How One Small Press Is Taking Art Books Back To The Future

How One Small Press Is Taking Art Books Back To The Future

Josh O’Neill and Maëlle Doliveux – publisher and art director, respectively, of Beehive Books – are updating a business model that was last common at the turn of the previous century to deliver gorgeous, limited edition art books using the 21st century tools of crowdfunding and social media, while capitalizing on the growing popularity of small press expos and comic art festivals. “We want to serve the small community of people who love the beautiful, the mysterious, the forgotten, and delight them,” he says. If it has that, I want to do it.” Swarming Locusts, Busy Bees Though Beehive Books is a relatively new venture, it didn’t just materialize out of the ether. It’s an outgrowth of O’Neill’s previous business, Locust Moon, which combined publishing and retail, as well as running a small press comics festival in Philadelphia for several years during the 2010s. Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, an enormous and lavishly-designed edition featuring the work of over 100 contemporary comic artists paying tribute to the early 20th century cartoonist Windsor McKay, swept comics' prestigious Eisner and Harvey awards for Locust Moon when it came out in 2015. All the company’s titles begin through crowdfunding campaigns that not only raise the resources necessary to support Beehive’s deluxe production values (campaigns typically target at least $100K and almost always overshoot their goals), but also bring together the community that the company wants to serve. “Our audience loves the same thing we do: the offbeat, the unusual and fascinating. We have a different mechanism, and that means we can make some things work that they can't." Updating an old business model for high end publishing Ironically, this model of raising funds from subscribers was used to produce classic illustrated books during the early 20th century – books that embodied the same aesthetic and high production values that Beehive is pursuing today. “Younger people are becoming more aware of nice objects, and of the need for supporting artists directly so they can produce the work we love,” he says.

Why I Quit Facebook and Instagram: One Entrepreneur Shares His Story
Why the News Feed is Becoming Less Important for Facebook Pages
Reliable Sources: Omarosa’s book launch; Tribune’s decision day; Twitter CEO speaks
Beehive Books specializes in deluxe, limited edition art books in unusual formats.

In the clock tower of a converted church in West Philadelphia, two young book designers are quietly turning back the hands of time. Josh O’Neill and Maëlle Doliveux – publisher and art director, respectively, of Beehive Books – are updating a business model that was last common at the turn of the previous century to deliver gorgeous, limited edition art books using the 21st century tools of crowdfunding and social media, while capitalizing on the growing popularity of small press expos and comic art festivals.

Curating Curiosities

Beehive Books specializes in high-end visual literature: art books, comics, illuminated texts, and hybrid formats, ranging from forgotten masters to avant-garde contemporary creators. In today’s uncertain marketplace where even established publishers are having trouble staying afloat, you might think that producing expensive, deluxe editions of obscure material would not necessarily be the most sensible path to success for an upstart imprint. The founders of Beehive Books have a run of phenomenally successful crowdfunding campaigns, an army of loyal fans and a shelf of awards that say otherwise.

“Our mission is to offer work that might otherwise have trouble finding a home, and give it the best presentation possible,” says O’Neill. He points to the company’s most recent title, The Temple of Silence: His Forgotten Works and Worlds, a monograph on the work of an artist and cartoonist from the early 20th century named Herbert Crowley, about whom literally nothing was known until the book’s author, Justin Duerr, unearthed the fascinating story and body of work.

The luxurious hardcover volume measures 11×17 inches and feels like a work of art itself. At a list price of $120, no expense was spared to reproduce Crowley’s insanely detailed linework using the best possible paper, reproduction and binding. Though the trade edition won’t be out until next year, the first printing, limited to 2500 copies, has begun shipping to the book’s hundreds of backers on Kickstarter.

O’Neill admits you probably won’t be seeing any Beehive titles cracking the New York Times Best Seller list anytime soon, but that is not his objective. “We want to serve the small community of people who love the beautiful, the mysterious, the forgotten, and delight them,” he says. “As a publisher, I look for that glow of mysterious magic. If it has that, I want to do it.”

Beehive art director Maëlle Doliveux and publisher Josh O’Neill, 2018.

Swarming Locusts, Busy Bees

Though Beehive Books is a relatively new venture, it didn’t just materialize out of the ether. It’s an outgrowth of O’Neill’s previous business, Locust Moon, which combined publishing and retail, as well as running a small press comics festival in Philadelphia for several years during the 2010s. Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream,…

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This