Alyssa Loebig, MA ’18 and Madeline Greenhalgh, MA ’18 met in their Publishing Management and Innovation class a year ago, when Assistant Professor Susanne Althoff asked the students to come up with some idea that fills a need in the publishing industry.
Althoff randomly paired Loebig and Greenhalgh for the project, and they just happened to share a common interest: Young Adult (YA) fiction, which, despite the name, is really geared toward teenagers.
They also agreed that once readers aged out of YA, they were kind of left hanging.
“We didn’t think there was anything that [drew] from the experiences of people in their young 20s in the same way [as YA],” Loebig said.
Greenhalgh and Loebig set about creating a business plan for a publishing company that would tell stories that resonate with readers 18-25. A year later, that classroom project is a going concern: Yellow Taxi Press. They acquired their first title in December.
“[I] had not been able to stop thinking about it and really considering what it would look like if we did it now, what would be holding us back, what would be the obstacles,” Loebig said. “I called Madeline and said, ‘Let’s get dinner.’”
The book, tentatively titled Two Lost Girls, is about a college student who goes home for winter break and has to face her stepbrother, who sexually abused her as a child, as well as her broken relationship with her mother.
They were drawn to the book, Loebig said, both because they felt the survivor’s story was very timely and gripping, and because the author filled it with a black humor that they thought their target audience would appreciate.
While the book is both disturbing and funny, it is not particularly romantic – and that’s where they see Yellow Taxi Press filling a void.
There is a subgenre of fiction called New Adult that is marketed to 18- to 30-year-olds. St. Martin’s Press coined the term in 2009 when it put out a call for books targeted to that demographic. And while it was not explicitly marketed as a romance category, Loebig and Greenhalgh found that books tend to skew heavily in that direction.
It “has a connotation of being entirely romantic-based, bordering on erotic,” Loebig said.
Yellow Taxi Press wants to focus on work that deals with careers, changing family dynamics, and “learning how to be an adult.”
Loebig came up with the name, Yellow Taxi Press, Greenhalgh said, and the two thought it worked well for what they’re trying to do with the company. It feels modern and classic at the same time, and “represents movement.”
“The idea of going to a big city and seeing taxis everywhere had a forward momentum that we wanted to exemplify,” Greenhalgh said. “It’s about moving, just because the 20-something years are a time of change and physical movement, but also emotional and intellectual growth and change.”
Althoff said when Loebig and Greenhalgh told her last summer that they were going to try to make a go of their idea, “I was floored. I was so excited for them.
Their idea was very specific, she said, “and they also had a very personal connection – they are readers of that genre, so they can testify that this is an unmet need.”
Her Management and Innovation course is designed to get students thinking entrepreneurially about publishing, Althoff said, but most of them won’t actually start their own presses. She said most will go on to be “intrepreneurs,” working at established publishing houses but constantly tasked with finding fresh ways to reach new readers or demographics.
Althoff said she’s been impressed by how driven Loebig and Greenhalgh have been since deciding to start Yellow Taxi. At her suggestion, they attended a Harvard conference for women entrepreneurs, where they managed to get free legal advice from an attorney, and they utilized resources at Emerson Launch, the College’s startup incubator.
“They’ve been very scrappy,” she said. “They’ll find advice and find someone to talk to and find a mentor wherever they can.”
For now, Yellow Taxi will publish digitally exclusively, although Loebig and Greenhalgh hope to someday venture into traditional publishing. They’re interested in fiction as well as nonfiction, as long as it speaks to 20-something readers.
Loebig said when she was younger, Ann Brashares’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series was very meaningful to her. The books follow four high school friends who share a pair of jeans that fit them all perfectly, though they are all different shapes and sizes. As they go their separate ways over the summers, they grow as individuals, but their friendship, like the jeans, always fits.
She said she wished there was a book that similarly spoke to her when she went off to college, which was a difficult period in her life.
“I wish there were a book or series that I could have taken solace in.”