Tyrus Books has been around for little more than a year, but already it's exceeding its publisher's early expectations in establishing a solid niche in the crime fiction genre. Not only are well-established authors publishing with the Madison, Wis., small press, but in August the company acquired Busted Flush Press, a publisher of out-of-print hard-boiled crime novels founded by Houston bookseller David Thompson in 2005.
By the end of 2010, Tyrus, which started with three titles in fall 2009, will have 45 books in print, with another 21 titles scheduled for release in spring and summer 2011. Tyrus publisher Benjamin LeRoy and editor Alison Janssen intend to publish 30–40 new releases and reissues of out-of-print books annually under the Tyrus and Busted Flush imprints.
Books are typically published simultaneously in hardcover for collectors and libraries, and trade paper for retailers, as well as in e-book format. Initial print runs vary between 3,000 and 6,000 copies, with a high of 10,000 for the press's bestselling title to date, Delta Blues, a collection of short fiction by the likes of John Grisham and Charlaine Harris, edited by Carolyn Haines, with an introduction by actor Morgan Freeman.
Tyrus is aggressively moving into the e-book market and has plans to launch an e-book imprint of original releases and reissues in early 2011. LeRoy declined to disclose any more details on the initiative.
"It's been a challenge. It's stressful," LeRoy admitted of his rapidly growing company, not least because Thompson died unexpectedly less than three weeks after finalizing an agreement to merge with Tyrus. Files and data hadn't yet been transferred from Busted Flush to Tyrus, so LeRoy has to "figure out where everything is" while promoting fall frontlist and producing spring 2011 titles.
LeRoy is adamant that the "best way to honor" Thompson, who was slated to continue in his role as Busted Flush's publisher after the merger, is to maintain his vision for the press, including honoring even "handshake deals" on future releases. "I have a good idea of where David was thinking of going with his publishing program, because of conversations with agents, authors, other booksellers, and David's wife [McKenna Jordan, owner of Houston's Murder by the Book]," LeRoy explained.
While LeRoy and Janssen develop relationships "midstream" with Busted Flush authors, they're also reigniting relationships with authors they previously nurtured at Bleak House, which LeRoy founded in 2001 and sold to Big Earth Publishing in 2005. Citing philosophical differences between Big Earth president and CEO David Oskin and them, LeRoy and Janssen left Bleak House in July 2009 to launch Tyrus Books.
There have been no new titles released by Bleak House since fall 2009 and booksellers have reported difficulty in obtaining some backlist titles. Oskin assured PW that his company is "refocusing" its seven book imprints to better meet the challenges of a changing marketplace, not moving away from publishing fiction. While explaining that retailers wanting to carry Bleak House titles "aren't there as much as they used to be," Oskin said he intends to resume publishing fiction under the Bleak House imprint. Right now, though, the company's emphasis is on publishing regional nonfiction and two lifestyle magazines. Intrigue Press, another Big Earth mystery fiction imprint, has not released any frontlist titles since 2006.
Thus far, half a dozen authors who previously published with Bleak House have moved to Tyrus. Victoria Houston, who published eight novels with Berkley Prime Crime before moving to Bleak House in 2007 and publishing two novels there, recently signed a three-book deal with Tyrus. Dead Deceiver, the 11th title in her Loon Lake fishing mystery series, will be published by Tyrus in February 2011, though her backlist remains with Berkley and Bleak House.
"I had such a wonderful relationship with Allison and support from Ben," Houston said. "There's no indication from Bleak House that they want to continue the series, so I decided to go with Tyrus." In what LeRoy described as a "small world" twist, Reed Farrel Coleman, whose sixth Moe Prager novel, Innocent Monster, was released by Tyrus in October, had previously obtained the rights to his backlist from Bleak House and moved to Busted Flush. Busted Flush had already reissued three Moe Prager novels, with another two scheduled for reissue in November. And a title planned for Tyrus's fall 2011 list, Red Sky, Red Dragonfly by John Galligan, is already one of LeRoy's favorite books. The novel, originally published by Bleak House in fall 2001, marked LeRoy's debut as a book publisher.