The Quirk of the New: Illustrated Colour Projects

By   John Bond 2 min read

whitefox CEO John Bond takes a newer breed of self-publishing, in the form of illustrated colour projects, into consideration.

When we think of successful indie publishing, there is a synaptic shortcut which takes us quickly to genre fiction, to crime and romance and, inevitably, to Kindle.

But in whitefox land here, we’re also aware of a thriving community of entrepreneurial writers and creators who have started to carve out their own niche within more complex, illustrated, colour projects. They may need more money upfront to enable professional input from designers, photographers and repro houses, but they also know they will be able to charge more for their end product as they look for a return on their initial investment. And many are driven by the desire to push traditional boundaries of expectations. The business book designed to look more like a recipe book, say. Or a series of blogs re-imagined in a coffee table format with infographics. Some of these books are potentially of interest to mainstream traditional publishers. They are well written, edited, and designed to a standard that meets their usual expectations.  They are often conceived by individuals who already have a network and platform enabling them to sell their books internationally. So they come with a guarantee of sales that effectively underwrite the risk of holding stock and making them available through high street and online retailers.

But what publishers, trade or academic, will see are the economies of scale. They will see regular, standard formats. They will see black and white illustrations rather than photographs. They will see paperbacks rather than quirky hardbacks. It is understandable. To get sign-off from all internal stakeholders, they need projects that make the most economic sense for reprints and for the channels they are used to serving. What is the cookie-cutter solution that works best within the confines of the dreaded P&L?

But whitefox are starting to work with some writers who don’t want their book to look like every other book on a particular subject. They see the jarring of conventional reader expectations as a positive. And they know who their readership is and what they are likely to pay. So they are having to make a choice. Weighing up the credibility of a known imprint on the spine of their physical book, global distribution and exploitation of rights, and a 10% royalty versus a longer term, logistically challenging but ultimately more creative and financially rewarding DIY approach.

At least now there is a choice. And that really hasn’t always been the case.

John Bond
John Bond
John has been involved in publishing for more than thirty years. He held senior positions at Penguin and at HarperCollins, where he was on the main board for nine years, running sales, marketing and publishing divisions including the 4th Estate imprint and their stable of award-winning authors such as Hilary Mantel, Jonathan Franzen and Nigel Slater. He co-founded Whitefox in 2012 on the principle that the future of successful publishing would be based upon external managed services and agile, creative collaboration with the highest quality specialists. Nothing that has happened since has dissuaded him of this view.