IBPA Member Spotlight: Hamilcar Publications
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Posted by: Christopher Locke
Hamilcar Publications Starts Strong by Giving Back to Boxing Community
|(from left to right) Stefani Belloise Pedone and former boxing world champion Roberto Duran with Hamilcar Publications co-founders Andy Komack and Kyle Sarofeen at the Ring 10 charity event.
IBPA member and independent publisher Hamilcar Publications begins publishing books this month, and they’re starting off with a one-two punch. Not only are they about to publish their first title, Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story, but they are also making sure they give back to the boxing community right from the start.
|Hamilcar Publications' new book, Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story by Candace Toft
“Very organically, Kyle [Sarofeen] and I decided at the start of Hamilcar Publications that we would find a charity that was helping boxers in need,” said Hamilcar Publications co-founder Andy Komack. “We know that the sport is violent and the vast majority of the boxers are not wealthy stars that are in the limelight. And we know that if we are publishing books about boxers, boxing history, and the culture of boxing, we are profiting from this violence. It is a strange thing to enjoy the sweet science of boxing and watch these warriors compete, and still know that there is an aftermath.”
So Andy and Kyle decided to support Ring 10—a boxing charity located in New York that helps boxing veterans around the world get back on their feet and live with dignity. The indie publishers became members of the charity and offered to manage and update the Ring 10 website. “We were able to update the old content on the site and do things like restructure the navigation and add a logo," said Andy. "Along the way, we paid for hosting upgrades that we knew they needed but were not in the Ring 10 budget."
In addition, as Ring 10's annual fundraising event approached, Andy and Kyle helped them update the site to promote the event. "We used our own social media accounts to tell people about the event," Said Andy. "But we went a step further and used our Facebook advertising account to pay for promoted posts that targeted boxing fans within reasonable driving distance of the event. We ran a few of those ad campaigns over the course of a couple months. We purchased a half table of tickets without knowing who would attend with us, but we knew that we wanted to invite our authors, website writing staff, or other professional partners. In the end, we were lucky enough to have one of our authors attend the event with us, but we told the charity that they could have the other two tickets back to do whatever they wanted with. As we grow into our own publishing business we will find additional ways to help.”
Andy and Kyle have long been boxing fans, so creating an independent publishing company that specializes in books about boxing is a dream come true for them. Kyle has worked in the publishing industry for over fifteen years, at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Quarto, and more. Andy’s background is in business development and marketing, including working at DraftKings. The combination of their skills is what makes Hamilcar Publications work.
“By October 2017, we had decided that we were going to become publishers of the finest boxing books on the market,” said Andy. “There is a niche to fill in this space. There are plenty of boxing books out there, but we believe that as a publisher with a singular focus on the subject matter that we have a competitive advantage. Unlike larger publishing houses that have a few people acquiring sports titles, or even a couple imprints at larger houses that have a boxing list, we think about boxing all day, every day. All of our content marketing efforts and social media activity are focused solely on boxing. All of the networking we do focuses solely on boxing.”
Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story by Candace Toft will publish on October 31, 2018 and will be followed up with at least five other titles over the next year, including Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae, Jacobs Beach: The Mob, The Garden & The Golden Age of Boxing by Guardian writer Kevin Mitchell, and Sporting Blood by award-winning boxing writer Carlos Acevedo.
Three Questions with Hamilcar Publications Co-Founder Andy Komack
IBPA: Can you describe some of the work that Ring 10 has done to support the boxing community?
Andy Komack (AK): In the eight years that they have operated, Ring 10 has helped hundreds of retired boxers in need. Ring 10 has helped well-known boxing veterans such as Iran Barkley and Gerald McLellan, but has helped many, many more that prefer some level of anonymity.
