As it approaches its 50th anniversary in 2014, Ohio University Press is seeking to enhance its visibility in the trade by rebranding Swallow Press, a 73-year-old literary press that entered into a licensing agreement with O.U. Press in 1979 and officially became its trade imprint in 2008.
“Swallow Press has been an important part of Ohio University Press’s trade identity for over 30 years,” explained Gillian Berchowitz, O.U. Press’s director since July. “Rebranding the imprint with new covers and content gives us the opportunity to emphasize the value and enduring quality of the Swallow backlist, and, at the same time, to refocus the frontlist.”
Swallow Press was founded in Denver in 1940 by Alan Swallow, who died in 1966. During the mid–20th century, the company was best known for publishing literary fiction and poetry. In 1979, O.U. Press and Swallow Press entered into a licensing agreement, by which Swallow maintained its own publishing program, with the financial support of O.U. Press; O.U. Press fully acquired the company from its Chicago-based owners in 2008 by purchasing its 276-title backlist and the rights to use the Swallow name in frontlist acquisitions. Swallow Press currently has 195 active titles.
In August, O.U. Press reissued paperback editions of three classic Janet Lewis short novels under the Swallow Press imprint: The Wife of Martin Guerre, originally published by Colt in 1941 and by Swallow in 1955; The Trial of Soren Qvist, originally published by Doubleday in 1947 and by Swallow in 1959; and The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron, originally published by Doubleday in 1959 and by Swallow in 1965. Five thousand copies of the Lewis reissues will be printed over the course of the next three to five years.
The new edition of The Wife of Martin Guerre includes an appreciation of Lewis by Larry McMurtry. The 1955 Swallow Press edition of Guerre has sold 30,000 copies, making the title one of O.U. Press’s evergreen bestsellers. O.U. is also releasing all three of Lewis’s short novels as one e-book called Cases of Circumstantial Evidence.
In October, O.U. Press will continue to build up Swallow Press by publishing, in partnership with Sky Blue Press, a small Texas-based publisher, Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin 1939–1947, edited by Paul Herron, an editor at Sky Blue and author of Anaïs Nin: Book of Mirrors (Sky Blue, 1996). Mirages will be published in hardcover under the Swallow Press imprint. Swallow will also release a digital edition for the institutional market, while Sky Blue releases one for the trade. O.U. Press anticipates that 5,000–7,000 copies of Mirages will be printed over the course of the next three to five years.
Also in October, O.U. Press/Swallow Press is reissuing two novels by Nin: A Spy in the House of Love, first published in the U.S. in 1954 and by Swallow Press in 1959; and Under a Glass Bell, first published in the U.S. in 1948 and by Swallow Press in 1970. A few more of the approximately 12 titles by Nin on Swallow Press’s backlist will be reissued in 2014. Swallow became Nin’s publisher in 1958 when she approached the press after her publisher had allowed her fiction works to go out of print.
Swallow Press has aggressively marketed the Lewis reissues, especially The Wife of Martin Guerre. O.U. Press sent the previous 1955 edition to 25 key booksellers and informed them of all three reissues. Galley copies of Guerre were sent to prominent book reviewers, including Michael Dirda of the Washington Post, who recently wrote an in-depth review, setting the novel in its historical and literary context.
In addition to the emphasis on Swallow Press’s literary heritage, O.U. Press’s rebranding efforts for the imprint will include new editions in gardening, nature, the environment, and sustainability. “We have a couple of evergreen titles on the Swallow Press list to build upon: How to Identify Plants and How to Identify Grasses & Grasslike Plants,” explained Jeff Kallet, O.U. Press publicity manager, adding that environmental concerns also relate to some of Frank Waters’s works and to Bernard DeVoto’s West: History, Conservation, and the Public Good, which will be part of the rebranding effort.
O.U. Press publishes 40–50 titles annually, and five to seven of those are published under the Swallow imprint. O.U. Press and Swallow Press titles, which generate approximately $1 million annually in sales, are distributed by Chicago Distribution Center.