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118 Wilson Ct.
Paramus, N.J. 12204

February 12, 1992

Infoguide Inc. is a reference publisher. This plan provides details on how it intends to utilize additional funding to purchase, market, and support the continued production of a title it will purchase from a larger publisher.

  • executive summary
  • present situation
  • objectives
  • product/service description
  • market analysis
  • competition
  • risks
  • marketing strategy
  • pricing and profitability
  • selling tactics
  • assumptions: base case
  • production/fulfillment
  • financial projections
  • best/worst case analysis


The Bakers Bread Guide, completed and first introduced in April 1991, is the only updated source of bread laws reporting instructions for every state, county, city, town and parish in the U.S.-some 4300 jurisdictions. It is an annual subscription service priced at over $500 per year. More than 200 grocery stores and bakeries already subscribe to the Guide: annual subscriptions are over $90,000 today.

Able Bakery Publications has agreed to sell the Guide to me for its balance sheet book value, about $131,000, because the Guide is not significant enough as a new product within their new business strategy.

Initial Financing

I have established a company, Infoguide, Inc., a New Jersey Corporation, which will be capitalized at $200,000, for the purpose of producing and marketing the Guide. The company will be owned 2/3 by me jointly with my wife and l/3 by my wife's mother. $75,000 will show as common stock; $125,000 will be a subordinated five-year balloon note.

This financing is adequate to meet the needs of the expected forecast for cash needs to operate and market the Guide successfully.

Five-Year Goal

Most of the purchase price will be allocated to 750 sets of the Guide which are held in inventory ready for distribution. The initial goal and total focus of the company will be to get these 750 sets into the hands of power users, the grocery stores and bakeries which do a national business.

At the anticipated sales rate of 240 sets per year, the 1000 subscriber level will be accomplished in 1996.

Once all 1000 sets originally printed are subscribed, annual sales will exceed $500,000 while production and fulfillment costs will be less than $200,000. In other words, the products will become a cash cow.

Excess cash will be invested in related products and services and/or acquisitions, leveraging the company into a position to sell out or go public.

Marketing/Sales Strategy

I have access to a number of lists of prospective subscribers, including continuing access to Guide clients under the acquisition agreement. The markets are very highly targetable: total penetration will be about 3000 sets worth almost $2 million in annual sales.

The most effective sales approach to the target markets is telephone sales. I have identified two successful salespeople to work as independent contractors selling the Guide to firms I will identify.

Additional Financing

I intend to obtain another $100,000 in term financing in order to sell the 1000 sets more quickly and to reduce production costs significantly.


The marketplace has a genuine need for the Bread Laws Guide as demonstrated by the fact that five of the top ten grocery stores in the U.S. are already subscribers. However, markets are still mostly untapped because the present owner of the service is unwilling to commit adequate resources to direct marketing.

I am poised now to get to the target markets with adequate resources and effective selling propositions.

Products and Services

At its present stage, the Bread Laws Guide is fully developed as an annual subscription print service. It is the only updated service of its kind. It was introduced initially in April 1991 with a quarterly update cycle. Since then, three updates have been completed.

Product Life Cycle

The current service is early in its life cycle, with total sales of 200 in a market estimated at 3000 potential users. There is little likelihood that the need for such a service will diminish because the bread statutes are law in all 50 states.

During the next few years, the objective of the company will be to increase the subscription level to 1000. At that point, sufficient funds will be available from operations to extend the product line to include ancillary services, such as online access, a call-in service, a newsletter, and Bread Laws forms sales.

Pricing and Profitability

Current prices may be too high at $595 per year for initial penetration marketing; this will be reviewed as soon as the Guide is acquired. There is significant leeway in pricing because of the economics of this type of annual subscription publication.

Profitability is, in a real sense, controllable because the most substantial cost is for marketing/sales rather than for production, fulfillment, and administration. At the targeted 1000 subscription level, in any event, the service is solidly profitable with positive cash flow.

Why Is Able Bakery Publications Selling?

First, the division responsible for the Guide was restructured in 1991 for many reasons, one of which was that many of the companies had become unprofitable. Second, the Guide produced an accounting loss of $137,000 in fiscal 1991 and was expected to show a loss of $50,000-100,000 in fiscal 1992.

The combination of these three factors led Able Bakery Publications to consider my purchase offer at their book value because it solved short term problems for them, that is,

  • No further worry about producing the publication.
  • No further operating losses during development.
  • No writedown in the disposition.


Current customers are using the service daily in preparing their Bread Laws reportings. They are reportedly enthusiastic about the usefulness and quality of the service.

Management and Staffing

Management is in place. Initially, staffing will consist of family members and independent contractors who are familiar with the Bread Laws marketplace and services. Printing, storage and fulfillment are done under contract by Brown Printing, a major, quality printing firm in Rochester, N.Y. An independent direct response marketing firm may also be utilized if cost-effective.

Financial Resources

After acquisition and startup costs of $150,000, an additional $50,000 has been allocated initially to marketing/sales activities.

The current annual sales of $90,000 are adequate to cover most operational cash needs during the first year because operating costs will be kept to a minimum.


The primary objectives of Infoguide, Inc. are to:

  • Establish and maintain a unique position among Bread Laws publications as the only reference work of its type.
  • Generate significant profits and cash flow after the second year of operation.
  • Develop related products and services through internal creation and by acquisition.
  • Position the company for a public offering or acquisition by a major publisher within five years.

