Storey Moves into MASS MoCA and the E-Age
Judith Rosen -- 1/8/01

he maple trees growing upside down at MASS MoCA--the 13-acre, 27-building museum, performance space and home to a growing number of high-tech companies in North Adams, Mass.--reflect the changes at its newest tenant, 17-year-old Storey Communications. Storey has just completed one of its strongest years yet, according to president and CEO Pam Art. Trade sales in 2000, Storey's first with Workman as its distributor, are expected to increase 34% over 1999, while special markets, including gift sales, will rise 17%. Storey's rights sales are up 47%, primarily because of the new Equestrian Book Club, and international sales are up 29%. Returns are also at an all-time low, between 12% and 14%.

This past fall, the Vermont-based publisher specializing in books on country-living skills transferred its book and custom publishing operations to MASS MoCA, which is nestled in what the Wall Street Journal refers to as "Silicon village." When the renovations are completed on the second floor of Storey's 18,000-square-foot space, the company will relocate its remaining staff from Pownal, Vt.

For the first time since Storey began in 1983, all 92 staffers will work at the same site. "It's been a longtime dream of ours to have a unified facility," said Martha Storey, cofounder with her husband, John Storey, of the company. "There's a very vibrant community at MASS MoCA. It's an exciting place to come to work."

Art characterizes Storey's consolidation in Massachusetts as "a big mental move but a short distance move. We're still independent and privately owned. We're taking advantage of a more creative environment. I think we're positioned for the future without giving up too much of our roots."

Storey, which is a book packager and Web content provider as well as a publisher, will benefit from close contact with cutting-edge companies at MASS MoCA, including close to a dozen dot-coms. But even before the move, Storey began dipping its t into electronic publishing. For Art, a key question is, "How do we make [our] evergreen content available and bring it into this new era?"

Storey has already converted its 200 32-page Country Wisdom Bulletins on gardening, crafts and animal care into downloadable files, which will soon be available at its Web site. As John Storey quipped, "When we developed these, it used to take four to six weeks for delivery--now it's four to five minutes."

In addition, Storey has licensed several dozen books to other Web sites and converted all 35,000 images in its library to electronic format. "We've made a major commitment to digital photography," noted Art, "and we have a full-time digital photographer on staff." To date, Storey has outsourced conversion of 65 of its 365 backlist titles into electronic format. However, the company is looking into software that, said Art, "will make that process seamless with the whole book development process" that begins the moment a manuscript is submitted.

Storey's print publishing program is in transition in other ways. Plans for 2001 call for a 25% cut in its list, from 52 new books in 2000 to 38 in 2001. "We decided we would do fewer books and take each farther," said Art. "We're doing a lot more color and books that will appeal to a broader audience."

At the same time, Storey is expanding the areas that it publishes in. "We have a new associate publisher and marketing director, Janet Harris, who's been with Workman for the last 15 years," explained Art, who plans to use Harris's expertise to turn up the heat on cookbooks. The first general cookbook off the press is Martha Storey's 500 Treasured Country Recipes, which was published in early October and has 55,000 copies in print. In March, Storey will publish its first humor title, which will feature Hallmark's popular blue-haired character, Maxine.