When the AOL Time Warner Book Group decided to move Bulfinch Press, its illustrated book imprint, to New York City, all but one of the staff of 14 decided to leave the company and remain in the Boston area. Jill Cohen, newly appointed Bulfinch publisher at the time, said the situation was "a curse and a gift. We had to hire an entirely new staff, but it was also a luxury to be able to rethink the company's structure and build a new team."
Now the "new" Bulfinch is up and running, with executive editor Michael Sand (the lone holdover) and new hires such as associate publisher Karen Margalo, art book editor Karen Gearheard, lifestyle editor Kristin Schillo and new publicity chief Matthew Ballast. Bulfinch has about 12 new employees in all (including its own publicity, marketing and promotional staff, dedicated to Bulfinch titles) and a commitment to broaden the reach of the Bulfinch brand. Cohen emphasized that the Bulfinch will focus on high-quality illustrated books for a broad variety of consumer markets.
Formerly with Random House for 20 years, Cohen worked at Random House Direct; set up the Conde Nast book publishing imprint; and launched QVC Publishing. And with a background in the direct market, Cohen explained she's looking for books that can be sold into multiple markets.
She told PW that Bulfinch will continue to publish "illustrated books on serious museum exhibitions and artists, as well as books on cooking and interior decor." But her mandate is to reach more people. The new Bulfinch is "not publishing for an elite audience," said Cohen. "We publish for everyone. We want broad appeal with high quality."
Upcoming titles reflect this effort. Bulfinch's biggest book looks to be 100 Years of Harley-Davidson ($65), a giant compendium on the venerable motorcycle company by Willie G. Davidson, the president of Harley-Davidson. The October book jumped from a 100,000 first printing to 250,000 copies. In October, the house is releasing The Architecture of Philip Johnson, an $85 volume on the career of distinguished architect Philip Johnson ("10,000 copies and we expect to sell through"). And Cohen has big expectations for Chicano Visions, a work on Mexican-American contemporary painting (Oct.; 30,000 first printing), written by the popular actor and comedian Cheech Marin.
Bulfinch publishes between 40 and 50 books annually, including four or five books in a licensed series of works (books and calendars) by legendary nature photographer Ansel Adams. Cohen said that number would likely hold in the future, but she added that the imprint will likely release around 30 books next year. She expects to do fewer reprints of European titles. "I need a quarter of my list to be high volume." she said. "Plus, a smaller list allows us to handhold our authors and their marketing campaigns," she said.
The illustrated book market has been difficult in recent years, and Cohen said that the summer "is never good. No one will really be able to tell until Christmas." But she did note that over the last four years, "sales for books selling for more than $30 have decreased substantially. Things are harder now. If you sell at a higher price point, you have to give consumers more than a lot of beautiful photos."