Although he sold PGW in 2002 and most of the Avalon Publishing Group in 2007, Charlie Winton was not interested in stepping away entirely from a business that had become a way of life for him, but he admits that it had become wearing. “Avalon was under more and more pressure to have a couple of books a year that would break out and sell 40,000 or 50,000 or 60,000 copies,” said Winton. “The pressure of running the imprints and dealing with the bank relationships added to my desire to sell the company.”

While he was negotiating the sale of Avalon to the Perseus Group, he was already contemplating a new business model with a substantial backlist and a creative literary force at the helm. He decided to pursue three imprints: Shoemaker & Hoard, Counterpoint and Soft Skull Press. Winton negotiated with Perseus to keep Shoemaker & Hoard out of the Avalon sale and arranged to buy Counterpoint from Perseus. New York—based Soft Skull, and its publisher Richard Nash, was the final component. “We needed to diversify, needed to have someone in New York,” said Winton.

All three presses are now combined under the Counterpoint LLC umbrella, with Winton as CEO and publisher and Jack Shoemaker as v-p and editorial director; Nash serves as both executive editor at Counterpoint and editorial director of Soft Skull. Sharon Donovan, formerly with Sierra Club Books, is publishing director, a position in which she oversees all marketing and publicity efforts and is responsible for contracts and managing sales with PGW.

“We've created an environment where about a half-dozen young people in their 20s are learning the independent publishing models,” Winton said. “They're the next generation, and I'm glad Counterpoint is doing its part to keep people coming into the industry.”

Counterpoint is meeting its fiscal target for its first year, and will have sales between $3.5 million and $4 million. Winton said the industry—reviewers, booksellers and agents—have been supportive. “Hopefully, they see Counterpoint as a distinguished house that fills a niche in the marketplace.”

Counterpoint also has a joint publishing arrangement with Sierra Club Books to put out six to eight adult titles per year. Winton is particularly excited about three forthcoming books Counterpoint acquired this year: Marian Toews's novel The Flying Troutmans; Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination by Lamar Waldron (with Winton as editor); and The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst by Kenneth Whyte.

At the peak of Winton's ownership, PGW had revenues of $125 million a year and Avalon had sales of more than $30 million. But while Winton said it's “good for businesses to grow,” he was quick to say, “I wouldn't want Counterpoint to be much bigger than it is now. We're nicely scaled. Having a company this size allows me to be more engaged and hands-on in terms of the books.” Winton now edits one or two books each season.

Winton is also content with Counterpoint's position in the market. “I didn't want to spend years getting this all revved up,” he said. “I wanted us to arrive in a fairly dynamic fashion, and be considered an important voice in terms of independent publishing. It seems we've been fortunate enough to do that.”