[ PW Home ] [ Bestsellers ] [ Subscribe ] [ Search ]

Publishers Weekly News

Prima Publishing: Prepared for Prosperity
Jim Milliot -- 9/7/98
After investing millions of dollars to build its infrastructure and coping with a disappointing 1997, Prima Publishing is "preparing to become a much larger company," Prima founder and president Ben Dominitz told PW. Sales for the first half of 1998 were up approximately 60% and Dominitz said he expects Prima's gross billings to be more than $60 million this year. Another indication of Prima's growth is the increase in the number of employees; the company is looking to add as many as 40 staff members to its current roster of some 130 people.
Dominitz credits much of Prima's recent success to what he describes as a "publishing model," based around Power Publisher, a publishing system developed in-house under the guidance of Matthew Carleson, Prima's executive v-p and chief operating officer. Power Publisher monitors every aspect of Prima's back-office functions, such as production and inventory control, while providing Prima with "first class" financial and accounting systems, Dominitz said. The system has also increased Prima's "speed to market," Dominitz noted, adding that Power Publisher remains flexible enough to accommodate changes. "We've been constantly updating it since we started developing it in 1995," Carleson explained, and he noted that Power Publisher could meet the needs of a $500 million publishing company.

The development of a flexible infrastructure has allowed Prima to devote more resources to the creative side of the business, Dominitz said. The company is now divided into four different divisions -- games, lifestyles, health and computers and technology -- each of which has distinct objectives.The games unit is Prima's largest division, annually releasing more than 100 guides related to computer and console games. The company works with many of the largest game manufacturers, including Nintendo, Electronic Arts and Sierra On-Line. Debra Kempker, who leads the division, told PW that Prima d s a lot of joint marketing with its partners. "Our philosophy is to create an awareness of the product before the book is released," Kempker said. Most of its guides are done in trade paperback, ranging in price from $12.99 to $19.99. The all-time bestseller is Myst, which has sold more than one million copies. "This business is about understanding and reacting quickly to market trends," Kempker noted. She expects titles related to Nintendo 64 to do well this year and is also seeing high interest in Sony PlayStation products. With Mattel's entry into the game market, Kempker said, game playing by girls is on the rise.

While much of the game division sales are made through nonbookstore channels, the division tied closest to the bookstore is lifestyles. Under the direction of Steven Martin, the unit publishes approximately 120 titles annually, mostly in trade paperback, although Martin said it is starting to do more hardcovers. Most are series titles in such areas as self-help, entrepreneurship, parenting, education and home business. According to Martin, series publishing makes it easier to gain brand recognition.The lifestyles division also houses Prima's Forum Books imprint, which was launched in 1997. Through Forum, Prima publishes works of serious nonfiction. "With the changes in the marketplace, we think there is an opportunity here," Martin said. The division recently signed an agreement with National Review to publish books with the magazine's logo and will include titles written by National Review contributors. The first books are set for spring 1999. Meanwhile, Martin believes that Forum has a potential bestseller in The Clinton Syndrome: The President and the Self-Destructive Nature of Sexual Addiction, which has 50,000 copies in print.

The newest division is Prima Health, which is headed by Dr. Steven Bratman. "We're making a serious attempt to raise the accuracy level of books about alternative medicine," Bratman told PW. "We want our authors to write realistically about alternative medicine," a strategy that Bratman thinks will help Prima gain the trust of readers. The division will publish 40 to 50 titles per year centered around its Natural Pharmacist series. The division is also doing a limited number of textbooks.

Prima's computer and technology division is undergoing something of a rejuvenation after several years of neglect, according to COO Carleson, who is now overseeing the unit. The division is developing a number of series such as Fast and Easy (for computer beginners), In a Weekend and Hands On. Prima has also done well with books on Windows. The division will release approximately 51 titles in all. "We're not where we want to be, but we're getting increased orders from all outlets," Carleson said.

Although Prima will publish approximately 300 titles this year, Dominitz said, "We're just getting started," and he is looking for "significant" double-digit growth over the next few years. "I think we have the right systems, the right vision and the right people to be successful," Dominitz said.
Back To News
Search | Bestsellers | News | Features | Children's Books | Bookselling
Interview | Industry Update | International | Classifieds | Authors On the Highway
About PW | Subscribe
Copyright 2000. Publishers Weekly. All rights reserved.