WestSide Books, a two-year-old publisher focusing on edgy, realistic teen fiction, has been put up for sale by owner Stewart Penn. Publisher Evelyn Fazio and assistant editor Peter Nyman, who joined WestSide in June, will be leaving the company “within approximately two weeks,” according to Penn.
Books under contract will be published, but Penn said the company has “suspended all new acquisitions.” WestSide will continue to sell its frontlist and backlist titles until the time of any potential sale. Penn told PW he recently began crunching the numbers on WestSide’s sales and what it would take to become “a very profitable company in the future” before making the decision to sell. “We’re doing reasonably well, but not enough to the point to where it could get us to the promised land, so to speak. I want to go back to the core business, which is the school-based business of pre-binding paperback novels and creating anthologies,” through WestSide’s sister company, Everbind Books, which is also owned by Penn.
WestSide’s first list debuted in 2009, and the company has since published more than 20 books for teens. The publisher’s most successful title is Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars (2010), just out in paperback, which was a finalist for the Governor General’s award in Canada and has sold more than 18,000 copies in hardcover, according to Penn. Rainfield’s next novel, Hunted, about a girl and her mother on the run from a government that targets those with paranormal abilities, is still scheduled to be published in October.
Rainfield found out about the sale on Monday from her agent, Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger. “My initial response was utter shock,” Rainfield told PW by email. “I had no idea this was a possibility.” Although Rainfield said she was “very worried at first,” with Hunted coming out in October, she plans to put a lot of work into promoting Hunted, as she did with Scars, and she holds out hope that WestSide will find a new owner. “I feel I really lucked out having WestSide as my publisher,” she said. “I’ve loved WestSide’s vision and their willingness to help break silence and provide books that teens can relate to, that some teens actually need.”
Publisher Fazio, who had been with WestSide since 2006, working toward its launch, has no regrets. “It’s always a gamble, and I loved every minute of it,” she said. “The books were wonderful, the authors are terrific, and I really like the people here.” WestSide’s books have picked up several honors, including various state awards, and have been included on Bank Street’s best books list and YALSA’s Quick Picks. “We accomplished a lot,” Fazio said, “and a lot of good things were happening.”