Barron's, best known for test preparation guides and foreign language books, has been steadily expanding into new subject areas under president and publisher Ellen Sibley. Books in the categories of children's, hobbies, crafts and pets are now a permanent part of Barron's list, along with titles in business, art instruction, parenting and career guidance, explained Alex Holtz, v-p for sales and marketing. The company is also taking the Barron's brand into such areas as mind, body, spirit, health and gift.

Barron's is coupling its expansion into new categories with more aggressive promotion of its titles in specialty stores. Although the traditional bookstore market remains Barron's single largest sales channel, the publisher is enjoying higher sales in pet, craft and gift stores, as well as mass merchandisers, Holtz said. And the company continues to have solid sales in school and library markets. "We're expanding our reach in different channels," Holtz said. To help broaden its sales efforts, Barron's is testing complementing its in-house sales force with gift reps.

Even as it expands into new categories, Barron's is adding to its core test prep and foreign language lines. A major effort is developing more state-specific test prep titles, and a new series, Making the Grade, is aimed at the home school market. Holtz said Barron's has "high expectations" for both endeavors. The company has also launched a new area on its Web site where students can take SAT practice tests, and Holtz called that SAT launch the "forerunner" for similar sites.

Some individual titles that Holtz believes will sell well this fall include Hex and the City: Sophisticated Spells for the Urban Witch; Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking; 500 Great Comic Book Action Heroes; and A Century of Movie Posters.

After record sales in 2002, Holtz said Barron's "didn't escape" from the effects of the weak retail marketplace in the first four months of 2003, but business has picked up over the summer. "I think we're headed for a strong finish. We're well positioned to take advantage of any improvement in the economy," Holtz said.