IBPA Incoming Board of Directors Spotlight: Square One Publishers’ Rudy Shur
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Posted by: Christopher Locke
IBPA Incoming Board of Directors Spotlight: Square One Publishers’ Rudy Shur
This is the fifth article in IBPA’s series where we shine a spotlight on our seven esteemed incoming Board Members for fiscal year 2020 and 2021. All seven of these candidates were voted in by members during the IBPA Annual Meeting & Luncheon on Saturday, April 6, 2019 at IBPA Publishing University. The two-year term for these newly-elected Board Members will begin July 1, 2019.
Today, we highlight Rudy Shur who is the publisher of Square One Publishers.
“Why become an IBPA board member? First and foremost, it begins with a love of this industry,” says Rudy. “As an independent book publisher for over forty years, I believe we, as a collective group, need to have a voice to speak up for our interests. Unlike major corporate publishers that have the ability to make their positions or oppositions heard, individually indie publishers’ voices are lost in the daily noise of the media. For me, I believe IBPA has always represented my interests as well as the thousands of other indie publishers through their education programs, outreach marketing opportunities, and most important, taking a stand when it comes to issues vital to our industry.”
IBPA: Why are you excited about the opportunity to serve on the IBPA Board of Directors?
Rudy Shur (RS): Over the last twenty years, the book publishing industry has gone through some tremendous change. For independent publishers, while some of it has been good, a lot has been bad. Prior to the rise of Amazon, this country had dozens of trade and non-trade wholesalers and distributors; some large, but mostly smaller mom and pop companies that, by and large, worked with independent book publishers. They allowed the flow of books to reach markets that could sustain indie publishers like my own company. Today, nearly all of these smaller companies are out of business leaving essentially one national wholesaler—Ingram—to reach the trade market that exists. And while it is easy for the large corporate publishers to make their voices heard, it is the independent publishers who must stand on a very long line, and hope that their voices get some attention. And the same holds true with getting media attention, trying to protect your titles from being pirated, getting paid on a timely basis, and the list goes on.
Over the years, I have tried to help our industry have a voice for indie publishers. First, having the privilege to serve on a prior IBPA board, and then through the Soap Box Essays I have written over the years for Publishers Weekly. If indies are to survive and thrive, they need a loud and clear voice to make their issues heard and to initiate change. It is IBPA that has been that voice to influence and defend our interests. I, once again, look forward to helping my other board members continue the tradition of service the IBPA has provided for its members.
IBPA: What are some of the things you are interested in working on as a board member?
RS: There are a number of issues I would like to work on. Pirated books seem to be a growing problem on the Internet. In spite of the US copyright laws which couldn’t be clearer, large and successful website providers allow our copyrighted titles to be given away “free.” Something should be done. There are hundreds of self-publishing services that have popped up over the last few years. Expensive services that offer very little in return. While Yelp successfully points out which restaurants to eat at and which ones to avoid, perhaps a similar system could be initiated for the self-publishing industry. And providing even more marketing opportunities can be an area to consider. Clearly, there are bound to be other important issues that may arise as the board moves forward, so being responsive to any new challenges should always be a priority.
IBPA: What is your background in the publishing world?
RS: I began my publishing career working first for Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company as a textbook salesman, and later with William C. Brown Publishing Company as both a textbook salesman and associate editor. In 1976, I cofounded Avery Publishing Group, where over time I was responsible for the acquisition of over 1,000 nonfiction titles, many of which became bestsellers. By 1999, the company had grown into one of the largest alternative health publishers in the U.S. In that year, Avery was purchased by Penguin Putnam. The following year I founded Square One Publishers in Garden City Park, New York, where I head the editorial program. For several years, Square One was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the fastest growing indie publishing houses in the U.S. Today, the company stands as the largest independently-owned publisher of traditional and complimentary health books in the U.S. I am also the author of How To Publish Your Nonfiction Book, 2nd Edition. I am pleased to have lectured extensively on the topic of publishing at numerous universities, colleges and professional workshops throughout the country.
IBPA: How does your background in the publishing world bring a unique perspective to the Board of Directors?
RS: When I started my first company, I thought I knew how to operate a publishing company. Whether it was youth exuberance or just plain arrogance, I quickly discovered I had a lot of learning to do before I could truly wear the title of book publisher. Over these many years I have been involved in every aspect of the industry: Acquisitions, typesetting, cover design, editing, sales, marketing, promotion, foreign rights, and printing. At this point in my life I continue to touch on each and every aspect of the business. I think I now have enough expertise to provide a positive direction to the IBPA membership to avoid many of the mistakes I have made throughout the years.
IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of IBPA?
RS: In 1977, a year after starting my first company, I joined the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA), which is now IBPA. I would read every PMA newsletter sent to me from cover to cover to learn as much as I could about this business. Jan Nathan was the founder of PMA, and the first time I attended the American Booksellers Association conference, now BookExpo, I searched her out and told her how much I appreciated the organization and the information it was providing me. From that point on Jan and I were friends. Beyond the many financial perks and discounts offered by being a member, I have learned that the IBPA provides the potential tools for all independent publishers to succeed. That’s why I proudly put the IBPA logo at the head of our website page opener.
IBPA: How do you think it would benefit independent publishers and author publishers to be members of IBPA?
RS: The world of independent book publishing and self-publishing has exploded given the new technologies of e-books, POD, and short-run printing. While the opportunities for those interested in producing and selling a written work has increased, so have the many marketing ploys that have been put into place to trap unsuspecting writers and self-publishers. By alerting the membership to many of the tricks of this new trade, we can save them both a lot of money and the disappointment when they discover they are not getting what they have paid for. Beyond that are the many IBPA programs teaching them the basics of the business.
IBPA: Can you share three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?
RS: I promise to stop at three:
- Know your market and how best to reach it.
- Never overprint a book unless you know you have the sales to buy out your inventory.
- Always understand the financial economics behind being a book publisher. Probably the number one reason why most indie publishers fail.
IBPA: What inspired you to work in the publishing industry as a career?
RS: I am dyslexic. When I was 14 years old, dyslexia had not yet been discovered. In my head, I believed everyone probably had my problem with reading, however for most people it just went away. I figured that if I simply read enough books, the problem would go away on its own. Hey, I was a kid! I began taking books out of the library and reading them in my bed at night. I took a narrow piece of cardboard and used it as a bookmark. When I finished reading a book, I would write down the name of the book on the bookmark. I wound up with a lot of bookmarks. Of course, it would take me a long time to read any one book, but I did not stop. I would force myself to read what I started. After a while, I actually enjoyed reading in spite of reading slowly and having to reread various sections of any title. While the problem never went away, I enjoyed the stories, the biographies, and the histories. I started to go into bookstores and pick books to read that looked interesting.
When I got married, I needed a real job. I had worked in my father’s bakery since I was ten, but I knew the baking business was not what I wanted to do. So when the opportunity to join a college textbook publishing company came, I jumped at the chance. It wasn’t till I was in my late twenties that I discovered there was such a thing as dyslexia and I had it. At that point, I was fine with it—as I am today. It’s also one of the reasons I publish books on learning disorders.
|The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
IBPA: What is your favorite book?
RS: I still enjoy biographies and histories, particularly about the publishing business, both about book publishers and magazines.
The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s about Teddy Roosevelt, Howard Taft and the Mudraking magazines.
At Random by Bennett Cerf. One of my heroes, as are a lot of publishers.
IBPA: What was your favorite book as a kid?
RS: The only one I can really remember was the biography of Ty Cobb. And at the very end, I decided I didn’t like him because he would sharpen the cleats on his shoes and run into the opposing team players covering the bases. Seemed wrong then. Seems wrong now.
IBPA: Thank you so much for sharing your publishing journey with the IBPA community, Rudy! We look forward to the contributions you’ll make on the IBPA Board of Directors!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about Square One Publishers’ Rudy Shur. Check out the other profiles we’ve done so far on the incoming board members:
You can also read a short introduction to all seven incoming Board Members here, and keep an eye out in the IBPA Independent This Week e-newsletter as we continue this series to learn more about the other incoming members of the Board!
Share your own publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to email@example.com. Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (such as, you’re a cookbook author who won a national cooking competition), unique news (such as, you wrote a book about cycling and now you’re riding a bike across the U.S. for your book tour), or human interest stories (such as, you visit shelters every weekend to read books to the dogs and cats there).
Though launching a new book isn’t the focus of our Spotlights articles, IBPA is happy to share that exciting news on social media. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the launch date, your book cover, your book title, a link to where readers can learn more about your book, and your Twitter handle.
For good news in general about your publishing company (your book received a wonderful editorial review, you have an upcoming speaking engagement, etc.), use the hashtag #IBPAmemberGoodNews on Twitter and IBPA will amplify your good news!
Whether you have news or not, all of us at IBPA are cheering you on!