Spotlight: Member Achievements

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December 2014
by Linda Carlson

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60 And Going Strong

mrblair_doorFounded by John Fries Blair at a time when he could have been planning his retirement, John F.Blair, Publisher, is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Lasting so long was hardly assured, as publicist Sally Johnson explains, “When Blair died peacefully at his legendary desk in 1986, lawyers advised the family to close the press and liquidate the assets.”

However, “his heirs agreed to a business plan put forward by some employees. Those employees believed that by tightening their operating structure and focusing on their niche in North Carolina with a plan to expand into the rest of the Southeast, they could continue Blair’s publishing mission. The plan seems to have worked.” Today, with Carolyn Sakowski as its president, “the company produces between 6 and 12 new books each year, specializing in Southeastern nonfiction, particularly folklore, history, travel, and cultural studies. The press also publishes one or two works of fiction each year.”

To celebrate its 60th, the Blair staff set a goal of performing at least 60 hours of volunteer service during the anniversary year. Employees chose six Winston-Salem area organizations to support: Corporate Volunteers in the Schools, World Book Night, WFDD Public Radio, Forsyth County Public Library, Bookmarks, and the Friends of the Mountain- to-Sea Trail.

Successes at 27

Celebrating its 27th anniversary this fall, Sourcebooks had a party for its “team of more than 115 book-loving colleagues.” As founder Dominique Raccah commented in a blog post about the Naperville, IL, firm, its founding coincided with “the birth of the desktop publishing revolution; tens of thousands of other publishers started that year. Today, Sourcebooks is one of just a few publishers from that frenzy of startups that still exists. We started as part of one revolution, and it’s inspiring that today we are part of another.”

“In some ways, the book publishing industry is really beginning anew today,” she explained. “There are so many ways to explore and rethink how we work together and connect authors to readers. I believe that today there is far more opportunity for Sourcebooks than there was all those years ago. It is very much Day One.”

Recent reasons to celebrate at Sourcebooks include:

  • Magician's LieAuthor Kara Braden got almost half an hour of air time on PW Radio to discuss her new book, The Longest Night.
  • A Sourcebooks memoir, The Dogs Were Rescued (and So Was I) by Teresa J. Rhyne, was among the titles Publishers Weekly featured in “Almost Human: Pets and Animals
  • Books for Fall 2014.”
  • Two Sourcebooks Casablanca titles were included in PW’s “Mistletoe Kisses: Christmas Romances Keep Readers Warm All Winter:” What a Lady Needs for Christmas, by Grace Burrowes, and Cowboy Boots for Christmas (Cowboy Not Included) by Carolyn Brown.
  • Library Journal’s “Seasonal Treats” feature in October mentioned Cowboy Boots for Christmas and What a Lady Needs for Christmas as well as another Sourcebooks book, A Highland Wolf Christmas by Terry Spear.
  • A Sourcebooks Landmark title, The Magician’s Lie by Greer McAllister, received a starred review from PW, which called it a “well-paced, evocative, and adventurous historical novel.”
  • Sourcebooks’ Fire was among the recently launched imprints described in an autumn PW story, “Smells Like Teen Imprint.”

WSJRE: Calamity Jane

When a University of Oklahoma Press title, The Life and Legends of Calamity Jane, was reviewed at length in The Wall Street Journal, the review credited author Richard W. Etulain with “conscientiously and engagingly [trying] to separate fact from fiction,” and concluded that this “excellent book is a reminder that history can be a version of myth—in this case, a harmless and entertaining myth that we may be reluctant to give up.” This is Oklahoma’s seventh Wall Street Journal review since 2005, and the first since January, 2012.

Praise Via Video

Toxic-Staple_frontcoverAnne Sarkisian’s Toxic Staple: How Gluten May Be Wrecking Your Health and What You Can Do about It!, from Max Health Press, received an unsolicited testimonial in September in “Daily bread: Can ANY human body handle gluten?” a 16-minute video of a TEDx presentation by Rodney Ford, M.D., a New Zealand gastroenterologist and food allergy specialist (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6JrHteOsII). Ford called Sarkisian’s book “truly amazing” and said it was one of only three published in the U.S. to address gluten-related problems other than celiac disease.

Tips for Selling to Specialty Retailers

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author/publisher of The Frugal Book Promoter, cites the importance of advice from IPG sales director Michael Riley in “Reaching Buyers Beyond Bookstores” (September). Smaller trim sizes may be better for gift shops, he noted, because such stores “don’t put one or two copies of a title spine out on a shelf; they put a stack face-up on a table.”

“Here’s another idea I borrowed from my decades as a retailer to sell my novel to airport gift stores and included in my book,” Howard-Johnson adds. “I offered a cardboard point-of-sale display with a header as part of my marketing plan. When the buyer orders just enough books to fill the displayer—about a dozen—the displayer comes at no charge. The real beauty is that retailers almost always use these displayers (they have a footprint of about 12 inches) near the cash register.”

Trade Media Mentions

Robot BookPoisoned Pen got a starred PW review for Caught Dead: A Rick Van Lam Mystery, by Andrew Lanh, and its Poisoned Pencil imprint was among the recently launched imprints described in PW’s feature “Smells Like Teen Imprint.”

The Robot Book: Build and Control 20 Electric Gizmos, Moving Machines, and Hacked Toys, by Bobby Mercer from Chicago Review Press was included in a PW roundup, “Guides to Writing, Creating, Playing, and Getting Involved.” And Chicago Review Press publisher Cynthia Sherry was featured (along with Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks) in another recent PW story, “Plenty of Room for Publishers in the City of the Big Shoulders.”

Free Spirit and Scarletta were cited in the PW fall feature, “All in the Family,” about children’s publishing.


Linda Carlson (linda@ibpa-online.org) writes the Spotlight column from Seattle. She never worries about whether anyone can write better than she can.

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