Trafalgar Square is celebrating its 30th year much the way it has operated for most of its life, without a lot of hoopla. The North Pomfret, Vt., distributor and publisher doesn't even note its pearl anniversary on the cover of its spring catalogue or mention the first book that it released under its Trafalgar Square Publishing imprint, Centered Riding , which went on to become an equestrian bestseller.
"Trafalgar was really started to ship a book out for a friend," said managing director Paul Feldstein. "By 1986, there were eight distribution clients. Now we have five times the number we had then, and, I'm happy to say, we're doing more than five times the volume."
For the past few years, Trafalgar's database has stayed steady at 9,000 titles, and it has added 750 to 1,000 books a year. Its client base has also remained stable, and Feldstein has no plans to increase it significantly. "You have to reach some kind of critical mass so everyone will see you. But I don't think you have to get really big," he told PW. Earlier this year, Trafalgar added a few more clients than usual, including seven from the U.K.: A Publishing, which does street-by-street atlases; Aurum Press, launching at BEA with a biography of Nicole Kidman; John Blake Publishers, not recently available in the U.S.; Pallas Athene, which publishes international travel literature and guides; ScreenPress Books, which does illustrated screenplays; Short Books, specializing in biographies and histories; and Sinclair Stevenson, a revival of this editor and agent's imprint. It also began distributing Edition Olms and Olms Verlag, a German-Swiss publisher of books in English on chess, and equestrian and erotic photography.
Although Trafalgar actively solicits new clients and has increased its profile as both a trade and a library distributor, "In the last couple years," said Feldstein, "I've noticed that clients have been coming to us. Part of that has to do with the fact that we had heavy returns in the industry, and U.K. publishers got especially hard hit by consignment distribution." Trafalgar developed an unusual system whereby it orders from its clients every week. In addition, many of the publishers that Trafalgar distributes "are opting not to sell U.S. rights on key titles, but rather to distribute them through us."
All of which gives Feldstein hope as he looks ahead. "I'm pleased with the way things are going," he said. "For 2001, we were up ever so slightly. I thought that was good given the recession and September 11. The previous year, we were up 20%, which means we held that growth."