Business Goals

Profits Annual profits will approach initial investment by year five

Products Focus on serving the Bread Laws market niche will be maintained

Customers Company motto is "Love Thy Subscriber"

Quality Products and services will set a standard for quality "Gold Stripe" Service

People After the initial investment phase, a professional organization will be built

Growth Cash flow will be reinvested first into expanded market penetration and then into ancillary products/services

Compared to past performance of the Bread Laws Guide in its first year of publication (April 1991 -March 1992) under Able Bakery Publications, I intend to be both more creative in marketing and more aggressive in selling in order to penetrate the marketplace more effectively, as detailed below.


To understand the potential of the Bread Laws Guide, I looked at a sister publication service provided by Able Bakery Publications, called The Cookie Service. That publication sells for over $900 per year and has over 3000 subscribers. It is the only publication that provides an up-to-date compendium of cookie laws for all fifty states. Each year the price is raised and the renewal rate is over 90%. I estimate that its production and fulfillment costs are no more than $200 per subscriber per year.

Like The Cookie Service, the Bread Laws Guide is also unique in its niche.

One of the markets of the Bread Laws Guide is the same grocery stores that purchase The Cookie Service. Therefore the key to matching the success of The Cookie Service is to get the Bread Laws Guide into the hands of these firms: this is the key element of my marketing strategy. In addition, the costs of production and fulfillment will be less than those for The Cookie Service, making the breakeven point very low and marginal profits after that high.

Return on Investment/Financial Objectives

Based on a 31% market share for the Bread Laws Guide by 1996, I estimate the return on investment to be 83% in 1996 alone. In summary, here are the figures in thousands of dollars:

Accounting Profit(61)373124166
% Margin(34)1223137
Share of Market (%)132232731

Position for Growth

The initial focus of the company will be on the core subscription service, concentrating on basic activities and priorities in sales, production, etc. with a goal of adding 240 subscriptions per year, for a total of 1000 by the end of 1996.

At that point, options of acquiring other related products, selling the company or going public can be considered.

Potential Products/Services

Once this growth pattern is realized, the company will expand beyond the core service. Various new product ideas are noted in this presentation.


The Bread Laws Reporting Guide (Bread Laws Guide for short) is the only comprehensive publication related to Bread Laws.

Physically it is a five volume loose leaf set containing approximately 6000 pages of text organized by state for each of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C. The pages contain information as follows:

  • 4300 jurisdictions reporting/searching information
  • An introductory section
  • The Bread Laws code for each state, notated for non-conformance with the model act
  • Illustrations of the forms acceptable in each state

The set is presently updated quarterly based upon a questionnaire distributed to all the reporting jurisdictions and upon information gathered regarding new and revised legislation and regulations in each of the states. The first three updates were as follows:

  • July 1991600pages
  • October 19911200pages
  • January 19921200 pages

Subscribers may order the entire set or individual states. Pricing is set so that a subscriber with a need for more than 5-6 states would order the entire set. A facsimile service is also offered: a client may call for a specific jurisdiction and receive a copy of the current Guide page immediately by facsimile.

Development of other ancillary products/services is in progress and future products/services are planned to be introduced as cash flow allows. The first of these will be a facsimile newsletter, which will be sent out whenever there is a significant change going into effect in any state.

Unique Selling Proposition

As noted, the Bread Laws Guide is not a look-alike directory so frequently produced by publishers. It is rather, the only frequently updated guide to Bread Laws reporting and the only one with specific information about the local (4200) reporting jurisdictions.

Proprietary Technology

The product is protected in the following ways:

The publication itself is copyrighted and carries an ISBN number. "Bread Laws Guide" and similar expressions will be trademarked at the federal level.

The information for the 4300 jurisdictions is maintained on a computer database that may be loaded to an online system for immediate access as a future product. The database presently makes communication with the jurisdictions inexpensive.

Pay Back Benefits

For most subscribers, the Bread Laws Guide will pay for itself in terms of cost and reject savings within a few months for the following reasons:

  • 15-25% of Bread Laws reportings are rejected by every jurisdiction because of preparation errors (e.g., use of wrong ink) or wrong fees, which use of the Guide eliminates.
  • Ease of lookup in the Guide cuts down on Bread Laws reporting preparation time and expense: all the information for a jurisdiction is on one easy-to-read page.
  • Experience just in 1991 indicates that almost half the states will change their Laws, regulations or fees during a typical 12 month period.
  • Professionals who file under the Bread Laws cannot afford to use out-of-date information because and bad bread can lead to million dollar lawsuits.

Useful Purpose

The Bread Laws Guide does not purport to be a legal text. There are other services and publications which fill this requirement. Rather, the Guide is for the professional who needs to do a reporting now and who understands the law itself. It is a practical working tool in other words.

Features Highlights

There is no other source of this up-to-date reporting information.

The Bread Laws Guide is extremely easy to use because:

  • It is sorted by reporting jurisdiction name alphabetically within each state.
  • Each state section begins with overall information about that state, including a list of cities to assist the user in determining where to file.
  • Each state section contains the actual law for the state highlighted with differences from the model law which appears in the introductory section.

The combination of quarterly updates with the planned newsletter keeps the publication current (and will keep the service before its audience in each firm continually). The nearest competitor issues an annual paperback that is out of date before it is published.

