The first joint meeting of the Perseus Group's new sales force—which combines newly hired sales reps with Running Press's sales operations—took place December 8 and 9 in New York. And while executives at Running Press, which was acquired by Perseus in March, see great opportunities in having their own sales team sell all Perseus/ Running Press titles, Running Press's editorial efforts will continue to operate independently in its Philadelphia offices.
Buz Teacher founded Running Press in fall of 1972 with his brother, Larry; the first release was The Complete Encyclopedia of New York. Teacher said the merger with Perseus "completes my vision of what a trade publisher should be." The addition of Running Press to the Perseus group creates a publisher that offers a title selection ranging from serious nonfiction to popular culture titles that are sold through such venues as bookstores, libraries, gift stores and nontraditional outlets. Although Teacher will work on some corporate initiatives for Perseus, he said his main focus will be to drive the growth of Running Press.
Plans call for the company to up its title count from 175 this year to 200 in 2003. The increase will come in part from a 50% jump in Running Press's children's unit, which will release 30 titles next year. As part of its commitment to grow its children's line, a new Running Press Kids imprint will debut at next year's BEA, said Carlo DeVito, Running Press associate publisher. Running Press Kids will focus on book-plus interactive products that have "an educational bent," DeVito said, along with a few fiction titles.
Other areas targeted for growth include self-help, general nonfiction, cookbooks and gift books. To help shape the company's list as it moves forward, Running Press brought in Michael Ward as editorial director in October (News, Sept. 16). Part of Ward's mission is to help Running Press better manage the editorial process, improve staff development and keep the company on top of new trends. Ward will also help oversee the addition of a new winter season that the company will initiate in the winter of 2004; the launch of a third season "couldn't have been done without the Perseus merger," Teacher noted. The winter of 2004 will also see the debut of a full-scale trade paperback program. With the expansion of its list, Running Press will have a "feeder system" that will make a trade paperback program viable, Teacher said.
One of the cornerstones of Running Press's publishing program is its Miniature Editions. Sixty titles are set to be published next year and the company continues to add new twists to the product line. Recent additions include the Mega Mini Kit, which is a larger format of its Mini Kit line. Coming early next year is the Artist's Edition series of the Miniatures, which will feature three-dimensional designs on the covers. Running Press is always on the lookout for new licensing partners for its Miniatures, and one of the most successful licenses has been the Dummies titles, said DeVito, who was recently promoted to publisher of the Miniature brand.
The Dummies titles have also done well in Running Press's promotional imprint, Courage Books. Courage has had a strong year, Teacher said, and 22 titles are planned for 2003, a slight increase from the 15 to 20 titles it has traditionally released. One of the keys to the success of Courage has been the decision to move more of the work in-house, which gives the company more flexibility in developing new titles.
In addition to expanding its list, Running Press is working to attract more high-profile authors. The company has high hopes for When Boston Won the World Series by Boston Globe writer Bob Ryan, due out on Opening Day. Big things are also expected from Ticket to Ride by Larry Kane, a disc jockey who traveled with the Beatles on their 1964 and 1965 American tours; the title will come packaged with a CD of Kane's interviews with the band. Set for release in 2004 is a new edition of Sisters, a book that helped put Running Press on the map when it was first published in 1994 and is the company's all-time bestseller, with more than one million copies in print.
Running Press has a 700-title backlist, and backlist accounts for about 60% of annual sales. The company hopes to add to backlist sales by using Perseus's print-on-demand capabilities to bring back some of its out-of-print titles.
The interest in creating more products is due to the conviction among company executives that the new sales operation will result in a big boost in revenue. The new sales group "is about building, not cutting," said John Whalen, v-p of sales for Perseus, who said there will be about 30 direct sales people selling Perseus books. Whalen is certain that some titles from other Perseus publishers will do well in the gift market, while some Running Press titles will do well in the library market, an area where Running Press has had little sales activity. The international market has been growing extremely fast, and the new sales unit should continue that rapid growth. A new national accounts manager has been named for Canada, and Whalen sees room for strong growth there, especially in gift stores.
Looking at just Running Press prospects, Whalen said he expects online sales to increase, noting, "Before, we didn't have a direct relationship with Amazon. Now we do." Similarly, Running Press's sales to the ID market should benefit tremendously from the handling of those accounts by HarperCollins's ID sales force.
With Running Press just completing its 30th year, Teacher said he has never been more optimistic about its future. Sales since the merger with Perseus have been solid, a signal to Teacher that the integration has gone smoothly and that bigger things lie ahead.