role, not just in delivering a manuscript, but also in bringing the book to life.

For too long many in the publishing industry have been treating authors as a commodity, a deliverer of content, part of a process, rather than the key driver of the publishing experience. This seems particularly shortsighted when the routes to market have changed so much, are so varied and competitive, that the same
publishers then come back to the author with a finished product and ask them to market and sell it.  No wonder so many authors self-publish.

Authors are the most valuable component of “content.” This is about working in an engaged way with authors to be entrepreneurial, agile, and innovative – and to enjoy it! There is no ‘set’ way of doing things. One book might excel as a digital only book; another might sell better as individual chapter downloads;
another as an appropriately priced, beautifully made niche hardback or paperback. This isn’t just about taking on ‘safe’ projects; it’s about getting words in front of as big an audience as possible, in whatever form and format they want them.

In theory, Leapfolio is an independent publisher. But not because we’re going it alone. Far from it. You see, everything that matters about publishing is based on collaboration, on partnering with others to reach your goals, to pursue your dreams. It might sound romanticized and idyllic, but this is where publishers have
got to go. Publishers need to be mindful of what matters, not just to them, but also (and more importantly) to those who write and those who read. Otherwise, what do we add? What do we offer?

As a publisher, I want to share my ideas about making beautiful books, about innovative ways of finding target audiences, about bringing those books into the world, about giving them as successful life as possible. My own 24 years of publishing experience comes as founder and publisher of Tupelo Press, one of the country’s most important nonprofit, independent literary presses. Alan Berolzheimer, our Production Manager, bring to bear his own lengthy experience and creativity. But we don’t want to just impose our ideas; what we do has to be part of the author’s vision as well. Having a team like this means that we can be straightforward and clear, we can be agile, we can respond quickly and creatively to every challenge, we can treat every single project as the ‘everything,’ and we can work together to find ways to make it happen.

What does Leapfolio expect of its authors?

Nothing more or less than commitment to the project – on their terms. Collaboration is exactly that – books don’t sell just because they’re published, it’s bloody hard work, and authors have to be fully engaged with their role in that process from the start. If not, the partnership won’t work. Just as an author
doesn’t want a publisher that simply puts their words into print, a publisher doesn’t want an author who thinks their role starts and ends with providing a Word document (unless of course they make it clear to us that’s what they want!). We expect engagement, excitement, and enthusiasm from our authors, in
addition to an abiding belief in their project. Frankly, that tends to be a given with nearly every author.

What can Leapfolio authors expect from their publisher?

Commitment. Expertise. Substantial experience. Innovative ideas. Beautiful design. Effective publicity and marketing. Well-planned distribution. So many authors have made it clear they’re disappointed with the way they‘re treated by publishers and agents, even service suppliers. Our interest in your book doesn’t end at the contract stage, or even at publication, but lasts throughout the life of the book. Authors need and deserve an engaged and positive editorial and publishing experience. We want our authors to succeed, we want to build and develop
success, and we want to grow with our authors. And to do that, we have to be fully committed to the care, content, and collaboration ethos. Authors get knowledge, advice, experience and a timely ‘on call’ response throughout their book’s life, and we keep our books in print indefinitely – a service and an
assurance that no commercial or vanity press can offer.

Do you regularly turn down manuscripts?

All the time. Far more than are taken on. The ratio is probably one project commissioned for every 10 turned down. For every project that’s rejected, there’s no standard letter. We give genuine feedback where we can and advice on how the author can get published. Why go to this effort? All part of the collaborative process. The publishing world is a fairly small one and if authors are telling a good Leapfolio story then that is great not just for the company but our books and visibility. Besides, I think if an author goes to the effort of contacting Leapfolio, and more importantly, considers Leapfolio a worthy potential choice for their project, then the very least they deserve is a personalized response.

How do you market, promote and distribute your titles?

First and foremost, Leapfolio participates in a joint venture marketing and distribution agreement with Tupelo Press, a nonprofit literary press that has been publishing and distributing deserving books for 24 years. Tupelo is the only literary press in the country to have established its own distribution network,
sales teams, and fulfillment facility. Through this joint venture, the Tupelo Press sales, marketing, publicity and distribution teams are all available to Leapfolio.

This means that, unlike most (if not all) vanity publishers, your book will enter into a seasoned distribution network; one that includes an extraordinary social media presence; one that includes a captive email list of book-buyers that numbers well in excess of 16,000 addresses; that includes five teams of sales agents to cover bookstores (independent and chain) throughout the entire country. Further, your book may enter into an international distribution capability that boasts the UK, Australia, India, Spain, Russia, and five other countries. It means that your book enjoys the relationships that Tupelo Press has established with review sources (national journals and magazines, both print and electronic.)

Your book is presented to our sales reps and is included in a physical and online Leapfolio catalog that goes to each of the “reps” in our four, contracted sales teams. This means that each and every sales rep has a catalog containing only Leapfolio books, and enormous advantage over distributors whose catalogs feature as many as 150 different publishers and a staggering number of books. Leapfolio books are also distributed by the two largest wholesalers in the country: Ingram and Baker & Taylor. In addition, we maintain and manage an active relationship with Amazon, and we see to the placement and management of your book’s presence there.

Next, you, too, will have your own author network. That is always where one finds the most dynamic, loyal, and enthusiastic audience, and ideal for getting the book’s profile on the rise. You will receive a copy of our “Guerilla Marketing Guide,” which is chock-a-block with useful marketing suggestions, and you can take full advantage of most of them.

Books tend to have long lives. The right books can still sell very strongly, if not more strongly, months and even years after publication, and we work consistently and persistently across the list to keep that profile high on every title. We also try to sell as many books as possible directly from our own warehousing
and shipping facility.

Granted that your authors require a diversity of services that will affect the price of a package, but how much on average will it cost an author to publish their work through Leapfolio?

There is no “average” project. Our projects to date have called on the author for a collaborative contribution ranging from $8,500 to $15,000, depending on the project and its aims, length of the book, editing requirements, size of print-run, marketing campaigns, and any number of other variables. The return is directly linked to that, so royalties on sales result, on average, with 70% of net sales coming back to the author. The best way to understand how all of this can work for your book is to send your project to Leapfolio and discuss it with us.