Economies of Scale

As sales ramp up, the profitability of this publication surges because of the characteristics of an annual subscription service, summarized as follows:

  • Product cost in the initial year of subscription includes five binders and all 6000 pages (about $150); product cost of updates in the second and later years is about half that.
  • Marketing cost per initial subscription is high (estimated $200); marketing cost to keep an existing subscriber is maybe one-quarter as much.
  • The cost of maintaining the information annually is fixed.
  • The cost of printing pages decreases as subscription levels increase because of the fixed cost component of composition, etc.

Product/Service Life Cycle

The Bread Laws were first enacted in the 1970's. They cover the sale, leasing, and financing of commercial bread manufacturing establishments. Each state has enacted its own version of the model act recommended by the American Bakers Association. Even the model act has been altered a few times over the years. Therefore major inconsistencies exist from state to state in the law and regulations, including reporting fees.

Most states have some form of local reporting, which requires reporting two forms, one at the state level and one at the local level. The local level also varies depending upon the state, and may be a town, city, county or parish.

Over the years, there has been continuing discussion of the possibility of federalizing the law, that is, centralizing all reportings at the federal level. This is as likely as the federalization of corporate law.

Planned Products/Services

The company plans to develop new products and enhance existing products. New products/services that are to be developed in the near future include a facsimile newsletter, paperback semiannual summary guides, and reporting services.

Concepts for follow-on (next generation) products or services include an online version of the service (on Lexis, Westlaw) and a CD-ROM version.

Just as important as my own vision of the future, I and my staff will be listening carefully to the subscribers in order to determine their future needs which the company can meet.


Key points in defining the market segment for the Bread Laws Guide are by service type, user type, and geographic location.

In the service type dimension, the service is unique. The only other publications are an annual paperback put out by Charlie Baker, the leading Bread Laws forms provider in the U.S., and a small, general booklet from Bread Reporting Services. The user type dimension is critical to targeting. The significant user types are as follows:

TypeTotal SizePractical Potential
Grocery stores45,0001,000
Other Bakers3,000500
Bread Companies3,000500
Bread Reporting Cos.1,000100

Geographic location is also considered a market dimension because of the obvious disparity in the size of states. Clearly New York and California are not only the largest states, but also are the baking centers where the national bakers are located. Therefore any marketing plan will focus especially on these two states.

Currently, the only market distribution information available is from: Charlie Baker, which reports that it has over 7,000 subscribers to its annual paperback; and Warren Gorham Lamont, which sells a number of Bread Laws related publications, has 30,000 names on its subscriber mailing list (which I will use for leads). These figures do confirm that the estimated market potential for the Bread Laws Guide (3000 subscribers) is within reason.

Of course, the current recession has seen the reduction in both grocery stores and bakeries, as well as greater difficulty in selling publications because of budget constraints. However, these short-term trends will not have that much impact on long-term potential for the Guide since the total market size is so large. The key to marketing is to get the Guide into the right user hands.


The Bread Laws Guide has several distinct advantages over the potential competition, of which the top six are listed here.

  • It is an advantage to be the first up-to-date service. To the extent that the Guide gets into firms before any competing service comes along, barriers to any other entrant will be too high to overcome.
  • The comprehensiveness and depth of information in the Guide makes it the most complete possible source, with a full page of information about every reporting jurisdiction in the U.S. It is presented by jurisdiction within state for easy, efficient access.
  • Since the information is maintained on a computer database, other forms of publications and non-print access will be easy to create as ancillary products.
  • My own experience in and knowledge of these markets is a key strength because I know precisely where to focus marketing efforts for the Guide.
  • The Guide is the only product of the company. Therefore, there will be no confusion about where the priorities of the company should be directed. All efforts, resources and imagination will aim at just this one target: get the Guide in as many hands as possible.
  • The initial investment of $200,000 constitutes a key financial strength. Although the company is small, a budget of $200,000 which essentially can be dedicated to marketing the Guide over the first two years represents a major investment even by comparison to a large professional information publisher.


There are two distinct handicaps inherent in the product today, which I will focus on remedying as noted below.

  • Promotional activities since the inception of the product by Able Bakery Publications have not been sufficient to establish the level of demand. In fact, direct response mailings have been mishandled, follow-up by telemarketing has been nonexistent, and too little funds have been allocated to target marketing. Because of this, the marketplace does not yet appreciate how significant this new tool is. Promotional efforts will be extended to my contacts in the states, in the American Bakers Association, and in other associations to get the word out better. I will mount a major, focused marketing effort ($50,000) to the target markets, including mail telemarketing and in-person visits where necessary, in order to get all 1000 copies of the Guide out of inventory and into the hands of potential long-term subscribers.
  • Product updates are too slow in getting out, and some of the initially designed subscriber communication vehicles (fax update, newsletter to users) have not been implemented. Within two months I will have these important marketing tools in place to maintain and increase interest of current subscribers, thereby protecting renewal rates.
  • I am also considering in house printing and fulfillment to replace the outside printer in order to get sets out faster while saving expenses.


The upside potential for the Bread Laws Guide within these target markets over the next five years may well be greater than the 1000 sets forecast based upon the money allocated to marketing under the conditions introduced in the Present Situation and Strengths/Weaknesses analysis.

In addition to the product extensions discussed elsewhere in this presentation, an altogether new application for this type of product/service would be tapping environmental related markets. Since this field is so new, the kinds of procedures that have been standardized over 20 years for the Bread Laws are hardly in place for searching or reporting environmental-related records. I am working on a "Bible" on how to deal with environmental agencies around the U.S. (state and federal) to assist the same markets the Guide is sold in now.

Further opportunity for product extensions depend upon generating funds from the Guide itself.

