Independent Publishers Group (IPG) in Chicago, Ill., was one of the biggest success stories of 2002. According to president Mark Suchomel, "We had increases over 20%." Even the long-troubled computer category was up, by 1%. Returns, too, were at a good level. "They were just above 18% for the year, which was down from last year," said Suchomel. Although sales were strong across the board, there were a few standouts, including Rush drummer Neil Peart's Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road (ECW), about a motorcycle trip he took in the wake of his wife and daughter's deaths; William Gurstelle's gun book, Backyard Ballistics (Chicago Review Press), which came out a year and a half ago; and Thomas W. Phelan's 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (Child Management), which IPG picked up when LPC went under last year

In fact, 2002 was the best year yet, sales-wise, for two former LPC publishers now with IPG. At Toronto-based ECW, publisher and president Jack David said, "Despite 'the troubles,' we've actually increased our sales 30% in the last 12 months." Last year, those financial woes included the bankruptcy of General Distribution Services, its Canadian distributors, and extended into 2003 with the bankruptcy of Stewart House Distribution Services, which briefly handled ECW's Canadian sales.

David was buoyed, however, by the company's relationship with IPG, which he described as "a good fit," and by the success of Ghost Rider, in Canada as well as the lower 48. Despite the loss of its Canadian distributors last year, David noted, "We have sufficient resources to handle our operational expenses for the next 18 months." The company also has a lot of debt dating back to its decision to double its output from 25 to 50 books a year.

Rod Colvin, publisher of Addicus Books in Omaha, Neb., which is trying to make a name for itself with its line of home health titles, also finished way up. "We have had growth every year in our nine years of business," he told PW. "However, the year 2002 was especially good. We had growth of 62%, despite losing revenue in the LPC debacle." Addicus publishes five to seven books a year, although it is looking to increase that number in 2003 and will publish five books this spring.