Richard Hunt, v-p of sales and marketing for F&W Publications, has joined Emmis Communications as president and publisher of the newly created Emmis Books division. Hunt's appointment is part of Emmis's strategy for expanding its book publishing business, said Debbie Paul, executive v-p and editorial director of Emmis Publishing. Hunt will report to her.

Emmis, which owns TV and radio stations as well as regional magazines, entered the book business a little over a year ago with the purchase of the Guild Press of Indiana, a small publisher started by Nancy Baxter that focuses on regional Indiana books and Civil War titles. Guild will become an imprint of Emmis Books, with Baxter reporting to Hunt.

Paul said Hunt's first objective is to improve the company's sales and marketing functions and to give a broader scope to its regional publishing activities. Guild Press has published about 20 titles annually and will increase its output to over 30; the first two titles from Emmis Books are scheduled to be released this fall, and three or four books are planned for spring 2004. The Emmis book line will draw material from some of Emmis's magazines, which include Los Angeles Monthly, Texas Monthly and Atlanta Monthly.

Hunt is still drawing up a business plan, and Paul said Emmis is prepared to give Hunt the resources that will support "sensible growth." One function that is likely to be quickly upgraded is the book group's distribution, which is currently handled by Guild.

The expansion of the book group will lessen the publishing's division dependence on advertising. For the nine-month period ended November 30, 2002, revenue in the magazine publishing group was $54.6 million, virtually flat with the same period in 2001 due to a soft advertising climate. Sales for the entire company in the period were $435.7 million.