To help market Storey Publishing's line of gardening books this spring, staffers have just finished fitting removable book displays into wheelbarrows that booksellers can reuse in their own gardens. While the displays, which feature a 15-copy assortment of eight titles, are intended to highlight Storey's gardening category, the titles are very much in keeping with the company's mission since it was founded by John and Martha Storey in 1983: “publishing practical information that encourages personal independence in harmony with the environment.” There has been one unofficial proviso, though, since the Storeys sold the company to Workman in 2001: the information has to be highly promotable, which explains why the company has assembled more than 200 wheelbarrow displays that are hard to build and expensive to ship. “You've got to give a reason for a buyer to pause on your book,” said COO Dan Reynolds.

Storey's sales have grown on average 6% for each of the past three years, and Reynolds predicted more gains in '08. In 2007, much of the increase came from the trade, with Borders up 16%, Barnes & Noble 20% and Amazon 25%. President Pam Art attributed the potential for continued growth to renewed interest in Storey's strengths—the barnyard, the backyard and crafts.

Under Workman's ownership, Storey has invested more money and time on each book's packaging, aiming to get more attention for frontlist titles like the upcoming Things I Learned from Knitting (Whether I Wanted to or Not) by popular knitting blogger Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot. Under the Workman model, said Reynolds, “each book has to be considered a business in itself.” Adds Art, books must be able to sell at least 25,000 copies. “Sometimes that happens in the first printing,” she said. “Other times, especially for niche topics, it takes a while.”

But Storey doesn't mind building a market for a title. Although it publishes about 40 new books a year, backlist accounts for 78% of total sales. Storey drives backlist business by capitalizing on trends. Sometimes that means following up on new releases from other houses, like Barbara Kingsolver's bestselling Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (HarperCollins), which devoted a chapter to cheese-making guru and Storey author Ricki Carroll (Home Cheesemaking). Other backlist sales are pegged to news stories. Concerns over unsafe pet food last year bumped up sales for Arden Moore's Real Food for Dogs and Patti Delmonte's Real Food for Cats; the former was number three on Storey's list of 2007 bestsellers.

In addition to books, Storey has an extensive backlist of 32-page pamphlets, or Country Wisdom Bulletins, on subjects ranging from crate-training a dog to growing garlic. Although Storey stopped publishing them five years ago, they remain in print and received a boost several years ago when Black Dog & Leventhal collected them into a coffee-table book, Country Wisdom and Know-How. In February Black Dog released Country Wisdom Almanac, and now Storey is exploring digital markets for the pamphlets.

Before Workman's purchase, its reps carried Storey's books in their bags. Now Storey sells Workman's lines into yarn stores, lawn and garden shops and other specialty markets. Even with Workman's acquisition in 2006 of another gardening publisher, Timber Press, it works, said Art. “Each company has its own focus and somewhat different markets; we're not stepping on each other's toes. Often, we will send along proposals and ideas that might be better suited for one of the other publishers,” she added. For Timber publisher Neal Maillet, the lines mesh well: “You might buy a Storey book to be more practical and a Timber book once you get more into it, as a reference book.”

Joy of Gardeningby Dick Raymond 800,000 copies
Carrots Love Tomatoesby Louise Riotte 625,000 copies
The “Have-More” Plan: “A Little Land—A Lot of Living”by Ed and Carolyn Robinson 520,000 copies
The Classic Zucchini Cookbookby Nancy C. Ralston, Maryor Jordan and Andrea Chesman 500,000 copies
50 Simple Ways to Pamper Yourselfby Stephanie Tourles 484,000