When Linda Netschert purchased Farcountry Press from Lee Enterprises in 2011 she had an unusual advantage over other potential buyers: Netschert had been working at the Helena, Montana-based press for 15 years, and knew almost everything about its operations and publishing vision.
“I’d been a sales rep for Farcountry for years, and worked my way up to being sales director in 2007,” Netschert says. Under Lee Enterprises, Farcountry was a foundering company when Netschert took it over. Lee Enterprises, which owns a chain of newspapers across the country, had ordered layoffs at the press at a time when Farcountry was already running a lean company with only nine employees. “We weren’t allowed to publish any new books or order any reprints towards the end,” says Netschert, who refinanced her house in order to make an offer to Lee. Negotiations took two years, but Netschert prevailed.
“Everyone on staff stayed with me,” Netschert says. “Also, many of the people who were laid off by Lee are now working as freelancers.” Today the press has a staff of 16 and operates from a 19,000 square-feet warehouse and office in Helena. Netschert spent the first year of her ownership getting the press back on its feet and its books back in print. New titles were contracted and among those that sold well are Tasting Colorado by Michele Morris, and Don Compton’s America’s National Parks: A Pop-Up Book, the latter published by W.W. West, Inc., one of a few presses now distributed by Farcountry. Netschert is also in the process of converting their print books and cookbooks to digital formats.
Farcountry, which has 300 titles in print, was founded 33 years ago as a western regional photography book publisher focused on landscapes and wild animals. “We’ve always been known for the production quality of our books,” Netschert says. “We use the best photographers and local caption writers to make sure we capture the feel of the area.” Farcountry expanded its list to include cookbooks, children’s titles (the Who Pooped? nature series has grown to over a dozen titles that teach kids about wildlife in various regions), history, and calendars. Today their photography books include almost every state in the U.S. “We have four house reps, and sell coast to coast now,” says Netschert, “and have books about every national park in the west.” Among their biggest customers are the regional national parks and their concessionaires.
The company has a custom publishing division, Sweetgrass Books, which is run by Kathy Springmeyer and offers an “a la carte” menu of services. Sweetgrass offers expertise in proofreading and editing, design, production, and distribution for clients such as Marriott hotels. This accounts for “a small percentage of Farcountry’s business,” but is an active and growing part of the company.
“The one thing that is holding back our growth is office space,” Netschert says. “We have no room to add anyone to our staff. But in the near future, I see us building a new office and warehouse and adding a designer or two to the staff, a publicist, and an assistant production manager. ”