The recently launched Cornell Lab Publishing Group was founded to commemorate the Cornell’s Lab’s 100-year anniversary in 2015. The new publishing company aims to support and extend the mission of engaging families and children in the world of ornithology and to help raise a new generation to appreciate birds and the natural world. CEO and publisher Brian Sockin says the venture “was a festering desire that turned into a reality.” As an author himself, the owner of a marketing agency that has Jell-O and Kool-Aid among its clients, and an avid birder who has been doing pro bono work for the Cornell Lab, Sockin now combines his varied skills and passion.
The Cornell Lab was founded in 1915 as the first graduate program in ornithology, at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y. Still a unit of Cornell and a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds, it is now also a nonprofit organization supported by 90,000 friends and members in a community that reaches 400,000 people designated as “citizen-science participants” from all walks of life.
The new publishing endeavor will build upon the wide range of communications already in place that include Living Bird magazine, bird cams, newsletters, apps, community activities, and school education programs. In addition, the lab hosts multiple websites, including the #1 birding website, allaboutbirds.org, that has more than 14 million unique users annually. The vast communications network is a huge asset to the Cornell Lab Publishing Group. Sockin notes that the press already has a mailing list of 800,000. Moreover, he was very pleasantly surprised that a contest to choose America’s favorite bird drew 250,000 votes in only four days from the lab’s FaceBook post.
The Cornell Lab is truly the “science behind the fun,” says Sockin, adding, “Our mission as a publisher is to distill this incredible cache of birding and nature content to a print platform that is science and entertainment, approachable and friendly to all age and birding expertise levels.”
One of CLPG’s first projects was to bring back the Backyard Birdsong Guides, which sold 360,000 copies when they were published by Chronicle. After only a month on sale, they are now in their third printing. These interactive audio field guides, Sockin notes, are expensive to produce and therefore difficult for a large publisher to achieve a reasonable margin. But, Sockin says, “We’re nimble.”
So nimble, in fact, that Sockin decided that the “out of left field” idea of another imprint was, in fact, a great idea, and Persnickety Press was born. The imprint will publish children’s and YA books that are not necessarily related to birds. Persnickety will launch in the fall with five titles, including children’s books from Jane Yolen (Little Frog and the Scary Autumn Thing), award-winning songwriter Kenny Lamb (The Island of Grump), and children’s publishing veteran and author (and consultant to CLPG), Lauren Wohl (A Teeny Tiny Halloween).
CLPG and Persnickety have some special events planned at their booth (2163) for BEA. Today, 1:30–4:30 p.m., Kenny Lamb will be signing copies of The Island of Grump. Tomorrow, 1–4:30 p.m., Sheri Lynn Fish will sign Dex, a novel for tweens.
This article appeared in the May 12, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.