Who we are

The Literary Ventures Fund, a first-of-its-kind, not-for-profit private foundation, serves as a primary "partner-in-risk" with authors and publishers in advancing works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Using a philanthropic investment model, we provide supplementary support to literary authors and publishers by offering them our foundation's resources, including expertise and publishing ties to bookstores and media outlets, publicity assistance, innovative marketing and sales programs, and in some cases direct cash investments as well. LVF's efforts help ensure that exceptional works of fiction, literary non-fiction, and poetry with a potential for broad readership reach the widest possible audience and remain in print for years to come. In addition, LVF fulfills its public-policy mission by presenting programs that generate discussion about the broader literary landscape, the role of publishing in serving literary writers, and how more readers can become engaged with literature.

Why we do this

Literature has a profound impact on our lives. Great books transport readers, illuminate their values, and bring meaning and context to their lives. They have the power to inspire, console, and provoke; they enlighten us and affect us long after we've put a book down.

We believe that literature is at risk, as are the economic and support systems that traditionally have connected great writers to readers. In many cases these systems no longer exist, disrupted in part by consolidation and the intrinsic pressures on the remaining large publishing houses to give preference to books that sell to the mass market. LVF is built on the premise that, given a level playing field, great works of literature can thrive in the marketplace.

Our mission: challenge, create, sustain

Founded in May 2005, LVF seeks to challenge the status quo of literary publishing by creating sustainable publishing models as well as an extended network of integrated resources that support these models and the role of literature in today's world.

Through our philanthropic investment model, LVF accomplishes four goals:

  • accelerating the process of getting new works of literature into the hands of readers;
  • opening up new channels for these works to get published and marketed;
  • reintroducing great works of literature that for a variety of reasons did not reach their potential in their original launch;
  • developing a self-supporting philanthropic entity that does not draw from an already too small circle of philanthropic resources supporting literary organizations today.

We do not make loans. We do not make grants. We make investments.

A loan, by definition, is just that. It is a financial obligation that must be paid back under all circumstances. A grant, by definition, is a payment without a working partnership and with limited accountability attached. We invest and undertake the same risk and reward as our project partner. If a project fails to produce any return, we, like our partner, lose our investment. If a project produces a return, we, like our partner, share in that return. For this reason, among others, we also do not provide funds for overhead or general operating costs. For this same reason, most of our investments are made at the publisher level, though we on very rare occasion work directly with authors as well.

We focus on individual literary works and our key precept is sustainability. While LVF first and foremost invests in works of fiction, literary non-fiction and poetry that are exceptionally well written, make an impact, and resonate with the reader, we balance that with the conviction that the projects we fund need to be economically viable and likely to remain in print. This means that after identifying exceptional works, we examine the fiscal and organizational capacity of the publishing team in place, and the potential market and marketing of the book itself. We then leverage existing resources while acting as a catalyst in creating new ones. Rather than function simply as a funder, we work to function as an active partner in our projects.

Our goal over the long term is that the overall portfolio of our investments will have a positive return permitting us to continue to reinvest in new projects—sometimes with the same authors and presses—and that our venture philanthropic "recycling" can truly be a new model for sustainable philanthropy.

Aiming for the "quadruple win"

We consider an investment a success when:

  • the book sells well and receives recognition
  • the publisher's economic return exceeds expectations for a book's sales at the time of acquisition
  • the author's royalties and compensation exceed expectations
  • LVF achieves both its initial return and, over the long term, a surplus that will help fund future investments in other important works.

Selection and investment

LVF is need-blind and merit based. We talk to publishers, authors and our broad network of advisers on a regular basis and we consider book projects on a continuous basis. We consider investment in books from large, medium and small publishers. Because of our emphasis on sustainability, all LVF projects considered for investment must have the potential for quantifiable, trackable results.

While most of our agreements thus far have been with publishers, we remain open to working with authors directly, though note that we cannot support self-published works, and, rarely, works without representation through an agent. Publishers seeking an investment from the Literary Ventures Fund should know that LVF typically makes investments in presses who publish a minimum of 5 books per year books and in titles with a minimum print runs of 5,000 copies or above. There are exceptions, yes, but they are very rare.

Our formal agreements are intended to accomplish a number of things. First and foremost, each of these agreements attempts to align, economically, our interest with that of our partners (authors and publishers). What this means is that our return can only begin to occur if the book we invest in:

  • achieves target sales levels agreed to in the beginning
  • on both a short and long-term basis we help that book reach the full potential of readers with whom it resonates.

What we are most proud of is that by definition, this also means that all parties, the publisher, the author, and the Fund, all benefit along the way.

