LifeTree Media is a relatively recent addition to the BC publishing industry. When did you launch the company, and what has your startup experience been like?
I launched the company in 2013, so we are now heading into our fourth year in business. As a first-time entrepreneur my learning curve was steep, to say the least. I had to create all of our business systems from scratch and learn the ropes of the publishing industry, all while scouting for new authors and, in many cases, personally editing their books! Further complicating things is the fact that we operate on a non-traditional business model, so it wasn’t as simple as modelling ourselves after other publishing companies. We have had to chart our own course in many ways, which is actually exciting.
What makes LifeTree Media different from its peers?
LifeTree Media is a hybrid publishing company that sits somewhere between traditional publishing and self-publishing. We work with authors to help them develop their books on a fee-for-service basis, and then we publish the books under our imprint and distribute them in stores across North America. There are very few companies publishing this way at this point, so a big part of my focus is on educating the market and establishing hybrid publishing as a credible alternative to more established routes.
How does your publishing company market and sell its titles?
In Canada, our books are distributed by University of Toronto Press and Heritage Group Distribution, and in the USA by Publishers Group West, which is the largest distributor of independent presses in the States. This is one of the key things that sets us apart from self-publishing – these are closed market channels that an independent author simply doesn’t have access to. We also sell foreign territory rights on behalf of our authors. Most of those deals are done at international rights markets such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is why it’s such an important event to attend.
This is the first year that Creative BC has expanded its Passport to Market program to provide funding for book publishers to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair. How has your company used the ‘Passport to Market’ funding?
We simply wouldn’t have been able to attend without it, at this point in our company’s growth. It’s an expensive trip, and there’s no guarantee of a direct return on investment, particularly for a company like ours that has a relatively small list. This year was the first year I’ve gone, and it was especially important that I should attend because one of our titles was receiving a major award. Vaporized by Robert Tercek was named International Book of the Year by the editors at getAbstract, which is kind of like a Readers’ Digest for business books. The Passport to Markets funding meant that I was able to be on hand to receive the award, and then to meet with foreign publishers who were interested in the book directly afterward.
How important is this type of funding for the publishing industry in BC?
The economics of publishing are very challenging in Canada because our country is vast but our population is small. We need to be able to step outside of our home market in order to sell our books in quantities that make them commercially viable. Even a relatively small boost such as the Passport to Markets funding can make a big difference.
What kind of interest did your books attract?
Vaporized was the hot ticket, of course. We haven’t yet inked a deal, but we’re in talks with several publishers from India, Germany, Australia and Spain who have expressed interest in acquiring it. And, of course, I also presented our other titles. There was a lot of interest in Discipline Without Damage by BC author Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, which has done very well here at home, including ten weeks on the BC Bestseller list, and an appearance on the Toronto Star bestseller list.
Aside from pursuing international rights deals, what else did you gain from the Frankfurt Book Fair in terms of business growth or professional development?
All business runs on relationships, and I came away from the Fair with some good, solid connections that I know will grow stronger in the years to come. On a personal note, it was an incredible feeling to be representing my own company at the world’s largest and most important publishing industry event. If you’re not on the field, you can’t play in the game. Feeling part of the global marketplace really expanded my vision for my company, and expanded my sense of my own road ahead as a Canadian publishing executive.
What will you do differently next time? Any lessons learned?
For one thing, I will wear more comfortable shoes next year! The fair is spread out over six massive halls, each one with multiple floors. It’s literally miles and miles of aisles. I’ll also start setting up my schedule a lot earlier – people get booked up months in advance, so it can be hard to get a last-minute meeting. But overall, I had an incredibly positive experience, for a first-timer. I mean, we won an international book award! That’s an experience I would be more than happy to repeat year after year.
LifeTree Media is a boutique hybrid publisher that publishes non-fiction books that help, heal and inspire. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the company offers a range of publishing services ranging from editorial development to full-service publishing and distribution, for a select group of high-caliber author-clients whose work meets its editorial mandate and standards of excellence.
Maggie Langrick is a writer, editor, public speaker and media entrepreneur. She is president and publisher at LifeTree Media, which she founded in 2013. Maggie was shortlisted for the 2015 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence for her work on Shell: One Woman’s Final Year After a Lifelong Struggle with Anorexia and Bulimia, written by Michelle Stewart and published by LifeTree in 2015.