Focused on nonfiction works for arts professionals, Manhattan-based Allworth Press will celebrate its 15th anniversary, marked by years of steady growth and a growing backlist of titles aimed at nearly every area of the visual and performing arts.
Allworth Press was founded by Tad Crawford, a lawyer and artists' rights activist and the author of Legal Guide for the Visual Artist, a groundbreaking title (nearly 100,000 copies in print) first published in 1977 and now a staple of Allworth's backlist. After 15 years, Allworth has a staff of 11 people at offices near Madison Square Park. The house publishes about 40 books a year, has a backlist of nearly 200 titles and generates revenue of nearly $2 million annually.
"We focus on niches of creative professionals and we work to develop new niches," said Crawford. The approach has worked. Allworth's sales, Crawford said, have grown about 20% a year over the last seven years. Titles aimed at photographers and graphic designers are its strongest category, he said, but in recent years the house has published more titles on film, music, modeling, interior design and industrial design. Allworth also offers titles on business and law, personal finance and writing and publishing.
Allworth, Crawford explained, owes its success to "our concentration on a strong backlist. Our frontlist is important, but we wouldn't know what to do with a book that sold 100,000 copies the first year. We do know how to create steady sellers." He cites works like the recent Making It on Broadway: Actors' Tales of Climbing to the Top by David Wienir and Jodie Langel (5,000 copies since April and back to press) as an example of a typical Allworth title. Other backlist titles that do well include Emotional Branding by Marc Gobé (30,000 copies) and Elements of Graphic Design by Alexander White, "a classic for course adoptions" that continues to sell about 400 copies a month.
"We work with our authors to update and revise. Our legal guides started with perforated forms. Now the forms are on CDs in each book," Crawford noted. Allworth's books are distributed by Watson-Guptill, a house that also focuses on practical arts-oriented titles. "They have been great for us. Our lists work well together," Crawford said. The house actually pared its frontlist from about 45 titles a year to 40, Crawford said. "We're looking to get better performance from each title." And Allworth is also focusing on corporate branding and marketing to "make readers more aware of us," Crawford said.