Private Publisher Tells Clients’ Personal Stories — For a Price

LaNeil Wright Spivy proudly displays a copy of her autobiography while relaxing in her penthouse overlooking the Katy Trail. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)
LaNeil Wright Spivy displays a copy of her autobiography in her penthouse overlooking the Katy Trail. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)

LaNeil Wright Spivy’s life is like an open book. But only a select group of people will get to read it.

Spivy hired Epic Bound Books, a firm founded by Ursuline graduate Rory Seifer, to produce her autobiography as a coffee-table book. Filled with photos and illustrations, Spivy’s volume is thick enough to injure a small pet or child if it fell from a shelf.

Don’t bother trying to find a copy at Barnes & Noble. Epic Bound prints only as many editions as each client requests.

“We had one family who thought they wanted 25,” Seifer said. “Then when the grandpa saw it, he ordered 125.”

The books are intended to be enjoyed by their subjects’ descendants, hence the elaborate designs.

“If we’re going to spend all this time and go to all this effort,” Seifer said, “we’re going to make sure the kids are going to read it.”

For example, Spivy’s edition includes a full-page diagram of her grandfather’s farm. A book about Lee Malins features a two-page spread detailing every type of aircraft he flew during World War II. And Mary Frances DeLoache’s volume has a world map with pinpoints highlighting her global travels.

“There’s been a lot of time for stuff to happen to me, and she wrote it all,” DeLoache said of Seifer.

Seifer said Epic Bound spends between 1,500 and 2,000 hours per project, and takes on only one new client each month. She is the main interviewer, but she employs a handful of writers. Spivy recalled that she “talked into her microphone” from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. for at least five days.

“She was very good at getting me started,” Spivy said. “One story would lead to another.”

Even though the book will be read by few people other than Spivy’s three sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren, she was hesitant to include some of those stories.

“When I read what she had written, I thought, ‘That’s just so personal; I just can’t have that in there,’ ” Spivy said. “I would start to cut it out, and then I’d think, ‘Well, you know, I could cut out the whole thing if I keep this up.’ So I thought, ‘Well, here it goes,’ and I really didn’t take out a thing. I just told it all.”

Rory Seifer was at Spivy's side when she revealed the book to her family. (Photo: Epic Bound Books)
Rory Seifer was at Spivy’s side when she revealed the book to her family. (Photo: Epic Bound Books)

What she didn’t tell — because we were too polite to ask — was how much she spent on the book. But this should give you some idea: Spivy had planned to renovate the house her grandfather built on the aforementioned farm, but a dispute with other heirs derailed those plans. So the money she had set aside for the renovation was spent on the book instead.

Spivy felt a bit of sticker shock when she was informed of the price.

“I decided after talking to Rory that I’d go ahead and have this book done, and that would be even better than fixing up that farm house, because the book will be here from now on,” she said.

Seifer didn’t want to discuss pricing, but she said it’s fair to say that most Epic Bound clients spend tens of thousands of dollars on their books. She also pointed out how much they get for that money.

“This is almost like a speech, where you’re getting in their mind and telling their story the way they’d tell it,” Seifer said.

And if the subject doesn’t know all the little details, Seifer’s staff finds them.

“She looked it all up and found a whole lot of stuff I don’t know,” DeLoache said.

The examples provided for this story included a few typos — “who’s” instead of “whose,” for example, and “Oak Cliff” mashed together as one word — but they also displayed some fine writing. Take this passage about Spivy giving up a job at United Press International to become a housewife:

“I went from being among the first persons to know the most important news of the day to ‘This just in … laundry.’ I was home all day with dirty socks as my biggest challenge. Tackling grass stains and dirt just didn’t quite compare to the intensity and excitement at United Press. At home, the only press I had access to was my iron.”

Seifer resides in San Antonio. Her point person in Dallas is Hockaday graduate Cathleen Crews, who has no regrets about leaving the Blackstone investment firm last year to become Epic Bound’s head of client relations.

“This is way more important than making billionaires into multibillionaires,” Crews said. “This is telling people’s stories.”

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