After 10 years of steady growth, 2004 is proving to be a transitional year for Arcadia Publishing, the regional publishing house founded in Dover, N.H., in 1993. This past April, Arcadia separated itself from U.K.—based Tempus Publishing and is now owned by Richard Joseph, the former head of the British bookstore chain Books Etc. The company is also moving away slightly from its strictly regional publishing focus and is looking to become more market driven. To that end, P.J. Norlander was named marketing director this spring; she moved to Arcadia from Motorbooks International, where she held a similar position.
Since its inception, Arcadia has relied solely on publicity to promote its titles, Norlander said. But the company now has the resources to develop more extensive marketing campaigns, and Arcadia has a large list to market—it will publish 548 titles in 2004. (The company plans to publish 570 titles next year.) Norlander said she is focusing her marketing efforts on titles that she feels will have national appeal, citing a fall release, Playing for Time: The Death Row All Stars, as an example of a book that should draw interest beyond Wyoming, where the book, about a death row baseball team, is set. Arcadia plans to do more new titles that are beyond its regional niche beginning in 2005.
Despite the move to do more national titles, regional publishing will remain Arcadia's core business and, within the core, the Images of America series remains the company's largest product line, accounting for 90% of Arcadia's 2,300-title backlist. The IoA formula uses local authors—sometimes historians, but not always—to chronicle communities all over America, publishing works that feature black-and-white photos. To help recruit authors, Arcadia has four offices—Dover; Chicago; Charleston, S.C. (which is now also corporate headquarters); and San Francisco. The San Francisco office was opened last year and has already commissioned 130 projects—"many more than we thought," said Norlander. While regional in nature, the books from San Francisco have a "California twist," Norlander said, noting that there are a number of sports books (49ers, San Diego Padres), beach books and books on Native Americans.
Notwithstanding all the changes, Arcadia is on pace to exceed its target of a 27% increase in sales this year, Norlander said. The Lost Hamptons, about the Long Island community before it was discovered by the rich and famous, has sold 5,000 copies since it was released in April, while a book on Mystic, Conn., has sold 2,600 copies in four months. The typical first-year sales for an Arcadia book is between 1,200 and 1,800 copies.
Arcadia handles its own sales and distribution. The bookstore chains account for about one-third of the company's sales, with nontraditional outlets (especially hardware stores and historical societies) accounting for one-third, and independent bookstores, e-tailers, libraries and museums making up most of the final one-third.