Team publishing at Hol

While I was slightly disconnected from the Internet over the holidays, I curled up with my laptop and read all the accumulated newsletters and links that had piled up in my inbox.

Publishing Perspectives’ feature on Hol Art Books caught my attention for two reasons.

First, their launch title, Museum Legs, was one I noted at the Brooklyn Book Fair. I accidentally went to the fair with no money, and had to write down interesting titles for later purchase or library loan. Museum Legs was at the top of the list.

See, my husband likes art museums, especially those with lots of visual art. (Think the Met and the Guggenheim.) I like the kinds of museums meant for history buffs and kids, especially those that allow a lot of of touching and encourage a lot of imagining. (Think the American Museum of Natural History or the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.)

Too much time amid visual art makes me ornery, and I can’t stay at a museum for more than an hour or two without finding a well-lit corner and pulling out a book. My husband says this is because I try to see everything, all at once. I think he’s being generous.

No matter the cause, my inability to make my way through the Met has always felt like a moral failing. Until I read the back cover copy for Museum Legs.

If you’ve ever considered going to an art museum and then thought, errr, I’ll do something else… If you’ve ever arrived at one and left a little glazed and confused… If you’ve ever thought, I might read an eight-page article about art museums but not a whole book… Then this is your story.

Museum Legs—taken from a term for art fatigue—starts with a question: Why do people get bored and tired in art museums and why does that matter? As Whitaker writes in this humorous and incisive collection of essays, museums matter for reasons that have less to do with art as we know it and more to do with business, politics, and the age-old question of how to live.

Finally, someone was talking about the way I interact with museums!

Second, the PP article discussed Hol Art Books’ team publishing model.

At Hol, anyone can propose a book project. There are no acquisition editors to man the publishing gates. The only guideline is that a book be related to the visual arts.

Any publishing professional can apply to work on a project. The hope is that they only choose books that look interesting to them.

The key is that no one–not the publishing team, Hol Art Books or the author–is paid until the book sells.

Hol prints and distributes the books; the team works only on books they love; and the author works closely with the team and the publisher to create the book they most want to write (or see translated.)

As I’m learning from Clay Shirky, sometimes love is a more powerful motivator than money. Since this team publishing model seems to be based mostly on the team’s love of, or belief in, a project, I want to explore the model further.

First, I’ll read Museum Legs to get a sense of what comes out of a team publishing effort. Next, I’ll think about applying to one of the art book projects, if there are any that really speak to me. (With my aversion to art museums, this is a long shot, I know.) Then, I’ll think about how this team publishing thing might work in other areas, like romance.

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I work as an editor at Harlequin, but the posts on this site are all mine and don’t represent my employer's positions, strategies or opinions.
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