Four years ago, Hilton Publishing refocused its publishing program on health-care titles aimed at the African-American market and published in partnership with professional health-care associations. Founded by Hilton Hudson, a practicing heart surgeon, the house was then a "virtual" company with only four full-time workers, supported by lots of freelancers.

Today the company ( is much the same size—a handful of full-timers and lots of freelancers—but its output is impressive. HP has grown from publishing one or two books a year (with initial print runs of about 5,000 copies) to about seven or eight books a year, all sponsored by major health associations, with print runs of 20,000 copies or more. The house is expanding into Spanish-language health-care titles (written by Hispanic health-care professionals) and has added a custom-publishing program that produces health-care pamphlets and brochures for a variety of health-care organizations.

"We're a virtual company," said Tom Woll, Hilton's senior v-p. "There's very little fixed overhead." Indeed, while the independent publisher's mailing address is in Illinois, Woll, who is also a publishing consultant, is based in Westchester, N.Y.; HP's editor-in-chief, Dr. Herbert Stern, is in Boston; Tara Brown, the marketing and publicity director, is in North Carolina; and Erik Hudson handles group sales from Wisconsin.

"We pay well, keep the overhead low and have high expectations for our books," said Hudson. "We're serious about the minority health market. We want to make a difference."

HP's approach has also made a difference in its bottom line. HP's revenue has been growing by 20% each year, to about $1 million. Woll noted that only about 10% of HP's sales come through the trade. The bulk of its titles are distributed through a variety of health-care associations that buy thousands of copies to distribute to minority patients.

"We have complete editorial freedom," said Woll about HP's partnerships with health-care organizations. "The associations use the books for patient education and distribute through their networks of health-care professionals." HP has distributed more than 100,000 copies of Heart of the Matter (done in conjunction with the Association of Black Cardiologists) and more than 80,000 copies of High Blood Pressure. Looking to expand its program to other minority health-care consumers, HP has published a Spanish-language version of Saving Our Last Nerve: The African American Woman's Path to Mental Health (published in English in 2002) and the house will also release a Spanish-language title on HIV and hepatitis C later in 2004. Among HP's publishing partners are Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, Hoffman LaRoche, Grady Hospital in Atlanta and the Association of Black Cardiologists.

HP's books, including the Spanish-language titles, are distributed through IPG. The house also does custom printing—brochures and pamphlets—on HIV, mental health, hypertension and other health issues. Both Hudson and Woll told PW that they want more sales through bookstores. "IPG does a great job, but we need to be in more African-American bookstores," said Hudson. "Minority readers just aren't flocking to B&N to buy health-related books."