Books are vital to our culture, and we want to sustain them
by rethinking traditional publishing models.
What if we combined the editorial strengths of Ecotone with The Publishing Laboratory’s design and production capabilities?
Lookout is more than a name—it’s our publishing philosophy. Founded as the literary book imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Lookout pledges to seek out emerging and historically underrepresented voices, as well as overlooked gems by established writers. In a publishing landscape increasingly indifferent to literary innovation,Lookout offers a haven for books that matter.
So what makes Lookout Books different? We solicit manuscripts from the pool of writers published in the department’s national literary magazine, Ecotone. We believe in developing lasting relationships and partnering with authors, setting a standard for editorial excellence, and publishing well-made and attractive paperback originals. Books are vital to our culture, and we want to sustain them by rethinking traditional publishing models. At Lookout we offer authors 50-50 profit sharing, rather than the usual royalty structure, and reinvest profits in future titles.
In its first four years the department’s semiannual magazine, Ecotone grew from an idea to a nationally recognized periodical with stories, essays, and poems reprinted in Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Pushcart Prize, and New Stories from the South. An ecotone is a transition zone between two adjacent ecological communities, containing the characteristic species of each. Each issue of the magazine brings together the literary and the scientific, the personal and the biological, the urban and the rural, providing a space where the gap between science and culture can be bridged.
The Publishing Laboratory, a teaching press integral to the UNCW Department of Creative Writing, helps students learn the process by which literary manuscripts are edited, designed, marketed, and sold to a wide audience of readers. Since its establishment in 2000, the press has provided interns experience working on original books published under its own name. In 2007 the press began to distribute its growing list of titles nationally and to help its authors realize a wider audience.
The department saw an extraordinary opportunity. What if it combined the editorial strengths of Ecotone with The Publishing Laboratory’s in-house design and production capabilities? Lookout Books would enable the magazine to highlight its best authors and foster its relationships with them, and would offer The Publishing Laboratory a chance to reach beyond its regional-press roots to become a boutique literary press. Lookout Books will publish two to three titles per year starting out, rotating between fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Emily Louise Smith
Co-founder and Publisher