Three Things Thursday: Familius and Christopher Robbins

Today we are talking with Christopher Robbins (yep, you’ve heard a name like that before) about his company FAMILIUS.

See what he says, below.

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Familius mission: To help families be happy.  

Through the use of current digital technologies, Familius connects families with the books, e-books, videos, articles, and apps they need to build successful marriages and families. Familius is a  transmedia publisher, creating content across multiple platforms that focuses on marriage, parenting, family fun, fiction, education, health and wellness, and children.

1. Christopher, you worked for many years at Gibbs-Smith. What did you do there? How did this time prepare you to launch FAMILIUS?

I’ve been in book and magazine publishing since 1992.  As the CEO of Gibbs Smith during the late nineties and until 2012 I was part of a company that went from a regional, small, western publisher to  one of the most significant illustrated book publishers in the country, outpacing many of the New York houses in design, architecture, business, children’s, and cooking categories. At one point we held 40% of the top spots in design, had a NY Times bestseller, and were publishing over 100 titles a year.  Being part of such growth helped me to experience every area of publishing, from acquisitions to editorial to production to accounting to sales and marketing to fulfillment and more. Further as the industry changed from independents to chains to online to chain bankruptcy, the rise of social media, ebooks, and more, I became very familiar with the need of a publishing company to constantly adapt. The most important thing I learned was that publishing is a product driven business–publishing is about acquiring, not about editing.

2. What makes Familius different than other publishers? And is that difference good for all writers?

Familius is different in that we are not trying to be a traditional book publisher. First, we are what I call a transmedia publisher, a company that tries to publish content in as many ways as possible–books, articles, apps, video, etc. 52 School Lunches is a good example. This book succeeds as an ebook for all devices, an app for all devices, as content for our familius.com and as a print book scheduled for winter 2015. Further, at Familius we work hard and invest significantly in creating a website that attracts a family demographic. We don’t want to delegate the sales and marketing responsibility to stores or reps. We want to have a direct relationship with our customers. So, the third phase of Familius which launches in September is about building a community. As we strengthen our community we can then focus on finding writers for our readers rather than readers for our writers. This strategy inverts the traditional publishing program.

I think Familius is a company for writers who want to explore a new way of publishing and who are very eager to partner with a company who acts as a steward of their content. We don’t do well with authors who just expect us to do everything. Authors who engage with us throughout the process seem to enjoy the company and have more success. And so do we.

3. I know you are launching middle grade and young adult fiction this year. Why did you decide to step into the fiction arena?

We decided to explore fiction for two reasons: first, my kids always complained that I  never published anything they wanted to read. Second, we feel that there’s opportunity to publish very good, intelligent, wholesome, family-friendly fiction. We’d like to be a counterpoint to some of what’s out there. We’ve been working with some of our authors on what I call our fiction constitution, a standard of what we’ll be acquiring and publishing.

4. Are you a writer, too? What do you love to read?

I am a writer. I have published in poetry and nonfiction. My tastes in literature, art, music, and film are very eclectic. One day I’ll reread something like Tale of Two Cities or Pride and Prejudice and the next day I’ll read Edgar Rice Burroughs or one of my children’s picture or JV titles and then I’ll be reading Michael Pollan or a leadership book. Probably ADHD. I just like to explore and learn and discover.
5. Everyone will want to know this, Christopher, so I need to ask–what are you looking for to round out Familius’ line of books?
For our list, we’re looking to flesh out our family categories: marriage, parenting, family fun, education, health and wellness, children’s and fiction. We can be as broad as we want provided that we’re dealing with something that fulfills our mission to help families be happy. I’d personally love to see us publish both lighthearted gift books as well as some hard hitting, well-researched books on why marriage and family are important for society.
6. You work a lot with full-time college students. What do you look for in students who help you and what do you want them to do for Familius?
We work with both experienced and inexperienced people at Familius. We have a very robust international internship program that I have loved. It allows us to stay abreast of new and fresh ideas. Young people are exceptionally talented and energetic. They love to participate. They are grateful  to participate. And we’re grateful to have them. We also work with experienced editors, those who have more than five years of boots-on-the-ground editorial experience. This is clearly necessary to ensure our books have a professionalism to them. That said, I’m confident we can be better and strive to constantly challenge our  quality.
7. What is your hope for Familius in five years?
My hope for Familius in five years is that it is not only publishing around 50 titles annually but that it has a strong staff of family-dedicated employees who sincerely believe that the family is the central unit of society and who know that if we wish to improve the world, we need to work to support the family.
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