Less than six months after taking over as president and publisher of Globe Pequot Press, Scott Watrous is repositioning the company to expand beyond its traditional niche areas in such segments as travel guides and outdoor books. "Here's the challenge we face," Watrous told PW in a wide-ranging interview at the company's offices. "We're very successful with our regional publishing. I want that to be part of our company. But I want to play with the big guys for particular lines of books." Watrous, formerly with Adams Media, took over for longtime Globe head Linda Kennedy in early May.
Judging by early response to From Baghdad, with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman with Melinda Roth, which was released earlier this month under the company's Lyons Press imprint, Watrous's efforts are off to a solid start. The book—which looks at the war through the prism of a group of marines and Iraqi citizens who smuggled an abandoned dog out of the country and into the U.S.—had the largest shipped number in the company's history: 100,000 copies. And it has already gone back to press two more times, for an in-print total of 130,000; a fourth printing is in the works.
From Baghdad is an example of a new "A-List" imprint that Watrous plans to add in fall 2007. The imprint will feature titles that the company believes have the potential to break out in the general market. "We've got three or four books coming up that could fit into a bestseller imprint," Watrous said. Among the titles he cited are a Swedish bestseller by filmmaker Lena Einhorn, which is being crashed out for Lyons's spring list, and a fall 2007 book on Hillary Clinton. Books in the as-yet-unnamed "A-List" imprint will launch with print runs of 50,000 copies.
Two other new lines—Skirt! and Where—will be added next fall, part of a synergistic effort on the part of Globe to work more closely with parent company Morris Communications. Headquartered in Augusta, Ga., Morris owns 27 daily newspapers, as well as other newspapers and magazines, radio stations and an outdoor advertising firm, among other businesses. This month, Globe began working with Morris to promote both From Baghdad and Mark. K. Updegrove's Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House through its outdoor billboard company, and Globe recently named Kathryn Mennone to the newly created position of director of strategic partnerships to actively seek out opportunities for both Morris and Globe.
Skirt!, which takes its name from Morris's monthly tabloid Skirt! magazine, is Globe's first women's-oriented line, and it has a young demographic. "We've got to grow the business, and I don't think you can grow it in niches or with men as your customer," said Watrous of Globe's typical readers, middle-aged men interested in hunting and fishing. Watrous hopes to introduce two Skirt! titles next year. Both will take the same kind of playful approach to parenting, relationships and health as the magazine, which has a readership of 100,000.
Where guides—based on Where magazine, which is available in four- and five-star hotels in 43 markets, including Europe and Asia—will also be geared to a younger demographic than Globe's other travel books. "It's not Rough Guides," said Watrous, who described the new line for business travelers, which will start with eight books in fall '07, as very visual, with the print equivalent of sound bites.
At the same time, Globe plans to reinvigorate older lines like Two Dot, which was originally part of Falcon and publishes books on western history. Cadogan Guides, the travel brand owned by Morris, is currently in the midst of an overhaul. And the Lyons imprint, which specializes in the outdoors, pets and military titles, began changing a year ago with the appointment of former agent Eugene Brissie. He has broadened the list to include current affairs titles, and they are being promoted more aggressively in advance of publication. Only in the past few months has Globe had its own in-house design team to assist with these efforts.
But while adding and dusting off imprints is one thing, Watrous said that he'd like to publish fewer books. "The plan is to pare down," he said. "Right now we publish 500 new and revised books a year. That's too many for a company of our size." Globe has 145 employees and an active backlist of 5,000 titles. Watrous declined to discusss sales, but PW estimates revenue is just under $50 million annually.
Overall, Watrous's goal is to turn Globe into a more nimble company, able to rapidly respond to changes in the book business. Reflecting that approach, Watrous is forming a custom-publishing division, not unlike one he created when he was at Adams, which hit $1 million in sales its first year. Debra Polansky will head the division, while continuing to handle custom publishing for Reader's Digest.
In addition, Watrous would like to add to the 17 distribution clients Globe currently has. "It's a meaningful business for us," said Watrous, who has made several changes in sales, including the appointment of Michelle Lewy as v-p of sales and Chris Grimm as director of field sales.
"Now is not a time for the faint of heart to be in the book business," Watrous noted, alluding to the many shifts in recent years. Substitute "Globe Pequot Press" for "book business," and it's an equally apt description of the shakeup underway to reposition the 59-year-old company for growth.