Less than a month after Neil Ortenberg resigned as head of the Avalon Publishing Group's New York imprints and publisher of Thunder's Mouth, Avalon has announced the acquisition of like-minded indie publisher John Oakes's Four Walls Eight Windows. Oakes will replace Ortenberg as publisher of Avalon's Thunder's Mouth imprint.
The deal also represents a restructuring of the administration of Avalon's New York imprints. Under the new structure, Oakes will become a vice-president of the Avalon group and publisher of the Nation Books and Thunder's Mouth imprints. "John will not head the New York office. We're splitting Neil's job in two," said Charlie Winton, chairman of Avalon Publishing Group. "Neil had to balance the demands of being publisher of Thunder's Mouth with the administrative work of directing the New York office," said Winton. "The new organizational construct is better. It will allow the publishing director to focus on our central services—production, marketing, promotion."
Winton told PW that Avalon will begin looking at candidates to fill the publishing director spot. Under the new structure, Oakes, Matthew Lore, publisher of Marlowe & Co, and Will Balliet, publisher of Carroll & Graf, will all report to the New York publishing director.
The acquisition of Four Walls includes about 200 book properties—the firm's complete backlist and frontlist, as well as forthcoming Four Walls books, all of which will be absorbed into the Thunder's Mouth list. Thunder's Mouth and Nation Books publish about 70 books a year between them, and Winton said the TM/NB fall list will increase to accommodate about 16 fall titles from Four Walls. The imprint expects to do about 70 titles a year thereafter. Four Walls authors include Jerome Charyn, Sue Coe, Gordon Lish, R. Crumb, Harvey Pekar and George Plimpton.
Four Walls editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler will move to Avalon along with Oakes, and editor Kathryn Belden will stay with the press until the fall. Winton told PW that there are no plans to publish books under the Four Walls imprint.
Oakes told PW he has had a close relationship with Winton and Avalon for years, and at one time Winton had a minority stake in Four Walls. "We share the same distributor," said Oakes. "I won't have to change my warehouse; I know all the sales reps. I couldn't conceive of a better partner than Avalon; they're a great team."