The Carol Publishing Group, which has tried and failed to merge with two different companies over the last two years, has hired the investment banking firm Veronis, Suhler &Associates to evaluate its strategic alternatives.

Carol publisher Steve Schragis told PW, "Today's publishing environment is dominated by national and international conglomerates, and it gets harder and harder to compete each year. I think it's best for us to affiliate with a larger company or to merge with a company that is roughly our size."

Carol will finish 1998 with gross sales of approximately $17 million, a slight increase over 1997, while operating profits are expected to top $1 million. The company has an active backlist of about 1300 nonfiction titles, and publishes between 100 to 120 titles annually. Carol considers its areas of strength to be in entertainment, ethnic studies, New Age, family and parenting, gambling and biographies. The publisher, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary on January 9, has had 12 national bestsellers.

"I'm not sure how much further we can take the company, given our size," Schragis said, although he added that if no deal can be found, Carol will continue to publish in its niche markets.