PUBLISHED DECEMBER 2016
by Alexa Schlosser, IBPA Independent managing editor
In September of this year, W&P Design, a food and beverage design and manufacturing company, launched Dovetail, a sister publishing company that pairs books with original products across multiple topics and categories. IBPA Independent spoke with Nick Fauchald, Dovetail’s publisher, and Ryan Kelly, Dovetail’s head of sales and business development, to discuss the idea of pairing books with related products, as well as what it’s like to launch a sister publishing unit.
Dovetail’s goal is to bring a freshness to published content by pairing books with products. Where did this idea come from? Are there any early examples of this in the industry?
The idea of marrying books and products came out of the success W&P Design has had with the same concept. They launched in 2012 by creating the Mason Shaker and self-publishing a cocktail book called Shake, which continues to be an example of symbiotic success. Other publishing companies are expanding their offerings into non-book products, but these tend to be limited to stationery, games, and puzzles or other paper-based products. Dovetail’s products support the mission of each respective book they are paired with while also living as functional high-quality standalone objects if featured separately.
What is it like launching a publishing unit as a product design company?
It was surprisingly smooth. We worked closely with the W&P Design staff to produce our first lineup of books and products, so they brought of lot of experience to the table, especially when it came to industrial design and manufacturing. Another added bonus was the fact that the same designers who worked on the products also designed the books associated with them.
How does Dovetail find its authors/contributors?
For now, we’re developing a lot of concepts in-house and then tracking down the right authors, photographers, etc. for the project. But in the future we hope we’ll start receiving some proposals for both great books and products.
Have you found that retail outlets are more intrigued/ willing to take a chance on these types of pairings? Why do you think that is?
Simply put, our objective is to make the buyer’s job easier. Pairing books and products within merchandising assortments isn’t a new concept, but positioning ourselves as a single source for beautiful book and product collections simplifies the buying experience and creates more meaningful collaborations and partnerships. Our goal is to deliver the whole package to the retailer whether they purchase the full collection, single elements of the offering, or we modify and create custom packaging or product attributes specific to the retail partner.
What are the unique challenges in doing this type of pairing?
Any time an idea for a great book comes along, it’s not always easy (or even possible) to come up with products to develop with that book—and vice versa. In order for us to take on a project, it has to hit multiple criteria: Does the book make sense right now? Are we offering a fresh idea to consumers? Can we see a variety of trade and specialty retailers carrying the book? The same questions can be applied to the products as well.
What are the biggest production challenges?
When we started developing our first season of books and products, we had to hit the ground … well, there isn’t a word for how fast we had to move. We’re used to working on a one- to two-year schedule when it comes to book production. With the first three books—Brew, ¡Buenos Nachos!, and Host—we went from initial concept through finished product in just a few months. So the biggest challenge will be to get on a slightly less-insane production schedule, while still leveraging our ability to be nimble and react quickly to consumer trends.
The diverse recipes collected in ¡Buenos Nachos! includes contributions from celebrities and top culinary talents, bringing together a range of recipes varying from the traditional and minimalist to a nacho volcano that erupts with molten cheese. ¡Buenos Nachos! is paired with two new products: baking blankets and a nacho grater.
How many pairings is Dovetail currently working on?
Our spring 2017 lineup will venture beyond food and drink with books and products on yoga, matcha tea, and office culture. Beyond that, we’re exploring and developing concepts for the next two years.
There seems to be a big emphasis on the design of the books and products. Tell me about Dovetail’s approach to design.
We focus on books that will be desirable objects. Those are the books that are selling well (in their traditional paper-based format) these days. We’re also huge on accessibility. More artwork and better design goes a long way in making a subject more accessible to the reader and more enjoyable to consume.
Where do you see Dovetail in the future?
We’ll continue to explore new subject matter while developing a core family of categories that we fill out over the long term. We also want to develop games, puzzles, and other objects that toe the line between content and product.
Alexa Schlosser is the managing editor of IBPA Independent magazine. For the past five years, she has worked with various trade and not-for-profit organizations, developing content for both print and digital publications.