Writers and artists don't always have their heads in the clouds—sometimes they need real world advice. At least that's the premise on which Tad Crawford founded Allworth Press in 1989. From its inaugural title, Legal Guide for the Visual Artist, Crawford explained, “I wanted to create a company to give practical advice to the creative professional.” Allworth eventually expanded its core constituency to include not just photographers, graphic designers and artists, but writers, performers and film professionals. The publisher marks its 20th anniversary this year, and Crawford thinks Allworth inhabits its niche more comfortably than ever. “Survival skills and business practices [for this group] remain our main focus and niche mission,” he said.
After being distributed for a long period by Watson-Guptill (which was acquired by Crown last year), Allworth moved to Random House Publishing Services in April. Crawford believes that Random's “depth of sales penetration” will move Allworth into areas it has not reached in the past, while its systems will shorten turnaround time, something that is especially important to a publisher like Allworth, which has typical print runs of around 3,000 copies. Keeping unit costs down is a priority, but Crawford said that because most Allworth titles are black and white and standard trim sizes, it's fairly easy to go back to press. A book that sells 10,000 copies is considered a success for Allworth, but a few of its evergreen titles have more than 50,000 copies in print.
Allworth publishes about 15 to 18 titles a year, with roughly one-third of each year's list comprising revised editions. This year, Crawford said the house is bringing out new editions of two of its most successful titles, Emotional Branding and Business and Legal Forms for Photographers. Book ideas are usually generated in-house by Allworth's staff of six. Typical Allworth authors are not professional writers; rather, they are either professionals in art or working in some advisory capacity to creative professionals, and the publisher has done copublishing deals with such organizations as the American Society of Media Photographers, the Graphic Arts Guild, the Design Management Institute and the School of Visual Arts. Crawford himself identifies with his audience. Not only has he written or co-written 16 Allworth titles (including the first book), he has published several other works of nonfiction with other publishers including St. Martin's Press and Tarcher.
With a backlist of 300 titles, Allworth's annual sales have ranged in recent years between $1.5 million and $2 million. This year Allworth got off to a slow start, but Crawford is confident Random will help turn things around, noting that initial orders for many titles are higher than in the past. He has high hopes for several books on this year's list, including Selling Your Photography; How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery; and Branding the Man, a guide for retailers on how to get men to shop and buy. After trying a number of different segments over the past 20 years, Crawford said Allworth has found the right mix of titles. “At this point I'm happy with the categories we're in, and happy with the number of books we do,” said Crawford.