In 1996, David Farnsworth came to the U.S. from the U.K. to head the sales department of the family-owned Combined Publishing. Five years later, his life changed when Combined was sold to Da Capo Press, part of the Perseus Books Group. “At the time, they didn’t want to have anything to do with our distribution clients because that wasn’t something in which they were interested,” says Farnsworth. “I was left with the opportunity to return to the U.K., having come to America to live the American dream—which had failed—or to be entrepreneurial.” He chose the latter option and stayed. With financial help from the original family owners, he took over what had been the distribution arm of Combined Publishing, forming what is today Casemate Group, a thriving, respected publishing and distribution company with resources across the globe. The company specializes in military history, archeology, high-end art books, academic books, classic fiction, and general trade publishing, and also has expertise with digital marketing.
Farnsworth, now president of Casemate Group, believes his company is unique in its approach. “There’s a very definite and serious interest in building relationships with the clients we have. We work with the client’s team on multiple levels, CEO to CEO, marketing to marketing, sales to sales, and get a strong hands-on dynamic going between them and us—that’s really part of the success.”
Simone Drinkwater, vice president of business development, based in the Oxford, U.K., offices of Casemate, concurs: “We’re independent and a reasonably sized company, so clients won’t get lost. We have our own customer service teams—anyone who’s phoning up, whether it’s a trade account or a private customer, will be talking to the same people, the people who know and understand their books.”
Casemate takes special care to reach out to new audiences. “We just signed Spink books, a leading numismatic publisher,” says Drinkwater, “So we are talking with numismatic societies around the world to see if they would be interested in those books. We also recently signed Fernhurst Books, a successful British publisher doing a number of books on sailing, yachting, diving, swimming. There are a number of nontraditional opportunities we see out front of the standard bookshops, key wholesalers, such as a company called Paradise Key, that works with a number of yachting and boating outlets. We’re trying to see whether they would want to sell their books there.”
Here at BookExpo, Casemate Group (booth 1821) hopes to expand its business. “We’re always looking for new opportunities for companies that are reviewing their distribution arrangements and want to see who’s offering what. We can give potential clients a fairly unique offering because when somebody’s working with us, they know up front what it’s going to cost. We don’t charge them to put books in the catalogue, we don’t charge them for returns, the kind of things that nearly all of the others do. We find that’s a good way to have a straightforward simple relationship.” The American dream, indeed.