After enduring what COO and publisher Scott Watrous acknowleged was "a challenging marketplace" in 2005, Adams Media, which is owned by F+W Publications, is looking for growth from series books in 2006. The Avon, Mass.—based publisher is continuing to add new series to its list, while leveraging its most successful one, the 300-book Everything, for a new custom publishing initiative.
Adams has signed a licensing agreement with About.com, the popular Web portal owned by the New York Times, for an eponymous series written by the site's experts (known as guides). The site, which gets more than 29 million visits a month, will undergo a makeover in the next few weeks, and Adams books will not only reflect those rebranding efforts but will also have a Web feel. "We don't just want to take the About.com name and put it on books," said Adams executive publishing director Gary Krebs. "We think the book product can add to About.com." The books will contain links to About.com for supplementary material, and specific sites will provide updates to the books' content.
Adams plans to launch the About.com series in October with four 8 x 8 flexibound books that will cover pregnancy/birthing, job searching, Southern cooking and guitar playing. The series will build to 24 titles by the end of 2008, said Krebs. The About.com books will retail for $17.95, a significantly higher price point than Adams's $14.95 Everything line. The two series are aimed at different consumers, Krebs said, but will have complementary content. For example, the About.com guitar guide will focus on acoustic guitar, since there is already an Everything book with general guitar information.
While Adams looks to expand its series sales through its agreement with About.com, the company is also busy mining Everything for its new proprietary publishing program. After dabbling in custom publishing last year by producing several wedding and wine journals as well as a four-book series on pop psychology, Adams plans to publish 37 custom books in 2006. Custom publishing will account for nearly 15% of the list.
"Custom publishing is a very positive experience for us," said Watrous, who projects that proprietary sales will double this year. "It's really a change in the publishing mindset. It grows out of putting the customer first and asking them what they need." In coming weeks, Adams will add two dedicated custom-publishing positions, one for a designer and one for a project manager. Current clients include the Borders Group and American Wholesale Book Company.