Still another possibility for development involves Bread Laws reporting and search services. However, this direction would involve a commitment to compete with Able Bakery Publications, which I hesitate to do for a number of compelling business reasons.


Direct Competition

The only complementary products/service already in use by these customers is the Charlie Baker Guide, a paperback which is published once a year around December at a price of $15.95. It goes out of date very quickly and only includes state level information.

Other publications that contain general Bread Laws information include:

  • Bread Reporting Handbook, $9.95, contains brief descriptions of state reporting information.
  • NBI subscription service, $665.00 annually, covers the law but not the fees, addresses, etc.

The latter publication is for the legal researcher, whereas the Bread Laws Guide is for the person who actually has to report under the law.

As noted, the print competition is not in the same category as the Bread Laws Guide because the Guide is in fact unique.

The question for the future is whether anyone will decide to enter the market with a comparable product. On the one hand, a prospective competitor could use the Bread Laws Guide to get a head start on its data collection. On the other, it is unlikely that another publisher will chance such an entry when the niche is so small. For comparison, The Cookie Service on Able Bakery Publications and the NBI Bread Laws Law Service have no competitors.

See the marketing plan for information about how I intend to keep any competition out of the market.

Indirect Competition

A source of indirect competition must be considered: service companies that prepare reportings for attorneys and bakeries. As already explained, hundreds of these companies are located in state capitals around the country. Although most are primarily local to their own state, many also do a significant national business. Since these companies will purchase the Guide themselves to handle their own clients, those same clients may not need the Guide.

The impact of this competition is not anticipated to be all that great because 90% of Bread Laws reportings are traditionally prepared by the institution or its attorneys.


This table shows how I evaluate the risks involved in the development of the Guide today. It allows a comparison of exposure, given various assumptions.

I have weighted each element according to its importance to the success of the Guide and listed them in descending order.

ElementsDegree of Risk of Risk
Past Prfrmnc.5.100.50
Overall Risk1.004.85


Maturity In this initial stage, gaining subscriber confidence is critical. Therefore, both weight and risk factor must be considered high.

Strategy Effective product/service, price distribution, promotion strategies are critical. Therefore strategy is highly weighted. Risk is only medium because I am able to take advantage of lessons learned over the past year.

Competitive Position The market is wide open with few competitors today.

Industry: Company must stay competitive as business matures. Company must keep out any direct competitors. Risk is low because good products/services have loyal long term fallowings in these markets.

Management Careful planning, clear objectives and experienced leadership are in place.

Past Performance Medium risk because results to date could have been better except that resources were not applied.

Economy The economy must be considered because the current recession has significantly slowed service company sales and Bread Laws reportings, and represents some risk. However, capitalization of the company will take it through this period and the company is prepared with its inventory to take advantage of the next upswing in the economy.


These risks clearly point to the need for focus in the marketing plan to place the Guide in as many potential subscriber offices as possible as soon as possible. This strategy is the key to addressing almost all the risks, as discussed below.


The marketing strategy of the company may be summarized in two statements:

  • Focus on the logical buyers of new subscriptions and attack them in every effective way.
  • Once the initial sale is made, "Love Thy Subscriber" with "Gold Stripe" Service.

Comprehensive Plan

The overall marketing plan for the Bread Laws Guide is based on the following fundamentals:

  • The Guide is not just a publication. It is a unique, essential service for all power Bread Laws reporters. As an entirely new concept, however, it cannot sell itself.
  • The target market segments are well known, but it is sometimes difficult to determine the decision makers within individual firms.
  • Direct sales methods are best for the service because it demands personal contact with the prospect and subscriber to assure that it is used effectively.
  • Selling never stops. Renewals are just as important as new sales, and depend upon satisfied subscribers who understand how to use the service effectively.
  • Users, decision makers, and librarians all need to be sold.

To prove the value of The Guide, the marketing strategy will focus on benefits of use, including efficiency improvements, cost savings, and elimination of rejects. This can be done not only by the typical brochures, cover letters and telesales scripts, but through personal professional contacts I have developed, references by satisfied subscribers, etc.

Product Strategy

The Bread Laws Guide will be treated as a long-lived product/service, which will be improved only in small ways beyond the basic service concept. No frills are needed to sell successfully, as long as a basic focus on top grocery stores and financial institutions is maintained.


Because of the special characteristics of these markets, the strategy must incorporate a strong message that the Bread Laws Guide and its publisher are the experts in the field.

This position will be enforced through the ancillary products/services, such as the facsimile newsletter for instant updates on significant changes as well as through a continuing dialogue with the top people in the field.

The Guide is seen in this light by many of the current subscribers, but more promotion is obviously needed to get the publication into the minds of the entire target markets.

Its unique characteristics can be exploited to arrive at a winning position in the consumer's mind. In terms of market segmentation advantages, I will use the satisfied subscribers more effectively.

"Love Thy Subscriber"

Since the long-term success of the Guide depends upon renewals, annual, constant, effective, and positive contact with subscribers must be maintained. Most publishers do not seem to recognize who the actual subscribers are; they are not just the person or department that pays for the service.

I define a subscriber as anyone who uses the Guide. Therefore, contact must be established with paralegals who use copies in their libraries and documentation specialists in bakeries who prepare Bread Laws reportings. One account may have dozens of users.

They will be identified through telephone surveys, questionnaires and the like, and will then be kept informed about the Guide.

