A Q&A with Authors Equity CEO Madeline McIntosh

Last week, I wrote some thoughts in Today in Books about the new publishing company Authors Equity. CEO Madeline McIntosh offered to answer a few questions related to my piece. Here are my questions and her unedited answers.

In The New York Times piece last week, a clear connection was made between Authors Equity reliance on freelance editors, publicists, and marketers for each book’s publishing team and the higher royalty rates for authors. Can you say more about this connection and how these publishing teams will be different than what you might see at a traditional publisher?

The connection between our team structure and higher royalty rates is relatively straightforward. By operating without the overhead of a traditional publishing house – large corporate staff and  services, expensive real estate, etc. – we can invest more into author compensation and book marketing. 

Our model offers additional advantages that contribute to an author’s success. Usually, when a publisher assigns a team to work on a book, they have to work within the bounds of who’s already on their staff.  In our model, we build customized teams for each book, and we can draw from a much more diverse base of experts across different fields, inside and outside our industry. It’s easier this way to ensure the team possesses the perfect blend of skills and perspectives to connect the book with its ideal audience.

In addition to the profit share with the author, we also offer profit shares to key members of the freelance team. This aligns incentives, creating a sense of shared ownership and driving a commitment to excellence. Each incremental book sold truly matters to everyone on the team. We believe this approach, along with the flexibility we offer authors, leads to a more dynamic, engaged team and ultimately, more successful books. 

Author involvement is a key piece of what Authors Equity has to offer. What might an author be able to do with Authors Equity that they couldn’t elsewhere?

Authors are often the best experts about their audience, but they’re often only peripherally involved in shaping the publishing strategy – plans get presented to them, instead of shaped with them. We welcome authors into the process. This isn’t about making them do more work, it’s about empowering them to be as involved as they want to be. For some, this will mean weighing in on paper quality and galley distribution. For others, it might be about the level of marketing spend. We’ll provide expert guidance based on our experience, framing the pros and cons of each option. Ultimately, we arrive at decisions together, ensuring the best path forward for each individual book. 

Tim Ferris, one of Authors Equity’s investors, was quoted in Publishers Weekly saying “I hope the company sets new precedents in an age-old industry that’s ripe for innovation.” Is it a hope of Authors Equity that other publishers will adopt similar practices? Do you think if Authors Equity is successful that they will?

Our focus right now is on proving the value of our author-centric model, including its unique profit-sharing approach and focus on collaborative decision-making. We hope that by demonstrating an alternative path forward – one that prioritizes flexibility, transparency, and author empowerment –  we can inspire positive change across the industry. 

In addition to better pay and benefits, one of the points of emphasis for many worker empowerment efforts at the major publishing houses over the last few years has been diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion are not stated among Authors Equity Core Principles. None of the named members of staff or any of the named investors in the PW piece appear to be people of color. Are there people of color involved here at the beginning? Is diversity and inclusion something Authors Equity cares about? If so, what practices and policies will exist to support it?

Authors Equity is committed to building a diverse and inclusive team at all levels, and to fostering an environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute. Recognizing the need for broader representation, we’ve launched publicly now, even before having books ready to market, so that we can engage with a wider network of authors and talent. 

Our flexible team structure allows us to reach beyond traditional publishing circles and tap into a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. This broadens our talent pool and makes the industry more accessible to people from diverse backgrounds.

Our focus on matching expertise and aligning teams with each author’s vision inherently creates a space where diverse voices are heard, valued, and respected. This author-centric approach empowers a wider range of authors to reach their full potential. 

Additionally, while we provide expertise and guidance, authors have a decisive voice in all aspects of their work, from editing and design to marketing and budget allocation. This ensures all authors, including debut and diverse voices, have the power to shape their message, connect with their target audience, and achieve their publishing goals.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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