Since being reacquired by its founder in 2010, Stone Bridge Press, an independent publisher specializing in books on Japan, has expanded its list to include books on China and has launched ThreeL Media, an imprint focused on books that examine a range of sexualities and lifestyles.
When Stone Bridge founder Peter Goodman sold the company to the Japanese distributor Yohan in 2005, Goodman said he planned to stay on as just a “glorified administrator.” But Yohan’s plans to invest in Stone Bridge were sidetracked by the Yohan bankruptcy and Goodman bought back the press, a move that at first left him demoralized. “Stone Bridge wasn’t in good shape and had taken on a lot of commitments that I couldn’t fulfill. I was confused about what to do,” Goodman said.
However, by 2013, Goodman said, he had become “reinspired” by the changes taking place in book publishing, particularly the impact of social media. “Publishing was changing and technology was helping the change,” he said. “We didn’t have to be so removed from our readers. You could connect directly though social media, get a lot of feedback about what readers are thinking. It helps you talk to more authors and retailers.” Those changes were important to Stone Bridge, Goodman said, because “we’re a niche house, and our books aren’t for every bookstore. Thanks to Pinterest, Instagram, social media, and e-books, it’s not important if a store stocks our books, because we can reach out directly to our readers.”
Today Stone Bridge publishes about six books a year (and offers about 80 e-books) with a staff of three, including Goodman. The house added Robert Koeze, who has a background in the Chinese language, to acquire books on China and to do sales and marketing. The press has now published seven titles on China, including a revised 2015 edition of Chinese Business Etiquette: The Pocket Guide and the third edition of The China Survival Guide. Adding books on China, he said, “was a good move. Everyone is interested in China.”
Sex, China, Manga and Anime
Kaplan, publisher of Bridge21, an academic publisher, at the Association of Asia Studies conference. Kaplan was looking for a partner to launch a publishing venture called ThreeL Media, which would focus on sex-positive books. Goodman agreed to team with Kaplan to copublish books that target LGBTQ, feminist, sex-worker, and sexual-health communities. This year ThreeL will publish its first five books, including two this spring: Love Not Given Lightly: Profiles from the Edge of Sex, by Tina Horn, a journalist specializing in reporting on sex workers, and Unshaven: Modern Women, Natural Bodies, a photo book by self-described “hairy pornography producer” Nikki Silver. The books will be distributed by Consortium, Stone Bridge’s distributor.
Stone Bridge is also releasing the third revised edition of The Anime Encyclopedia: A Century of Japanese Animation, by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy, a mammoth 968-page exhaustive reference work on Japanese animation that sells for $120 in print and $24.95 as an e-book. Goodman initially planned to focus marketing on the e-book version and produce about 100 POD copies just for libraries—but by the time the book was ready to go to print Stone Bridge had advance orders for more than 300 copies. The book was published in March (Lightning Source produced the books) and has sold more than 500 copies. “People like the object quality of the book, its comprehensiveness, and the sheer volume,” Goodman said.
Among SB’s bestselling titles are Japanese the Manga Way (30,000 copies sold), The China Survival Guide (20,000 copies sold, 7,000 e-books), and Kanji Pict-O-Graphix (110,000 copies sold). Going forward, Goodman said Stone Bridge is considering publishing Chinese graphic novels (known as manhua) and adding more books and information about Japanese manga. Indeed, next spring SB will release The Story of Osamu Tezuka, a 900-page manga that’s the biography of the great manga artist and a history of the rise of manga and anime in postwar Japan.
Stone Bridge, Goodman emphasized, is going through “a rebirth. We’re re-energized, more focused, and more connected to our subject community. Publishing is much more fulfilling, to me personally, than it was a few years ago. I’m very excited.”