Allworth Press and Skyhorse Publishing
In 2006 Tad Crawford was approached by his old friend, Tony Lyons, and asked to become a partner in a new publishing house to be called Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. Tad joined Tony in founding the company which Publishers Weekly hailed as the fastest growing independent publisher in America. In 2011, Allworth Press merged with Skyhorse Publishing. Tad Crawford continues as publisher for Allworth Press and also aids Tony Lyons in the corporate management of Skyhorse. With over 8,000 titles on its backlist Skyhorse has published 48 New York Times bestsellers and, as of January 1, 2019, is distributed by Simon & Schuster.
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Indie Groundbreaking Publisher
Allworth Press at 30
Building a Strong Backlist While Surviving the Digital Revolution
It may be hard to define a NYC-based publisher that’s been releasing 10-20 titles a year for 30 years as “groundbreaking,” but that’s the amazing thing about Allworth Press – it keeps delivering groundbreaking, indispensable books year after year. Where are you going to find a book about building a career as a voice-over artist? Allworth has an excellent one, updated this year. Need a guidebook for starting an art gallery? Check. Resources for inventors, actors, and interior designers? Check, check and check.
For three decades, Allworth Press has been an ally to creative artists of all kinds, with resources for dealing with nuts & bolts issues like legal matters, marketing and PR, and even healthcare. We spoke with founder Tad Crawford on the 30th anniversary of Allworth Press, to get an impression about the state of the industry from a true independent publishing pioneer.
IP: What is the Allworth Press story in 150 words or less?
TC: After writing books to help visual artists and authors, I started publishing in the early 1980s. In March of 1989 I incorporated Allworth Press which published a new edition of the first book I wrote, Legal Guide for the Visual Artist, in the fall of that year. Being a small press and a start-up was challenging, especially as the publishing landscape was transformed by the digital revolution (in both production and ebooks), Amazon, the collapse of most of the independent booksellers, and the issue of whether the physical book would soon be deceased. Thirty years later ebooks have leveled off at about 13% of overall sales and physical books are very much alive. With the growth of the Internet came the demand for authors to have a “platform” and be active on social media, which I understand from the quantitative viewpoint but regret if an editor who believes in a book can’t convince the editorial committee to publish.
How has bookselling changed since you started?
The decline of independent bookstores is certainly a detriment. Amazon is a positive in terms of sales but also capable of abuses that can’t be redressed due to its size (to take one example, for Amazon to take down the books of publishers in disputes over discount terms is shocking). The ownership of publishers has also become concentrated in large entities. Nonetheless, there is an up swell from small publishers and self-publishers who show that if you believe enough and are willing to work the field of publishing will always have room for newcomers.
What do you see happening in the next 30 years?
Artificial intelligence should begin to play a role both in the creation of reading material and also in its dissemination. It may be possible to have one’s reading “curated” by an app. Or to have writing written by an app to meet a checklist of the reader’s interests (garnered not from the person voluntarily but from his or her excursions on the information highway of the day). Simultaneously, small publishers will grow larger and manage to survive and meet needs recognized from the experiences of their founders, editors, and authors.
What do you wish would happen in the next 30 years?
I wish that publishers would only publish what they love to publish. I wish that readers would only read what they love to read. And I wish that censorship—whether of a legal nature or because of the sculpting of what material reaches particular readers or groups—would diminish.
How do you feel about the state of the arts in America – has it gotten better or worse for artists in America??
The arts appear vibrant to me. The more we can be participants and appreciators of art, the richer our lives and the culture around us become. I believe it’s better in the sense that the arts are more accepted today as an important aspect of our lives. But the arts will always have some artists and authors who succeed and many who fail. The glory is daring to try.
What new releases and upcoming titles from Allworth are you excited about?
We just released Succeed with Social Media by Brainard Carey which is a small format, affordable book that fits in well with our efforts to serve creators and entrepreneurs. Forthcoming is The Interior Design Reader by Judith Gura and Sarah Falls which should make a great course adoption title. The Swastika and Symbols of Hate: The Iconography if Extremism by Steven Heller shows the imagery that demonizes groups and divides societies (including our own). The Joy of Art: How to Look at, Appreciate and Talk about Art by Carolyn Schlam is an insightful and lovely guide to art appreciation. (See more in sidebar.)
What long-running titles would you like to highlight?
I’m extremely proud of an outlier, a book of philosophy titled The Shape of Ancient Thought by classicist and art critic Thomas McEvilly. This is the only philosophy book Allworth Press has published and it has been a steady seller. My own Legal Guide for the Visual Artist was foundational for the press and is now in its fifth edition. The Elements of Graphic Design by Alex White has had great success in terms of course adoptions as has The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video by Tom Schroeppel. We also do practical, helpful guides to personal finance and entrepreneurship. One guide that’s been very well received is Living Trusts for Everyone by Ronald Farrington Sharp. These titles make a strong backlist which is crucial for long-term survival and success.
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See more about all of the Allworth Press titles at their website, https://www.skyhorsepublishing.com/allworth-press