Boston-based Beacon Press, the area’s oldest small press, is marking its 160th anniversary this year with a new tag line, “Igniting Hearts and Minds,” and a new colophon that hearkens back to early last century. “We’ve returned to the idea of the flame, ‘shedding light to warn of imminent dangers,’ but interpreted it this time as coming from the books, from the words on the page, and tied it to our mission to open minds and stir hearts and perhaps to stir readers to action,” wrote director Helene Atwan in a recent blog post.
The press is expanding by publishing history books for young people by adapting books originally released in its ReVisioning American History series. First up is a young person’s edition of A Queer History, due out in 2015. A young person’s edition of A Disability History will likely follow.
Steerforth Press in Hanover, N.H., is also making changes. According to publisher Chip Fleischer, it has scaled back the number of titles it releases under its own imprint and is expanding its list—from 40 in 2014 to 45 in 2015—through its sister company, Hanover Publisher Services, which serves as a middleman for small presses working with Penguin Random House Publisher Services. Its clients include New Europe Books, Campfire Graphic Novels, and, in July, Pushkin Press.
At the beginning of April, two HPS titles made the shortlist for the world’s most valuable literary prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, to be announced in June. Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart (Steerforth) and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book One: A Death in the Family (Archipelago Books). Later this year Steerforth will publish Ryan’s second novel, The Thing About December (Aug.). Archipelago has already released Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book Two and the third title is due out in May.
Three-year-old Bibliomotion, with new offices in Brookline Village, Mass., tries to limit its list to 15–20 titles a year. “We keep our program intentionally small,” says cofounder and publisher Erika Heilman, “because we spend a considerable amount [of time] on each title and with each author.” In part, that’s because of the press’s unusual shared risk/shared reward model, which features no advances but high royalties. Bibliomotion began by publishing business and parenting titles and is considering broadening its list to include health and pets.
But Bibliomotion’s biggest change involves e-learning and turning every one of its books into a course, or courses. The press will be launching a new website/marketplace in the second quarter with straight video courses and collaborative learning experiences. In the meantime, Bibliomotion is gearing up for several leadership and big ideas titles, including Steven Overman’s The Conscience Economy (Oct.) and Stefan Weitz’s Search (Nov.), an Insight Labs Library title.
“HBRP is a nonprofit that acts like a for-profit [trade] press,” explains marketing communications director Erin Brown. The paperback edition of John Mackey and Raj Sisodia’s Conscious Capitalism can be found in nontraditional book markets like Whole Foods, where Mackey is co-CEO, and its books are frequently found in airport stores. It currently has a spinner rack promotion of HBR Guides, HBR Must Reads, and HBR’S 20-Minute Manager series at airport stores. And it actively develops press titles from Harvard Business Review, like LinkedIn founder and chairman Reid Hoffman’s The Alliance, coauthored by Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh, which grew out of an article on employment in Silicon Valley.
Like other trade houses, HBRP looks for ways to create spinoffs, or in its case, tools, of popular titles. Two years ago it experimented with a slide deck based on John P. Kotter’s Leading Change. In May it will release its first bundled product, a strategy tool kit, which includes the e-book of A. G. Lafferty and Roger Martin’s Playing to Win, four real-world case studies, three customized meeting decks, video, and a facilitator’s guide.
Two Maine presses with a more regional focus, Down East Books in Rockport, which was purchased by Rowman & Littlefield almost exactly a year ago, and 15-year-old Islandport Press in Yarmouth, are in growth mode. “I’m very optimistic about where we’re going,” says Down East editorial director Michael Steere. “In a few years we’ll be a stronger imprint maybe than we’ve ever been.” Last year, during the transition, Down East published only 15 books, all based on articles from Down East magazine. This year the press will publish 45 New England titles with a wider appeal, like Robert W. Cohen’s The 50 Greatest Players in Boston Red Sox History (Oct.) and Jerry Desmond’s Turning the Tide at Gettysburg (July).
Since its move last year to a bigger space where it consolidated its office and warehouse, Islandport has been ramping up. In November, it launched a more consumer-friendly website and in 2014, it will double its list to 20 books and two calendars. Publisher and editor-in-chief Dean Lunt is “bullish” about print books, especially those published by small presses. “This is going to be a golden age for small and mid-sized publishers,” he predicts in part because of his own success signing two big name authors: Gerry Boyle for a new Jack McMorrow novel, Once Burned (May 2015), and Kate Christensen for How to Cook A Moose (2015), inspired by M.F.K. Fisher.
Another Maine press, nine-year-old gift-book publisher Cider Mill Press in Kennebunkport, is making its first foray into fiction with Talk (May) by radio host and TV personality Michael Smerconish. Press founder and publisher John Whalen, former publisher at Running Press, had worked with Smerconish on Flying Bird while at Running Press and says he was excited to learn that he had tried his hand at fiction. And despite Cider Mill’s focus on nonfiction, Whalen says that he looks for books that “tie into our original publishing premise, which is books that have strong, distinctive marketing and merchandising opportunities.” Talk is being marketed as The Primary Colors of 2014.
Small Beer Press in Easthampton, Mass., is becoming more frontlist driven. “We’re not going to be doing as many reprints so that we can focus more on the new titles and make sure we get them out to a wide readership,” says publisher Gavin Grant. He plans to release seven Small Beer books, one chapbook, two issues of its LCRW ’zine, and 14 e-books in 2014. The press’s lead title for the fall is Benjamin Parzybok’s Sherwood Nation (Sept.), about drought and secession in Portland, Ore.
The MFA is one of the few museums with its own imprint. “We have a mixed list,” says publications director Emiko Usui. “We do some books that are very scholarly, and we’re still highly focused on our big exhibitions.” The press will publish the tie-in to this fall’s Francisco Goya exhibit, called simply Goya: Order and Disorder (Oct.), by Stephanie Loeb Stepanek et al., which examines Goya’s work across media as a painter, printer, and draftsman. Although the press focuses on those large exhibits, earlier this year it did well in the trade with a book tied to a much smaller exhibit of photos by a dozen women photographers from Iran and the Arab world, Kristen Gresh’s She Who Tells a Story.