"Gold Stripe" Service

In order to produce a consistent identity, I will introduce "Gold Stripe" Service to the subscribers. It will include the following features, plus others to be added in the future in order to maintain the highest possible renewal rate:

  • Next day shipping of all orders.
  • No hassle return policy: anytime you are not satisfied, your Guide subscription may be canceled.
  • Fax Newsletter: news of important changes in reporting requirements sent directly to all users in the subscriber firm.
  • Whatever payment plan is most convenient for the subscriber, including monthly, quarterly, annual and even longer.
  • A free annual jurisdiction name/address/telephone directory.

The name "Gold Stripe" has been chosen for a very specific reason. After the acquisition, the Guide is not allowed to continue to use the name Able Bakery Publications, leaving me with 6000 binders costing $6.00 each, which has already been embossed on its spine with the name Able Bakery Publications. Not wishing to throw away $36,000, I came up with the idea of obtaining a high quality, gold-leaf or brass overlay that can be firmly glued over the Able Bakery Publications name: thus, "Gold Stripe" becomes the logo of the company.

Critical Mass

The concept of critical mass is important to understanding the selling tactics which will be utilized initially (Stage One) and how these tactics will change over time (Stage Two). Stage One tactics are discussed in the Selling Tactics Section, and Stage Two is discussed in the Advertising Section.

A product/service has reached critical mass when it has gained enough market penetration to become a sort of household word in its industry. In other words, once critical mass in a market is reached, a significant percentage of sales will come from more indirect marketing, and tactics such as advertising and public relations make sense to keep the product name before the customers. Before critical mass is reached, however, such indirect marketing is a waste of money because there is little name recognition to start with in the market.

Therefore, the Stage One sales plan will be focused on obtaining critical mass status for the Bread Laws Guide. This will be accomplished by directing all marketing resources into the telesales channel with a goal of placing the first 1000 sets of the Guide in the top 500 grocery stores, bakeries, etc. I estimate that the Guide will reach its critical mass once these 1000 sets are in place, at which time the marketing strategy will be adjusted to Stage Two.

Next Steps

Based on this strategic plan, I am presently pursuing the following tasks:

  • Put together prospect lists for telesales.
  • Identify telesales personnel.
  • Identify printer for brochures, etc.
  • Review and adjust fulfillment procedures with Brown Printing.


The prices for the products/services are determined first and foremost by value to the subscribers. Since pricing is not constrained by direct competitive pressures, the approach taken is to test various levels of prices, volume discounts, for cash, package deals, etc. in order to find the best price-volume mix in each market.

Experience so far confirms that the current pricing is not excessively high, but further testing is needed to determine whether lower prices can expand demand (Is there any price elasticity?). Testing will be done continuously as part of the direct response and telemarketing programs.

The other annual subscription services mentioned in this planare priced for $665 to $900 per year, and the only Bread Laws-related newsletter is priced at $395 per year. The Bread Laws Guide retail price of $595 per year again appears to be in the right range from these comparatives.

I feel that customers will pay in the $400-700 per year based upon the perceived values discussed in the Description Section (Payback) and in the Strategy Section. To reiterate, potential subscribers must be convinced of these values through the correct marketing strategy.

The current price structure appears in the Exhibits. The volume discounts, which previously applied only if the purchase order came from one place in a company, will now be extended to all locations from one company, even under separate purchase orders.

Also, the Bread Laws Guide can be examined and returned for full credit within 30 days of receipt if the customer is not 100% satisfied. Experience so far indicates less than a 10% return rate.

Margin Structure and Long-Term Economics

Profitability in the long run is not so much a function of the initial price cost relationship as of the number of years a customer renews the subscription. Consider the following:

Subscriber forSales @$500Cost @200ProfitCost @400Profit
1 year500200300400100
5 years2500Lost2000500
10 years500040001000

The lesson of this example is that lower cost (or for that matter, higher initial price) does not equal more profits in the annual subscription business. If as a result of costs being twice as high subscribers renew for 5 years versus one year, profits are significantly higher and they get even better in 10 years. Thus, as the marketing strategy explains, the Bread Laws Guide philosophy will be "Love Thy Subscriber," and significant resources are allocated to obtain and maintain each subscriber.

This analysis does not mean that I am cavalier about costs: just the opposite, in fact. Non-marketing expenses, including personnel, printing and other costs will be watched severely so that maximum resources can be committed on a continuing basis to obtain new subscribers and keep existing ones.

The costs and expenses, as detailed in the financials, are as follows per subscription per year:

New SubscribersRenewal Subscribers
Product Cost$250$100
Expenses149-74149 decreasing to 74
Expenses200165 decreasing to 37
Total (Max)599414
Total (1996)524211

Experience to date has indicated that the cost of obtaining a new subscriber is relatively high ($200) because of price and market characteristics. Although I will be examining ways to increase the efficacy of each marketing dollar, I feel it is only fair to use this figure in the forecasts. Any productivity improvements will only improve results further.

Initially, therefore, I plan to lose $99 on each new subscriber the first year based upon an average net sales yield perset of $500, and to earn $86 on each renewal subscription.

The wisdom of this approach becomes clear over time: while new subscriptions will continue to cost more to obtain than renewals, costs will decrease significantly as the subscriber base rises, leading to 60% margins ($300 profit on $500 sale) on renewal business by 1996.

It should be noted that the 6% delivery charge is inherently very profitable ($300 of sales versus $6 for postage).


