Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Rise and Fall of a Partnership

In my post about Co-Authoring Agreements I had briefly mentioned that when starting BookEnds, Jacky Sach and I had a business plan and a Partnership Agreement. One reader asked the following question:
If it's not too personal/painful I think it would be fascinating to read a blogpost about how Bookends was founded and eventually your original partnership dissolved. I think that's a behind-the-scenes story I've never heard an agent tell before. 

It's not too personal or painful at all and I have written about it in various stages before. In fact, I thought I did an entire blog post when Jacky left, but upon searching maybe I didn't.

Jacky and I met and became friends while working at Berkley Publishing and stayed friends after I left Berkley to pursue a new opportunity at Macmillan, working on The Complete Idiot's Guide series.

At first I loved the freedom I had at Macmillan to come up with new book ideas, search out the perfect authors and execute the project. After awhile however, the job started to feel repetitious and there were a lot of changes happening at Macmillan (sales to other companies, etc) that made me think I wanted something different. For whatever reason, on a subway ride back home, I came up with the idea that I wanted to start my own business, that I could do exactly what I was doing for Macmillan, but on my own. I asked Jacky to join me and she was intrigued. So the two of us jumped in, probably rather impulsively.

BookEnds was officially formed in 1999 (just a few months after that subway ride). We sought business advice from other agents and from various free business advice groups. Originally we started as packagers. Our idea was to create the projects in house and find authors to write the books. We enjoyed what we were doing, but struggled to really find our place or establish our vision. Ultimately, I think that while we knew what we wanted to do, we chose a path we weren't entirely comfortable with. So after a couple of years, and lots of soul-searching, we switched our business model from packaging to a literary agency. And for 10 years we did some truly amazing things together.

Jacky and I worked extremely well together. We were the perfect yin and yang. I'm not saying we never disagreed, because we definitely disagreed and we got mad at each other and we, sort of, argued, but at the base of everything we had built we were friends and it was really important for us to maintain that friendship.

In 2009 Jacky started to pursue some other interests. She went back to school and made the decision that it was time for her to leave BookEnds and do something different. It was sad, but I knew it was the right thing for her and, in some ways, the right thing for me. I had some ideas about growing BookEnds that didn't necessarily align with her vision so it was time for me to stand alone, or with a different team.

After agreeing to and signing all the final paperwork that goes with buying out a business partner, Jacky and I went our separate ways, in business, but not in life. We still remain very good friends, talk regularly, meet for lunch and keep each other updated on our lives.

I couldn't have started BookEnds without Jacky and I wouldn't have wanted to. I think we taught each other a lot about taking risks, slowing down, thinking things through, facing our fears and following our dreams.



Elissa M said...

Thank you for sharing this. Your story shows that change is very often a good thing, especially in the business world. Just because partners may change in different directions doesn't mean animosity must ensue. How wonderful that you and Jacky have the wisdom to recognize the truly important things in life (like friendship).

AJ Blythe said...

After hearing how supportive and understanding of each other you were it's not surprising you are still good friends.

Gina Black said...

That's a lovely story.