Last month's appointment of Nikko Odiseos as president of Shambhala Publications completed the Boston press's transition to a family-owned business run by a new generation. Earlier in the year Sam Bercholz, who cofounded the publishing operation in 1969 to bring out Chögyam Trungpa's Meditation in Action, split ownership of the company among his wife, Hazel, and their children: Sara, who has assumed the role of family-owner representative, and Ivan, an acquisitions editor for Buddhist projects.
"We felt it was time to have some kind of change, with the change as a family business," said Sara Bercholz, referring to the decision to ask Peter Turner to step down after a dozen years at Shambhala's helm. Odiseos, who has a background in technology, most recently as senior technical product manager for Enterprise Search at Microsoft, was handpicked by the Bercholz family after he served briefly on the Shambhala board. He will work closely with Sara Bercholz, who was named executive v-p last spring. "Nikko and I have a symbiosis," she said. "We look at the challenges this industry faces as opportunities."
Among them is making the transition to digital publishing, something Shambhala has already begun. The press's frontlist is available as both print books and e-books, and it is in the midst of converting its backlist. It will continue to handle its own e-book distribution, at least for now. As part of its commitment to digitizing its list, the press recently signed with Open Road to market e-books by its four bestselling authors: teacher Pema Chödrön, author most recently of Taking the Leap; Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones; David Richo, author of How to Be an Adult in Relationships; and meditation master Chögyam Trungpa, founder of the Naropa Institute. Shambhala is also the first publisher to make its entire list available for POD through the Espresso Book Machine.
"We're fully embracing the digital world, but we're book lovers through and through. Our commitment to produce beautiful books continues," said Odiseos. "We want our books to be available how people want them," added Bercholz, who notes that the press just re-upped its 36-year contract with Random House for distribution of its physical books to the trade. As a niche publisher, specializing in Buddhist titles and ancient wisdom traditions, Shambhala has an active mail order/direct-to-consumer program, which has grown from 5.5% of gross revenue in 2006 to 10% in 2010.
Shambhala's revenue—sales are predicted to be about $10 million in 2010—has grown on the trade side as well, especially for general interest titles published in its five-year-old Trumpeter Books imprint. "The Shambhala vision is much wider than Buddhism. The core publishing program is focused on that matrix of Eastern wisdom and where it's reflected in other ways like lifestyle and health," said Odiseos. Areas that are working include crafting and parenting—which are now part of the Make Good: Crafts + Life "sub-imprint" introduced in 2009. Bercholz is looking to develop more projects in lifestyle and cooking, including an upcoming cookbook based on the La Tartine Gourmand blog, named a 2010 best of special interest blogs by Saveur.com. The book will be released first on Shambhala.com and latartinegourmand.com in fall 2011 and won't be available in bookstores until the following spring.
For bookstores, Shambhala plans to announce a new partnership program for independents in the first quarter of this year. According to Odiseos, Shambhala will offer dating on orders in exchange for premiere placement and signage. It will also use its social media and direct outreach to drive customers into partner stores.