All estimates are based upon experience to date. For example, the $500 average sales price was determined from the sales of the first 200 sets, some at full price of $595, some at the introductory price of $545 and some at multiples of $75 for individual states. The reason the average of $415 on the sales worksheet for 1991 is lower than the forecast is that 30 sets were given to Able Bakery Publications offices at $215 per set. Per the acquisition agreement, Able Bakery Publications will pay over $400 per set starting in 1992.

Discounts will continue to be offered to subscribers as an inducement for:

  • Early payment of new subscriptions
  • Early payment of renewal subscriptions
  • Multiple sets in the same firm
  • Upgrade from a few states to a full set
  • Special deals for association members


Three selling approaches have been used by Able Bakery publications, with mixed results:

Direct Mail

Over 25,000 pieces have been sent out, resulting in about 60 sales. At a cost of $1.00 per piece, this approach has cost over $400 per subscription. However, the best of mailings, from the Warren Gorham Lamont list, showed a .5% sale rate, for a cost per subscription of $200.


The 20 Able Bakery Publications telesales people "mention" the Guide in their presentations to Bread Laws search prospects and clients as part of their overall sales pitch. Very few sales arise from this source.

Outside Sales

The 20 outside sales people were instructed each to sell 5 sets in the July-august period of 1991. Actual sales achieved were about 3 per person, which accounts for the sales bulge in those shown on the sales worksheet. Since that time there has been little focus on this product and fewer than 5 sales per month come from this source.

The remainder of sales to date come from word of mouth and from calls to other service companies.

A little advertising was done and a public relations piece was put out, both with little effect. Some complimentary sets were sent to important figures in the American Bakers Association and other recognized national Bread Laws experts, but recently these people were insulted by being asked to pay for updates.

None of these approaches have yielded satisfactory results as far as I am concerned.

Stage One Planned Sales Method: New Subscribers

These experiences lead to the conclusion that a more focused sales approach is necessary in order to grow sales at a faster rate and/or at a lower unit cost, as follows:

  • Combine targeted lists of high potential prospective subscribers to obtain master lists of individual users within each firm.
  • Develop specific telephone scripts for each market segment. Develop sales materials specifically to support telephone sales.
  • Contract independent, experienced telephone sales people to contact the individuals on the master lists.
  • Spend no money on indirect sales methods, such as advertising, although creative, low-cost ideas will be pursued.
  • 800 number support line.

The following sections discuss each of these steps in more detail.

Many specific sources of Bread Laws reporting firms are available to me, including,

  • Client lists are available as part of the acquisition agreement.
  • I have developed lists of all bakeries who report liens in the major states (NY, CA, IL, TX, PA). These lists are particularly valuable because they can be cross matched to find multistate filers who are the most qualified prospects for the Guide.
  • Warren Gorham Lamont's list of publication buyers (30,000) names is the best commercially available mailing list. National Commercial Finance Association list includes most large asset based bakeries.
  • The Charlie Baker Guide, mentioned in this presentation a number of times, is owned by two brilliant men in St. Louis, MO. I have contacted them to obtain a list of their 7000 subscribers. Their initial response was to allow me to have this list. I will be following up with them once the acquisition is complete.

All these lists are just raw material, of course. I have developed logic and programs to match and combine these lists for use by the telephone sales people.

The resulting combined file will contain multiple individual names and multiple locations for each significant national grocery store chain.

Telephone Scripts

The combined lists will provide more than one access to each targeted subscriber, which in turn will allow multiple scripting for different kinds of contacts, such as:

  • Ask the librarian who utilizes the NBI Bread Laws law service since those people will be interested in reporting also.
  • Ask the librarian for names of paralegals in the baking or M&A sections of the grocery store.
  • Ask the client who is responsible for preparing Bread Law reportings and how many states the firm files in.

In other words, the telephone will be used for initial contact with an objective of identifying the people in each firm with the greatest need for the Guide. When these people are identified, they will be approached with a specific script focusing on the benefits of the Guide:

  • Did you know there is a new and only source of accurate reporting information to help you file more efficiently?
  • Did you know that there is a way to reduce rejects of Bread Laws reportings to almost none?

The close of this call will usually be to send the prospect more information (the sales material) about the Guide, or even better, to get a commitment to try the Guide on a trial basis.

The follow-up call will review the material and ask for the order.

Of course, if this particular prospect does not agree to purchase, the sales person will call another user in the firm. There is always another user in each firm who will listen.

Once a trial is assured, the telesales person will ask for the names of other users in the firm and will notify them that the Guide is available. The more people who use the Guide, the easier it will be to keep it in the firm year after year.

Sales Materials

Sales material is designed specifically to support the telephone sale, that is, to address the questions of the user and to help convince that person to find it in the budget to purchase the Guide.

Materials will include:

  • Brochure explaining the contents of the Guide and showing what each jurisdiction page contains.
  • Question and answer sheet.
  • Note from the Publisher showing that I am an expert in the field.
  • Actual jurisdiction sheets. (Use up old sheets that have been replaced. Each will be stamped "Out of date; do not use.")
  • How to use the Guide sheet to be sent to each user when the Guide is delivered.

Experienced Sales People

Some of the sales people who worked for me on past projects are now available to work for the Guide as independent contractors, and I will contract with two of them, one in the East and one in the West. They have the following characteristics in common:

  • Knowledgeable in Bread Laws law and products/services.
  • Knowledgeable on how attorneys, paralegals and baking think, and how they differ from one another from a selling perspective.
  • Client oriented. They listen to what the client wants and pass all suggestions on for response.
  • Incentive motivated.
  • Comfortable on the telephone and in person.
  • Well-dressed.
  • Used to working with me.

