A confluence of events made Avalon Publishing Group president Charlie Winton certain that the time was right to sell the publishing house. Conversations that resulted in the sales agreement struck with Perseus Books Group last week began when Avalon starting looking for distribution alternatives to PGW, Winton said. "Moving distributors is at least a three-year commitment and I'm not sure I wanted to stay through 2010," Winton said. As discussions with Perseus progressed, Winton became convinced that the company, with its decentralized structure and satellite offices, would be a good fit for Avalon.

Through a series of acquisitions and internal growth, Winton built Avalon into a publisher with sales of more than $30 million, where sales stalled. "It became an issue of capital and scale," Winton said, explaining that further expansion would require raising more money, something he was not eager to do. After struggling in 2005—write-offs resulted in a loss for the year—profits rebounded in 2006 to a record high (due in part to better distribution terms), although sales rose only marginally, to $33 million.

Avalon published 559 titles last year, through the Avalon Travel Publishing, Carroll & Graf, Marlowe & Company, Nation Books, Seal Press, Shoemaker & Hoard and Thunder's Mouth Press imprints. Winton said the acquisition by Perseus should provide as much continuity as possible for the staff and publishing programs. The company has offices in New York and Emeryville, Calif. Winton's future plans will largely be determined by how Perseus's bid to take over distribution for PGW's clients turns out. He is committed to running Avalon through May and will serve as a consultant to Perseus on distribution issues for several months if the PGW deal is completed.

After cofounding PGW 31 years ago, Winton said it's time to step away from the day-to-day grind. "I need to wind down a bit and get the serious and the silly sides in a better balance," he said.