A little over a year since Steerforth Press acquired the For Beginners line from Writers & Readers, the house founded by the late Glenn Thompson, the nonfiction graphic-heavy titles are doing so well, Steerforth plans to launch two new lines based on it: the Essential Guides series, a line of short illustrated works focused on current topics in the news, and a new series of For Beginner titles aimed at younger readers that will likely begin publishing in 2010. Books in both series will be supported by a variety of online supplementary resources.
In conjunction with its investment partner, Benay Enterprises, Steerforth Press acquired the rights to 21 titles from the For Beginners series in the spring of 2007. The original For Beginners series uses comics, illustrations and prose to offer lively introductions to a variety of topics; titles in the series range from Derrida for Beginners to Philosophy for Beginners and Islam for Beginners. Steerforth has been reissuing the works, and publisher Chip Fleischer said the books “have done as well or better than we expected.” Steerforth plans to publish six to nine new For Beginners titles each year, including works like The Olympics for Beginners, published this summer. Steerforth Press books are distributed by Random House.
To launch the new Essential Guides, Steerforth published Barack Obama for Beginners: An Essential Guide by Bob Neer with art by Joe Lee in a 15,000-copy first printing in July. Fleischer described the Essential Guides as “reliable nonpartisan information” and contrasted the Obama for Beginners biography with the controversy surrounding Jerome Corsi's The Obama Nation. “Neer has done a sophisticated job of research that's neither pro nor anti Obama,” Fleischer said, noting that the Essential Guides will also feature graphics, but offer more text than usual in For Beginner titles. The Essential Guides will focus on issues “when people need solid but neutral information,” Fleischer said. The Barack Obama Essential Guide is available for the Kindle and is supported by a Web site, barack-obamaforbeginners.com, that offers a blog, an Obama chronology and the author's research source notes and bibliography, and will continue to add new Obama information.
Dawn Reshen-Doty, v-p of Benay Enterprises, said that beginning in 2010, the house will start releasing a series of titles aimed at younger readers, based on the For Beginners format and looking at such subjects as the U.S. Civil War, the U.S. Constitution and biographies of figures like Benjamin Franklin. Fleischer said the books would focus on “core knowledge” and will be aimed at middle to high school—age students, although he emphasized that “the books won't be dumbed down and will also appeal to adults.”
“Glenn Thompson was way ahead of his time,” said Reshen-Doty about the innovative use of graphics and text to explain difficult subjects. “We're trying to take Glenn's vision and make it available to readers today.”