By maintaining its tight focus on sports and fitness, the trade division of Human Kinetics had its best year ever last year. The Champaign, Ill.—based publisher founded in 1985 has grown from $1.9 million in sales in 1991 to just over $8 million for the fiscal year ending April 30. Sales were up 20% last year and returns were at 10%, making the trade division the leading revenue-producing area of the company.

"We've not strayed from our sense of direction or become impatient with what other publishers might consider unsatisfactory frontlist performances in a given year," said v-p and trade division director Ted Miller. "This year we were down in terms of quantity—42 frontlist books—but not in quality. We'd like to be in the 50—60 range." Even so, frontlist and backlist contributed just about equally to last year's numbers for HK, which releases most of its books in paperback.

Currently there are more than 300 titles on the HK backlist. Miller estimated that "somewhere between 50 and 60 titles in their various editions have sold over 30,000 copies. We have over 75,000 in sales for 18 to 20 titles." Among HK's backlist bestsellers that contributed most to its record year are Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, which has sold 220,000 copies since it first came out in 1990; Thomas R. Baechle and Barney R. Groves's Weight Training: Steps to Success, which has sold 160,000 copies; and Donald A. Chu's Jumping into Plyometrics, which has 85,000 copies in print. Frédéric Delavier's Strength Training Anatomy, which has more than 100,000 copies in print since its release last August, was a key frontlist title for 2001.

Through its concentration on just two areas—fitness and sports—HK has had a distinct advantage with athletes, coaches and fitness enthusiasts. "We've really been able to get close to many of the organizations that are prominent in those areas," noted Miller, singling out both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Baseball Coaches Association. Last year, HK worked with the ABCA to produce Baseball Skills and Drills. In the spring, it will team up with the sports medicine organization to produce the third edition of The ACSM Fitness Book, which has over 105,000 copies in print since its release in 1994.

Looking ahead to 2002—2003, Miller predicted, "The thirst for expert information is not going to wane anytime soon." He's also betting that neither will interest in strength training. Delavier's sequel to his bestselling Women's Strength Training Anatomy is due out in early 2003.