Assistance varies on need. Ring 10 sends out food payment cards each month to a growing group of regular recipients, they help with medical bills and supplies, they connect boxers with people who can help solve a particular problem for them, they help boxers find places to live and pay for rent, and generally find ways to support these men who fought for the entertainment of others, but never had the support of a union or a set of rules that would have helped protect them, educate them on the dangers of the sport, provide pensions or medical insurance. The major sports leagues in the United States–NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL all have unions that protect their athletes and advocate for them. (Note: Ring 10 helps boxers with no boundaries – they help anyone who needs assistance, across the globe)
IBPA: You’re just launching Hamilcar Publications. Have you run into any challenges along the way?
AK: We have run into so many challenges I would not know where to start. Neither of us had ever run an entire publishing operation–acquisition to bound book to marketing and distribution. In my case, I had not even worked at a publishing company.
We were eager to acquire a number of quality out-of-print titles as fast as we could in order to build enough of a list that we could attract authors with original manuscripts. We succeeded in acquiring three titles in the first six months, and leveraging this list into acquiring original titles. But we made the mistake of deciding to crash all of those first three titles at once to hit the holiday season for online book sales. Part of the thinking was that revised titles would be less likely to find space on booksellers’ shelves than original titles, so we should get the books out there and have multiple titles to market during the holidays. In hindsight, not only did crashing three titles with a two-person team become a challenge from a production standpoint, we also realized that at least one of the three “out-of-print” titles, Dark Trade, is a must-have for any U.S. bookseller with boxing books on their shelves. With a traditional PR and marketing approach we would have given ourselves a wider window to market into that channel. But we know that it’s not too late and we made a few course corrections, including hiring Smith Publicity as our PR firm. That has already proven to be one of the best decisions we have made.
IBPA: You have a background in marketing, so can you provide three helpful tips for independent publishers about how to market their books?
AK: With full disclosure, I have yet to sell one book. But what I already have seen as we are set to launch our first three titles is the following:
- Invest in outside expertise. Although I did find a few publishing veterans to provide free advice, and it was extremely valuable, the best investment we have made is in hiring a PR firm that specializes in book publicity. It wasn’t an easy decision for a pre-revenue company to make, but we are extremely glad that we did. The tools and techniques that they introduced to us have had as much value as the press hits that they have gotten for us. And the heavy PR phase has not even started yet. (Note: we met Smith Publicity by simply attending B.E.A. and walking the floor and striking up a conversation. A good lesson for us is that in looking to educate ourselves and survey the competition we also can build real connections of value).
- Commit to your community. We have built up a readership for the content on our website by a) hiring writers that are at the top of their craft and are well-respected in the boxing community, and b) focusing on building quality relationships on social media. Of the major social media platforms, the boxing community primarily uses Twitter, and we have focused our efforts there. We do not have a large following yet, but we focus on building real relationships on Twitter that are genuine. It’s in our DNA anyway to be friendly and supportive, which is the key to effectively using social media. When we publish a new article on our site and then post it on Twitter, our community reacts very favorably. And, through all of this activity, we have developed personal connections that go deeper than simple clicks to our site, likes, and retweets. Twitter has helped us create publishing opportunities for the book business through meeting new people and having simple, real conversations.
- Use content marketing as a primary driver. Our “blog” (it is so much more than that) is the linchpin of our marketing and business development. Content marketing is a bit buzzy and cliché, but you can’t argue with results. The quality of the writing on our site is world-class. That content, and the writers who have created it, helped our company become part of a community that is tight-knit and hard to break into. And now, that content is not only building our brand as a publisher of quality boxing content, it is driving traffic through SEO and social media marketing. We now have the opportunity to organically market our titles to the very audience that will purchase high-quality boxing books. And in addition to the natural flow of traffic from search engines and our social media activity, we now have an asset to use with all of our advertising efforts. We can use ads to drive people to a more entertaining and engaging experience than most publishers have at the end of a click from their advertising efforts.
IBPA: Thank you, Andy, for sharing your story and experience with the IBPA community! We wish you and Hamilcar Publications all the best as you start your publishing journey!
Click here to learn more about Hamilcar Publications.
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