Radius Books manages to combine high art aesthetics and high-end design and production with an altruistic publishing mission. The Santa Fe, N.Mex.—based publisher was launched a year ago by four book publishing professionals—book designers David Chickey and David Skolkin; photo editor David Himes; and book marketing and publicity veteran Joanna Hurley—as a nonprofit house dedicated to “books that inspire, that contribute to the dialog around art. We want to make quality books widely accessible,” said Hurley.
The house's nonprofit status is key to its mission and also helps support the business plan. Radius donates 200 copies of each of its titles to libraries and schools in New Mexico and around the country, Hurley said. And while the house launched with investors, Hurley emphasized that its nonprofit status “takes a lot of pressure off the business side.” Radius Books are distributed to the trade by D.A.P., which Hurley praised for boosting its promotion and for getting Radius Books into museum shops as well as trade stores.
Radius produces its books in trade editions of about 3,000 copies and in limited editions that feature signed original artworks or prints. These are sold at a premium price that can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per book. “Our books have sold well in the trade, and the sales of limited editions helps make the list profitable,” Hurly explained.
The house also forges copublishing relationships with private galleries and public museums to support some of its publishing. An upcoming spring release, Callahan, Siskind, Sommer: At the Crossroads of American Photography, published in conjunction with the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, is an example. A book on famed photographer Lee Friedlander, Lee Friedlander: New Mexico, has sold out its print run. And the house has big expectations for an unusual art/food title: Beaumont's Kitchen: Lessons on Food, Life and Photography, a collection of cooking columns by Beaumont Newhall, the late photography historian, presented in a facsimile of their original publication (1956—1969) in a Rochester, N.Y., newspaper.
Since Radius Books launched in fall 2007, the house has published 12 books on a variety of artists. The list includes Domestic Vacations, a collection of photographs by Julie Blackmon; Joan Watts, a monograph on the artist's paintings with an essay by critic Lilly Wei; and John McCracken: Sketchbook, a collection of drawings.
According to Hurley, the house acquires titles in a variety of ways. “We look for artists who are in a career-defining moment,” said Hurley. “Sometimes they find us, some we've worked with before. We take care producing their books and price them moderately. So far we've done well.”