After several years as a direct marketer of academic psychoanalytic titles, Other Press has hired several former Random House executives who are transforming a successful but limited press into a state-of-the-art small publisher serving the professional, academic and general trade marketplace.
Other Press was founded in 1999 by Michael Moskowitz and Judith Gurewich, both academics and psychoanalysts, to publish texts aimed at the field. The two acquired Karnac Books, a U.K.—based publisher, and a London bookstore affiliated with it. In time, there was also an Other Press bookstore in Manhattan and a retail Web site specializing in psychoanalytic titles. By 2001, the press reported annual sales of about $3 million, just about all of it through direct sales.
But last year, Gurewich, a Lacanian psychoanalyst and professor at Harvard, bought out her partner's stake and set about expanding OP's publishing program into broader professional areas as well as to the general trade. "We want to reach out to the general reader," said Gurewich, "and bring the lessons of psychoanalysis to the public without the boring academic language." She also wants to expand OP's direct marketing to psychiatric professionals OP has neglected. "We are known among analysts," Gurewich explained, "but not as well among therapists, educators, social workers or psychiatrists."
Without necessarily planning to, Gurewich took advantage of last year's Random House staff cutbacks. She hired several former Random House executives, who have been able to take what they learned at the world's biggest publisher and scale down this expertise to suit the needs of a small but growing press.
Her first hire was Ellen Vanook, a 25-year veteran of Random House adult and children's programs, who has a background in operations, manufacturing, production, distribution and warehousing. Originally hired as a consultant, Vanook's responsibilities kept expanding until she was eventually offered the job of CEO. "The press didn't have the infrastructure to grow," said Vanook. "We needed to change all the software, the editorial process, job descriptions—everything." Vanook persuaded Bill Foo, another downsized Random House executive, to take on the job of CFO. "We've reengineered this company," said Foo, who projects 20% sales growth in 2003 and "double-digit growth for the next three or four years."
The house shut down the bookstore and the retail Web site, said Vanook, "to focus on our core business, publishing." The house is now developing a new Web site, OtherBooks.com, as an online resource for OP books and a retail site.
Other Press now publishes about 35 to 40 books a year. It has about 20 employees, including six new executive hires. The press has expanded its Manhattan office space from 1,100 to about 2,000 square feet.
Now, said Vanook, "we can publish midlist fiction and give it the editorial attention it deserves. And we don't need to sell 250,000 copies to make a profit." Before Vanook's arrival, Gurewich had brought Harry Thomas on board to head Handsel Books, a new imprint devoted to poetry, fiction and essays. Vanook emphasized that Other Press is also developing its relationship with agents in order to build its trade list, and Gurewich credits her many contacts with foreign publishers for bringing in a number of works in English translation.
These days, Other Press's list offers current events, history, translated works and fiction, alongside Freud and Lacan. The house now offers a professional catalogue with its 400-title backlist as well as a trade catalogue with new titles. There's new fiction, including San Remo Drive, a novel by Leslie Epstein; OP is also reprinting his classic novel, King of the Jews.
The house has published Breaking Ranks by Ronit Chacham, about Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza, and the house has big plans for Shattered Dreams by Charles Enderline, a detailed account of the Camp David accords that, Gurewich said, "reads like a mystery novel."
She told PW that Other Press has expanded greatly from its core of "educated professionals" in the varied psychology fields. "We are now covering many more bases and emphasizing the diverse interests of our audience and what they like to read. They crave intellectual pursuits, knowledge, books where they are entertained as their intellect is stimulated. We believe the future lies in rousing this type of reader."