In 2019, Buz Teacher began researching for a book project he was planning for 2022, to mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of Running Press, the independent publisher he founded with his brother in 1972 (and sold to Perseus in 2002). As he began to contact colleagues in the indie press and bookselling world to contribute some comments about Running Press, Teacher found the volume of response from across the industry overwhelming.
As a result, Teacher began commissioning essays from people across all sectors of the book business that detailed what publishing in the latter part of the 20th century was like more broadly. The feedback on this new direction was so favorable that, after a time, Teacher abandoned the Running Press idea, fully committing himself to a volume on the broader business.
“It really snowballed,” Teacher said of the project. The result is Among Friends: An Illustrated Oral History of American Book Publishing & Bookselling in the 20th Century, to be published on September 23, which Teacher edited with his wife, Janet Bukovinsky Teacher.
Originally slated to be 356 pages, the finished book is 576 pages—the result of that overwhelming industry response. Teacher said he was more than surprised about the reaction to Among Friends: “I was amazed.” Though well-known in indie circles, Teacher said, he hadn't historically been that well connected with those at the bigger houses. So colleagues helped him out, connecting him with industry power brokers. Soon, word spread, and those power brokers came to him.
The result is more than 100 personal essays from major book business figures over the past half-century and change, including Tom Borders, Joni Evans, Jane Friedman, Daniel Halpern, Clyde Anderson, Peter Kindersley, Barbara Marcus, Nigel Newton, Dick Snyder, Nan Talese, and Carolan Workman. Publishers Weekly owner George Slowik Jr. also contributed an essay.
The goal of Among Friends is to capture “milestone moments in the industry from the heyday of postwar optimism through the turbulent 1960s and ‘70s to the cusp of a new millennium in a way that’s new and engaging,” the Teachers noted in a statement announcing the book's publication.
Teacher believes that the quality of the essays the book contains will ensure its appeal to anyone interested in the recent history of American book publishing, not just industry insiders. As an example, Teacher pointed to the essay by Tom Borders, which describes how he and his brother came to open the bookstore (and subsequent chain) that would bear their name, as particularly entertaining.
The book, which is being published by Teacher's Two Trees Press, will receive a limited, numbered 1,600-copy hardcover print run, with each copy priced at $200. The text is complemented by illustrations from the PW archives and other art. Ingram Content Group is the exclusive distributor for the book.
In addition to taking the lead on editorial and production, Teacher is also handling the book’s marketing campaign. “I always Iiked sales,” he said, noting that he expects to be at a few of the fall regional bookseller shows this year, and is working on additional appearances.
Teacher said that he really understood just how much the project had become a labor of love once he decided to add more than 200 pages to the book's length after he had already set the price. Still, he didn’t want to change the price tag—although, he noted, “if I was still at Running Press, the price would be $250.”
And, as if a putting together a 576-page book with hundreds of contributors wasn't enough of a task, Teacher said that he may expand the project in the future to look at publishing in the current century. An ancillary website is in the works that will allow people to submit their own essays, although Teacher acknowledged that he isn’t sure what form a new related project might take. For now, he is focused on getting the word out about a book that shows how publishing was conducted in the 20th century written by the people who had a hand in shaping it.
“It’s their book,” he said. “I'm just the editor."