Award-winning podcaster, author and entrepreneur Zibby Owens today announced the formation of Zibby Books, a new publishing company with a unique author-centered model. The imprint joins Moms Don’t Have Time To as a division of Zibby Owens Media.

Co-founders Zibby and publishing veteran Leigh Newman developed Zibby Books out of the need they saw in the industry to find alternatives to a long-standing business model that doesn’t work for most authors. After interviewing almost 1,000 authors over the past three and half years for her podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, Zibby, a Harvard Business School graduate and an author herself, has developed many insights into what’s working in publishing and what’s not, as well as where hidden opportunities lie.

REIMAGINING PUBLISHING

“We wanted to change the way traditional publishing was being done to better serve authors, readers and the industry itself,” explains Zibby. “So many people in all areas have expressed frustration and discouragement with the ways things are currently structured. There are some clear-cut ways to improve upon the existing infrastructure without having to knock down the building. But this building will be gleaming and new with state-of-the-art everything!”

Co-founders Zibby Owens and Leigh Newman

To do so, Zibby and Leigh looked beyond publishing to what is happening in other industries, from entertainment and music to podcasting and retail. But really the ideas stem from their own creativity and vision.

“Our strategies across author deals, bookselling, marketing and community will hopefully help move publishing into the 21st century and benefit all authors, not just ours,” Zibby says. “I’d love nothing more than for other publishing companies to adopt any and all of our ideas.”

These ideas include modes of profit-sharing, influencer marketing, ambassador marketing, retail marketing and consumer engagement. (See sidebar for details.)

FORTHCOMING TITLES

Zibby Books will begin releasing titles starting January 2023, publishing 12 books per year at a pace of one per month. The company says that the goal is to produce “exceptional, accessible (‘book club’) stories that move and connect readers” with a commitment to diverse literary voices. Says Zibby, “We’re looking for fiction and memoir from debut and established authors with a strong sense of voice and place.”

Of the inaugural catalog, Zibby has revealed six forthcoming titles. “We have a memoir by Meghan Riordan Jarvis, a trauma therapist, writing on her own hospitalization due to trauma after her mother’s death; former lawyer/JP Morgan exec/SoulCycle instructor Mireya D’Angelo will write about her experience as a Black Cuban immigrant and as a Julliard-trained musician; school librarian Julie Chavez will write about motherhood and anxiety; fashion designer Shoshanna Gruss will tell her family’s Holocaust story and her own entrepreneurial path to success; Michelle Wildgen’s novel is set in France and Madison, Wisconsin and tackles the wine business; Jane Delurys novel centers on a historical gardening expert who get embroils in a love affair that threatens her marriage — and her daughter.”

Authors who are interested in submitting work should query first. Says Zibby, “We have a form on our website that agents or authors can fill out with some key information about their project. If it piques our interest, we’ll reach out for more information about it.”

AN ALL-STAR EXECUTIVE TEAM

The entire executive team of Zibby Books is made up of authors. Zibby herself has edited two anthologies, Moms Don’t Have Time To and Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids (11/2), with a children’s book Princess Charming (4/22) and a memoir The Book Messenger (7/22) forthcoming.

From top left: Zibby Owens, Leigh Newman, Jaunique Sealey, Maya Shanbhag Lang, Anne Messitte

Leigh Newman, Co-Founder, President & Editorial Director, wrote the memoir Still Points North and the upcoming Nobody Gets Out Alive (4/22). VP of Strategy & Book Club Jaunique Sealey’s new book Black Girls Must Die Exhausted (under the pen name Jayne Allen) comes out 9/28. Maya Shanbhag Lang, author of What We Carry: A Memoir and the novel The Sixteenth of June, will be VP of Editorial & Strategy. 

Consulting Publisher Anne Messitte, while not an author herself, has edited and published many of the world’s leading writers in her two decades at Penguin Random House as Publisher of Vintage Anchor. 

“I really want to help. That’s why I’m doing this,” says Zibby. “I want to help authors let their books get the spotlight. I want to leverage the author community to band together to make the changes that are truly necessary. I want to help readers by our curation and dedication to finding them where they are, not requiring them to come to us, and saving them time. And I want to help publishing in general by showing what can be done to make everyone happier and the industry more successful.”

She recognizes that this is an undertaking that carries with it some amount of risk, but the upside is worth it. “It’s ambitious and bold but life is short,” she says. “I feel privileged to be able to make a difference in an area I’m completely passionate about. Books are absolutely essential to my own well-being personally. I want to bring that power to everyone else.”

For more information about Zibby Books, visit www.zibbybooks.com.

A NEW MODEL FOR PUBLISHING

|| Profit-Sharing

Zibby Books has created what it is calling a “Profit Sharing Bonus Program.” A whopping 75 percent of all net profits in each calendar year will be split in equal share between every employee and the publishing program’s authors who, in addition to receiving advances and author royalties, will receive the profit bonus for both their year of publication and their first year of backlist, as well as any years during which their book has outsized sales results.

“We want all authors under the Zibby Books umbrella to feel — and be — invested in each other’s success,” Leigh explains. “All employees from the copy editor to the VP of Marketing play an equally important role. Producing books is a team effort.”

|| Influencer Marketing

Instead of relying on celebrities to promote books (such as Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush or Oprah Winfrey), Zibby is calling on other bestselling and established authors to give back and lift up individual titles from inception to publication. Dubbed “Book Champions,” those bestselling authors will get an equity stake in their Zibby Book and mentor the author along the way.

“Authors have banded together informally on social media and in other ways to address the seemingly insurmountable odds of an individual book breaking through,” Zibby says. “Authors also know great writing when they see it. Why shouldn’t they be the arbiters of talent? Our author-influencer network will show that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Zibby goes on to elaborate, “We’ve decided to recruit book-specific Book Champions based on the book content. Elin Hilderbrand has signed on early and is excited to be ‘matched’ soon, as are many other notables.”

|| Sales Ambassadors and Retail Marketing

A combination of grassroots marketing and retail marketing inform the imprint’s sales strategy. On the consumer end, Zibby Books will tap book lovers and fans on a hyper-local level to serve as Sales Ambassadors with built-in financial incentives. 

Zibby Books will also aggressively support booksellers with Book Club outreach, unique events and immersive experiences related to the company’s titles. The imprint will have a strong focus on working with local indie retailers with the help of an Independent Bookseller Advisory Board that includes some of the most well-known indie bookstores in the country like the Strand, Books Are Magic and R.J. Julia.