In other words, I am assembling a mature sales force whom I am confident will achieve my sales goals of 240 sets per year.

Compensation will consist of commissions based upon paid sales with additional incentives for achieving sales over my targets. The company will pay for all sales materials, telephone calls, mailing lists and travel expenses.

These people will also be the feedback loop between the product and the customer. They continually ask for suggestions and improvement ideas as well as addressing any complaints. In fact, these sales people will be fully empowered to address any subscriber need, including flexibility to price the Guide creatively in order to get the order and to maintain the renewal subscription.

Low Cost Ideas - No Frills

As discussed in the Marketing Strategy Section, advertising and other forms of indirect or pull marketing do little good for a product such as the Guide that has not reached critical mass in its market penetration. Therefore, these costly frills will be avoided until Stage Two.

I will, however, implement two indirect sales plans that will cost the company virtually nothing and which will produce an extra 30-100 subscription sales per year, as follows:

  • Able Bakery Publications will continue to sell the Guide through its 40 person sales force. I will pay a small 10% commission on these sales, which I expect to total about 30 sets per year.
  • I will offer a special price for members to the two major associations in the industry, NBA and AAEL, if they will promote the Guide on behalf of the company. Promotion could take the form of direct response marketing by them or merely an endorsement of the product. This is an experiment, but it is worth a shot as a separate sales channel.

Support Line

The Guide will, as part of the acquisition package keep in place its distinct 800 number: 800-4-BREAD. This number is used by subscribers to place orders, to ask for information including the fax order service, and to contact the Guide for any other reason. It is also used by jurisdictions to let the Guide know about impending changes in regulations, procedures, etc.

The number will ring in the Paramus headquarters, and any messages for the sales people will be forwarded to them by voice mail. The phone will be answered in person from 8-5 Eastern time.



The Guide has been in production since April 1991. As noted above, it has already gone through three update cycles. At present this cycle is quarterly. Updates are based upon information from the following sources:

  • Quarterly, all 4300 jurisdictions are surveyed by mail. The survey repeats the information that appears in the Guide and includes a return envelope for changes, additions or deletions. The survey is easy to produce because the mailing information is kept in a computer database. Over 80 percent of jurisdictions have responded to the survey, because they appreciate how the Guide helps to eliminate rejects. In the future, I will ask the jurisdictions for their help in identifying filers who have high reject rates as a source of leads.
  • Other services are searched continually.
  • Through the International Association of Bread Law Adminstrators, which the company will support through sponsorship of their annual convention. I maintain personal relations with many of the Bread Laws administrators in each state. I will enlist their aid to send me all proposed changes in each state in order to have more up-to-date information.

As information arrives, it is entered immediately into the jurisdiction database so that the most current information will be available for call-in customers (and later for immediate updating of an online database). Then, once a quarter, the altered pages are printed and distributed by Brown Printing.

I contemplate three significant improvements in this process:

  • The quarterly cycle is arbitrary. Most subscription services of this type send updates whenever anything significant happens, which may often be on a monthly basis. Certainly, changes are more likely in the fall than in the summer because of legislative schedules. Also, if a state has substantial changes (over 60% of pages), the whole state section will be reprinted to save subscribers the trouble of replacing individual pages.
  • Nomatter how fast changes are printed and sent out, any change to reporting requirements that is not known immediately by a filer my cause a reject. The goal of the Guide is of course to eliminate all rejects. Therefore, I will demand that all critical changes in jurisdiction information be faxed to users in time to assure reportings are not made in error. Critical changes are if fees are changed or acceptable reporting form changed.
  • The costs of composition and printing are expected to rise from $40,000 per year to $80,000 by 1996 as the subscriber base expands. Of this amount, almost half the cost is for composition because the press runs are so short (1000). One use of term loan funds being requested will be to obtain a desktop publishing PC system with a high quality laser printer (total cost - $20,000) which will be utilized to do composition in-house. Savings will be invested in additional marketing/sales.


Brown Printing not only prints the Guide and its updates, it also inventories sets; fulfills orders for new sets; packages and delivers updates; and updates the sets in inventory. The company will continue to use Brown for fulfillment services because they have a fine reputation for service, accuracy and timeliness.

I will make only two changes to the fulfillment process:

  • New sets are sent out by courier, which will continue. However, I am designing a new, permanent courier package in the form of a briefcase for deliveries. The package will be returned to the company by the subscriber once the set has been accepted. This packaging will protect the sets better from dents and the like, while making a statement that this service is a premier subscription like no other. One other benefit is that a subscriber who wants to return a set must call the company in order to get a package to return it, giving the company a chance to save the account.
  • Brown charges $10-12 per set to update the ones in inventory. The total cost can amount to over $15,000 per year because so many sets are still in inventory. This cost will be eliminated by having my family do the updates.


The base case is what I consider the most likely scenario for sales, costs, and growth. The next section examines worst and best cases as well.


Inflation is not considered in the forecasts and estimates because prices for this kind of subscription service typically can be raised to offset cost increases.

The column entitle "Factor" on some of the worksheets contains cost per unit or growth factors used in the forecasts.


The sales forecast is based upon experience to date. 1992 sales are for 10 months, on the assumption of a March 1 purchase date.

Note that sales tax will only be charged in New Jersey because the new company has no other locations.

Cost of Sales

New sets include 5 binders at $6 each. 6000 pages of test, tabs and the like. 750 sets were purchased as part of the acquisition.

