Tanya Hall worked in television in Los Angeles and flipped a few houses up the property ladder, but she wanted to find a tighter community for her two daughters to grow up. After visiting friends in the Hill Country, Tanya replied to a posting from Greenleaf Book Group. She came to Austin in 2004. “The real estate prices were all missing a zero.” She signed on as Greenleaf employee #4; Austin’s been her adopted hometown ever since.
Greenleaf started as a distribution company for self-published authors. Eventually, they built a sales force and enhanced their editorial and publishing capacity. Tanya hopscotched around the company, became COO, and in 2014 took the reins as CEO when Clint Greenleaf, founder, moved on to other endeavors. Today, Greenleaf is a midsize firm that publishes about 140 titles a year, mostly nonfiction with an emphasis on self-help .“The last two years have been the best ever. We’ve added lots of health titles and Paleo cookbooks.
Greenleaf Book Group provides an alternative model to traditional publishing houses: author-funded, menu-based services. Authors own their book. They pay Greenleaf service fees and retain a higher percentage of their sales. Agents are not usually part of the mix. Greenleaf offers straightforward publishing and distribution services as well as editing and public relations. Recently, they began providing content marketing: speaking and consultation gigs, websites and social media.
Each author creates a package of services for their needs and content. The author of a typical 200-page manuscript will pay in the range of $30,000 to create her book. Greenleaf has the capacity to place it in bookstores and on Amazon. “No publisher has a good relationship with Amazon, but we do well. We know how to optimize their algorithms and our authors received 35% of the cover price.” That’s significantly more than an author would receive through a traditional publishing house.
Greenleaf Book Group was included in the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Work Places in 2011, 2012, and 2013. “Tracy Fenton, founder of Worldblu is based in Austin. She liked the Greenleaf model and Clint Greenleaf thought it important to pursue designation. Our business model speaks to a more democratic way of publishing. We align our interests with our authors.”
Since Tanya became CEO in 2014, Greenleaf has not pursued Worldblu designation, though the principles that won the company distinction are still in place. “Our company is very flat. We rally people around what we do. One hallmark of our operations is our staff brainstorming sessions. We create a ‘Stupidest versus Hardest’ list to identify and weed out poor processes.” Every one of the forty employees, from receptionist to corner office, participates.
From Tanya’s perspective, the democratic activities incorporated in Greenleaf’s operations are not as important to the company’s workplace success as the culture of respect that permeates the company. “The most positive attribute of working at Greenleaf Book Group is the prevailing attitude: ‘assume best intent.’” This basic tenant values and respects each employee’s point of view and contribution. “When you unravel issues from the perspective of each person’s best intent, the resolution acknowledges everyone.”
How will we live tomorrow?