Sweet Home Chicago: Publisher Profiles

Publisher Profile: Ivan R. Dee

Chicago-based publisher Ivan R. Dee has been around for more than 20 years as a publisher of serious nonfiction for general readers. Its focus is in history, politics, biography, literature, philosophy, theater, and … baseball. This local publisher boasts such authors as Albert Camus, Anton Chekhov, Aldous Huxley, Henrik Ibsen, Ogden Nash, and Carl Sandburg, among many other notables.

Ivan R. Dee is home to two imprints: New Amsterdam Books, which focuses on art, art history, fiction in translation, and theater; and J. S. Sanders & Company, which publishes in Southern culture, history, and literature.

You can learn more about this venerable Chicago house at http://www.ivanrdee.com/

1. Tell us about your publishing house. What are its origins?

We were founded in 1989 by Ivan Dee, formerly editor-in-chief at Quadrangle Books, which published in Chicago in the 1960s and early 1970s before it was bought by the New York Times and moved to New York.

2. What are some of your best-selling titles?

To Sleep with the Angels; Nietzsche in 90 Minutes; Eyewitness Auschwitz; A Doll’s House; The Hedgehog and the Fox; Our Culture, What’s Left of It.

3. How many books do you publish annually? How many books per imprint? Is there a magic number?

Approx. 35 titles annually. No magic number.

4. How has digital media affected your publishing program?

Print review space has evaporated, forcing us to pay much greater attention to online publicity. But digital printing enables us to keep all books in print.

5. How as publishing changed over the past five years? What changes do you foresee in the next five years?

Too big a question to answer here. Briefly, the disappearance of substantial review media (important for our kinds of books) and the continuing demise of independent booksellers. E-books are a concern, but it’s too early to tell if they’ll be successful.

6. How would you characterize Chicago’s publishing world?

Small.

7. What is unique about operating out of Chicago (as opposed to New York or other publishing hubs)?

You don’t get caught up in fashion. In every other respect you can publish just as well as in New York.

Publisher Profile: Lake Claremont Press

Chicago-based Lake Claremont Press is all about this great city of ours, focusing its publishing offerings on books that “foster and reveal Chicago’s special identity by sharing what’s distinctive about our city’s history, culture, geography, built environment, spirit, people, and lore.”

Founder Sharon Wodehouse shared some insight into the history and goings-on at Lake Claremont. You can learn more about this uniquely Chicago house at https://www.lakeclaremont.com/index.php

1. Tell us about your publishing house. What are its origins?

Lake Claremont Press, founded in 1994 (this is our 15th anniversary year), is a small, independent, boutique publisher specializing in books on the Chicago area and its history. We’re trusted for our original and authentic “native’s” approach to covering the area’s history, culture, geography, spirit, etc. We want our book to focus on the common goods of “preserving the city’s past, exploring its present, and ensuring a future sense of place” (that’s the mission-statement stuff), while helping individual readers better appreciate, understand, and navigate the city around them. We look for authors who are passionate about the city and their subject, who won’t get tired of talking and thinking about it once the writing is done, and kind of buy into our mission of spreading the Chicago word.

2. What are some of your best-selling titles?

Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City

Graveyards of Chicago

The Chicago River

The Streets & San Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats

A Cook’s Guide to Chicago

3. How many books do you publish annually? How many books per imprint? Is there a magic number?

4-8 books. We typically sell 4,000-6,000 of each book, better sellers run 10,000-12,000, and our best was 50,000. We print in batches of 3,000-4,000 copies and aim to reprint at least once. Our model doesn’t require immediate success, we keep our books in print and actively promote them for as long as possible.

4. How has digital media affected your publishing program?

It hasn’t yet, but this appears to be the watershed year. We dabbled in e-books over 10 years ago without success and have been monitoring it from the sidelines ever since. We have plans for various electronic products that will start appearing in late 2009 and 2010.

5. How as publishing changed over the past five years? What changes do you foresee in the next five years?

Among other things, publishers have had to face the decline of the bookstore, the rise of digital media and that impact on the printed word, social media and that impact on consumers’ free time, the rise of DIY culture and the decline of media authority, the ubiquity of Amazon and the ability of people to sell used copies of books so easily. On the other hand, there are more entry points than ever into publishing, Amazon makes it easy and possible to promote and sell our books across the globe, people are buying books outside of bookstores, new technologies are making aspects of publishing easier. I expect more of the same but faster and with more extreme implications. We also have to contend with a new culture of “free” and like the music industry we may have to branch into ancillary areas to supplement mere books. I hope to see a renewed interest in “authority” and “authorship” as we all look for help in sifting through information overload

6. How would you characterize Chicago’s publishing world?

Varied, independent, focused, solid, creative, vibrant, hardworking, nice.

7. What is unique about operating out of Chicago (as opposed to New York or other publishing hubs)?

There’s not a publishing establishment here the way you think of the big New York houses, which probably gives us greater independence, freedom to experiment and approach the industry and its challenges creatively. There’s a greater variety of types and sizes of publishing houses and a greater ease for smaller companies to get noticed and play big(ger).

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