How to apply

LVF welcomes informal inquiries from publishers, authors, agents and creative writing programs and will advise potential publishing partners whether an initial inquiry should move to the next, more formal stage. We prefer not to receive formal proposals until we have had the opportunity to respond to an informal inquiry. Contact LVF's editorial director Ande Zellman () or LVF's executive director Jeffrey Lependorf () with any questions you may have or to discuss a potential project.

Once we determine that we love the book—and we first and foremost have to love a book we invest in—we will ask you to complete a simple LVF financial worksheet and a questionnaire. This is a critical step and will give us the information we need to decide if this is a viable and wise investment for both parties. There are times when we have to convince publishers that an LVF investment isn't what they need. If we decide to proceed we will have a focused meeting (by teleconference or in person) with the critical decision-makers in your company to create an agreement tailored to the specific needs of the project.

We have found that every project and every publisher is different; there is no one-size-fits all investment, marketing plan, or expected return in publishing. One consistent goal for LVF is the hope that that the return from projects yielding success in the marketplace will provide a sustainable return to be reinvested in future LVF projects. We custom-tailor, project-by-project, the expected return on each investment to account for the relative risk of each invested project.

Publicity/Marketing Services

Literary Ventures Fund services include publicity and marketing services on a per-title fee basis. We offer this to publishers of all sizes who publish fiction and narrative non-fiction. This expansion allows publishers selective access to the collective strengths and contacts of the Literary Ventures Fund team for a defined periods of time.

The LVF staff now includes Mary Bisbee-Beek, who brings more than 25 years of publicity and marketing experience working with books in many genres. She was previously the Founder and Director of Beeksbee Books of St. Paul, MN where she worked with publishers of all sizes and discriminating tastes. After leaving Minnesota in 1992, she served as the Director of Marketing, Publicity and Foreign Rights for the University of Michigan Press.

Public Outreach

Public outreach and support of existing—and creation of new—literary outlets play a key role in fulfilling our mission. We design and sponsor panels, roundtables and other public forums related to raising the profile of funded books, as well as generating discussion that challenges the status quo of the publishing landscape and emphasizes the importance of writers and literature to our society. More broadly, these events contribute to the public discourse by drawing attention to and making connections between themes in literature and issues of the day. In this way we ensure the success of supported works, but also strengthen the connection between writers and readers of literature on a larger scale. Please contact us to discuss creating an author or publishing event or having us participate in yours.

Officers and Board of Directors

Chairman and Founder
James L. Bildner

Publicity and Foreign Rights Director
Mary Bisbee-Beek

The LVF staff includes professionals from non-profit, small press, large commercial house, and media worlds of publishing. Each brings considerable expertise and a wide and diverse network eager to help support LVF portfolio projects.

LVF's Consulting Partners: The American Program Bureau and a network of independent publicists.

Through the Boston-based American Program Bureau, one of the largest US lecture agencies, LVF offers a series of educational panels made up of influential and diverse experts from the publishing industry. Our network of independent publicists offers a wide range of targeted expertise.

The LVF Board of Directors and Advisory Committee include some of the most prestigious authors and members of the publishing industry:

Board of Directors
Jim Bildner, Chair
Nicole Dewey, Asst. Director of Publicity/Doubleday
George Gendron, Founder & Director/Clark University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center
Heidi Julavits, Author/Editor/The Believer
Jonathan Karp, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief/Warner Twelve, Warner Books
Ruby Lerner & with Sean Elwood, Executive Director & Senior Grants Manager/Creative Capital Foundation
James Miller, Author, Chair/New School of Liberal Studies, Editor/Daedalus
Patricia Nelson, Publishing Attorney
Sara Nelson, Publisher/Publishers Weekly
Constance B. Sayre, President/Market Partners International
Julie Schaper, President & CEO/Consortium Book Sales
Ira Silverberg, Agent/Donadio & Olson (ex officio)
Rick Simonson, Manager/The Elliot Bay Book Company
Marcella Smith, Small Press and Vendor Relations/B&N

Board of Advisors
Sven Birkerts
Steven Cramer
Anita Diamant
Carol Frederick
Julia Glass
Diane McWhorter
Susan Minot
Susan Orlean
Matthew Pearl
Tobias Wolff

Bookseller Council

Mitchell Kaplan
Books and Books

Emily Stavrou
Schuler Books and Music, Inc

Paul Ingram
Prairie Lights Books

Nancy Felton
Broadside Bookshop

Sara McNally
McNally Robinson Booksellers

Dana Brigham
Brookline Booksmith

Carole Horne
Harvard Book Store

Joe Foster
Maria's Bookshop

Cathy Langer
Tattered Cover Book Store

Rick Simonson
Elliott Bay Book Company

Paul Yamazaki
City Lights Bookstore