When F+W Publications purchased Adams Media last summer, the Avon, Mass.—based company best known for its aggressively priced career, business and inspirational books was already positioned for growth. "Company founder Bob Adams left us with a viable business model and a huge backlist [700 titles]," COO Scott Watrous told PW. "Our focus is on creating the price point and the package."
Sales were up 10% last year and Watrous projects that sales will rise 20% in 2004. Title count has steadily risen from 136 books in 2003 to 156 this year, with 202 set for 2005. Watrous said F+W has provided Adams Media with much-needed infrastructure and, for the most part, allowed the company to operate as an independent unit. "Everybody continues to report to me," said Watrous, "except our financial person, who reports to Cincinnati," where F+W is based.
While series such as Everything, Streetwise, JobBank and Small Miracles continue to be Adams Media's bread-and-butter, the company plans to vary its list with more series and a trio of imprints, the first imprints the company has launched since its founding in 1980. Provenance Press, which provides New Age guides to intermediate practitioners, will begin in October with Brenda Knight's Rituals for Life: Create Your Own Sacred Ceremonies. Next year the company will add Polka Dot Press, the nonfiction equivalent of chick lit. A precursor of the imprint is this September's Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled, and Independent by Judy Ford. Adams Media's third imprint, Platinum Press, will introduce a line of higher-priced business books. "We're still not going to do books at $30," noted publishing director Gary M. Krebs. "Value is still key."
Given the success of its inspirational series—A Cup of Comfort has sold more than one million copies—Adams Media is developing one more, The Rocking Chair Reader, this fall. The series will have a nostalgic flavor and will launch with Helen Kay Polaski's Coming Home: Timeless Stories That Span the Generations. In addition, the company's flagship Everything brand will have its own spinoffs, or what Krebs calls "a subset series."
In keeping with the more serious topics of the new books—Asperger's syndrome and dyslexia, for example—these Everything titles will have a different trim size and photographs on the cover. Another popular nonseries series is what Krebs refers to as "The Teen Initiative." It began in spring 2003 with the publication of Jody Blanco's book on bullying, Please Stop Laughing at Me. In January, Adams will publish five girls' guides, including Teenmagazine writer Karle Dickerson's On the Spot.
That so many books seem to fit together in series, imprints or other initiatives is no surprise. "I try to think in blocks of books," said Watrous. "What will be the second book from this author? What we're going to be seeing in the future is books with similar themes to build shelf presence."
He plans to continue publishing single-title books, roughly 25 a season, to feed the series pipeline. For instance, Joanne Kimes's humorous take on pregnancy, Pregnancy Sucks, led to this season's, Pregnancy Sucks for Men. And Adams Media recently signed a nine-book contract with business author Stephan Schiffman. In addition, F+W is moving QVC regular Don Aslett from Writer's Digest Books to Adams Media in spring 2005.