Over the last decade, in response to changes in publishing, Thomson-Shore has been expanding beyond printing to provide a full complement of offset, print-on-demand, preproduction, and distribution services to publishers of all sizes—from New York trade houses to regional and university presses—and self-publishing authors seeking solutions for every part of the publishing process.
Today, Thomson-Shore's employee-owners think of themselves as publishing problem solvers. What excites them most is the chance to talk to publishers and authors, figure out their needs, and come up with efficient, cost-effective ways of getting their books to readers. "We adapt our services to the needs of our clients, some of whom need just a retail platform to process sales through, and some of whom need a full trade-distribution program, complete with marketing support," says Jerry Friends, publisher/distributor and manager of the Thomson-Shore Indie Market.
While the 45th anniversary year is an occasion for looking back at the company's history, Thomson-Shore has had its eye on the future for years. "We have always been and will always be a quality-first book printing and binding manufacturer," Spall says, "but we recognized that print alone would not be enough to answer the needs of our future author and publishing partners. We began to retool our platform to offer solutions that would help get books to readers in a more integrated manner."
The kinds of projects Thomson-Shore can handle differ widely in scale. The company routinely takes over domestic printing of trade titles after large offshore initial print runs, often reprinting over 50,000 copies to meet demand. The company serves hundreds of distribution clients, providing everything from traditional warehousing services for wholesalers and booksellers to retail-driven POD. For one international academic publisher, Thomson-Shore created an online-retail solution to handle ordering and fulfillment while the publisher does its own marketing and distribution.
For indie authors, Thomson-Shore combines POD and offset to meet the changing demand for a title. "POD is an excellent tool to support a speculative title at a very low cost of entry," Friends says. "When a title takes off we have an incredibly flexible offset platform, ready to produce thousands of copies of a book at a much lower price point per unit. Especially with independent authors and small publishers, we're a turnkey solution, with a hands-on approach and an emphasis on educating our clients as we guide them toward success."
Perhaps the company's most unique service is making handcrafted books through its Bessenberg Bindery, which Spall calls "a microbrewery for books." Opened in 1978, Bessenberg Bindery's staff of three craftspeople produces hand-sewn hardcovers, custom boxes and slipcases, fine-press editions, and even desk accessories, along with performing book repairs. Bessenberg does runs of one to 200. "It's one of the remaining few commercial binderies that has the capabilities to take on these tasks," Spall says.
One especially cool Bessenberg Bindery project is the creation of John Grisham's limited editions. Thomson-Shore gets the guts of the books from another printer and then "we create leather-bound cases with custom spine hubs," Spall says. "Additionally, we hand speckle the block edges and add author-signed tips and silk ribbons. Lastly we make an incredibly high quality, durable slipcase." The finished products are true treasures.
Spall looks forward to continuing to adapt Thomson-Shore to the changing publishing landscape, in which new business models continually emerge and authors increasingly take a central role in the making and marketing of their books. "I believe it is more important now than ever for publishers and authors to partner with the suppliers who are most innovative, creative, and versatile," Spall says. "We are looking for publisher-author partnerships. We are certain to innovate and we want to help others as much as we can to supply great books to eager readers.