A few years ago, Tim McCormick attended a parenting class to help him deal with two young sons, especially his eldest who, he said dryly, "seems to have Ph.D. in sibling rivalry."
And the real Ph.D. teaching the class -- Arizona school psychologist Sal Severe -- transformed McCormick's life.
Impressed with the humorous guidance of the unfortunately named Severe, McCormick quit his day job, "jumped on the grenade,'" as he calls it, and entered the book business. He is now the single-title publisher of Severe's How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too!: A Collection of Entertaining Stories and Practical Ideas Gathered from Real Parents. The book, mostly distributed directly through McCormick's Tempe, Ariz.-based company, Greentree Publishing, has sold more than 150,000 copies since its April 1997 publication. Last year, it was awarded a Parents' Choice Recommendation Seal from the Parents' Choice Foundation.
The success of the book is an example of what the focus of a single-title publisher can do. McCormick, who had previously worked for a school- and corporate book fair company, first tested the book -- a greatly revised version of the powder-blue 100-page self-published book Severe had previously handed out at his workshops -- through that channel. He and his only employee, Denise Pias, created a Web site (www.howtobehave.com) and the quarterly Parenting Today newsletter, both serving as promotional vehicles for the book. They also set Severe on an impressive media schedule -- more than 520 media segments in the last 20 months, which have aired on some 2500 stations. Greentree's sophisticated broadcast fax system alerts thousands of media and bookseller contacts to every new author appearance and update on the book.
While McCormick is media savvy, however, he made some typical mistakes of first publishers. While he got positive blurbs from authors John Bradshaw and Jack Canfield to put on the book jacket, "I didn't get any prepub reviews in prepub review vehicles [like PW] because I didn't know to do that," he explained.
Luckily for him, Book-of-the-Month Club bought the rights to the book post-pub and still features it in both its regular club and the Children's Book-of-the-Month Club catalogues. Through that channel alone, it has sold a whopping 50,000 copies -- one of BOMC's most successful parenting titles in recent years.
Another key outlet has turned out to be Origin Book Sales, a distributor with key relationships in the heavily family-oriented Latter-Day Saints community.
Even two years into the book's publication, McCormick is by no means halting his promotion. An audio and a video of a Severe workshop are in production, and McCormick hopes to get Severe on Oprah (he's been a runner-up choice in the past). "A book on Oprah really works, if it's the Book Club pick or if the audience really embraces the author. I think they would with Sal."
Booksellers can judge for themselves by watching Severe's next national media appearance, a return visit to ABC's The View, tentatively set for March 22.