Update costs are computed at 2400 pages per year per set at $.04 per page.

Production/Editorial Expense

Management fees, such as a salary for me, are not included in the estimates, as my compensation will depend upon results and available cash flow.

Editor fee is estimated based upon prior results.

Postage is for new sets and update delivery, newsletters and faxes.

Telephone is for administrative and jurisdiction calls.

Jurisdiction mail is estimated at 4300 pieces of mail four times a year at $.75 per letter, including return postage.

Production coordinator is a part-time position that will be contracted out.

Subscriptions and supplies are needed for research and general operations.

Amortization of startup expenses is taken over three years.

Interest is calculated at 6% on the subordinated debt of $125,000.

Royalties at 6% of sales are due to Able Bakery Publications as part of the acquisition agreement.

Marketing/Sales Expense

Mailing list costs are primarily for the Warren Gorham Lamont list.

Brochures include the cost of about 20,000 direct mail pieces utilized by the telephone sales people at $.80 per set of sales materials.

Postage includes direct mail and delivery of new sets and updates.

Telephone is estimated at 80 calls per day/$1.00 per call.

Commissions are estimated at $100 per new subscription sold.

Cash Flow Projection

See balance sheet assumptions for most cash flow items.

Cost of sales for new sets is not a cash expense because of the 750 sets purchased in the acquisition, until 1995 when the present inventory has been depleted. At that time, 500 more full sets (New Inventory) will be printed and packaged at a cost of $150 per set.

Note that withdrawals for management fees and to pay taxes on earnings by stockholders (subchapter S corporation) are not included in this presentation.

The initial stockholder investment of $200,000 is allocated as follows:

  • 750 sets of the Guide in inventory at $150 per set.
  • Startup expenses include attorney fees of $10,000 and development fees taken over on the acquisition of $26,000.
  • Unearned income represents the remainder of each paid 12 month subscription, net of set costs, as of acquisition date. I have chosen not to use this accounting method for the forecasts in order to keep the presentation simple. However, for tax purposes, I intend to use the unearned subscription approach to defer taxes on corporate profits.

Balance Sheet Detail

Receivables are estimated at 60 days sales outstanding.

No fixed assets are shown because the computer equipment obtained in the acquisition is expensed. No other capital assets are required to operate the business.

To be conservative, no payables are assumed.


Note A:
Capital Contributions of $200,000
Less Purchase Price of $125,000. Which Is Primarily 750 New Sets
Less $10,000 Legal and Other Startup Costs
Beginning Cash Note A650001700050200155300227520
Accounting Profit61250320073100124220165764
Add: Non-Cash Outlays
Cost of Sales -New3225036000360003600036000
A/P Balance00000
A/R Outstdg. Chg.3100018000160001300013000
New Inventory75000
Net Cash Flow this Year480003320010510072220188764
Ending Cash1700050200155300227520416284


Best Case: Schedules

A term loan of $100,000 is added to the balance sheet to be used as follows:

Purchase computer publishing equipment$20,000
Double marketing/sales expenditures$70,000
Increased production expenses$10,000

As a result of the increased investment in sales, the number of new sets sold is doubled to 40 per month, and the cost of updates is decreased by utilizing advanced computer methods.

By 1996, sales will rise to $799,000 because of the compounding effect of renewal sales, 77% more than base case sales of $452,000.

Expenses reflect both the interest on the term debt and the depreciation over 5 years of the computer equipment.

Although cash flow appears to be less advantageous than the base case, in fact this is only due to the continued discretionary increased marketing/sales expenditure levels. Profits before these discretionary expenses in 1996 are $414,000 vs $239,000 in the basecase. In other words, the company has a lot more to spend on future growth because of the additional impetus provided by the term loan funds.

Worst Case: Schedules

The worst case scenario continues expense projections at the base case rate while sales decrease to only 10 sets per month, or half the base case rate.

It is significant to note that even without a cutback in market/sales expenses, a cash shortfall of only $5500 is generated. Renewal sales still put the company into positive cash flow over the 5 year period.

Best Case Cash Flow Projection (1992-1996)

Note A:
Starts with capital contributions of $200,000
Less purchase price of $125,000, which is primarily 750 new sets
Less $10,000 legal and other startup costs
Plus a term loan of $100,000 repayable in years 3-5
Beginning Cash Note A165000450004001654020624
Accounting Profit1372506340084860202164274522
Add-Non-Cash Outlays
Cost of Sales-New32250720002000000
A/P Balance00000
A/R Outstanding3100070000104000136000164000
Repay Term Loan330003300034000
Cash Flow this Year12000045400161403716480522
Ending Cash450004001654020624101146

Worst Case Cash Flow Projection (1992-1996)

Note A:
Capital contributions of $200,000
Less purchase price of $125,000, which is primarily 750 new sets
Less $10,000 legal and other startup costs
Beginning Cash Note A65000500055001260053820
Accounting Profit700003150049002922038764
Add: Non-Cash Outlays
Cost of Sales-New1800018000180001800018000
A/P Balance00000
Less: A/R Outstanding200009000700060006000
Cash Flow this Year6000010500181004122050764
Ending Cash500055001260053820104584

Book Publishing

views updated May 18 2018


Early in the new twentieth century, the American publisher Henry Holt mourned the imminent death of the book. With cheap, flashy, and ever-changing magazines beckoning from every city street corner, he lamented, who would choose to read the relatively staid, cumbersome, and expensive book? Holt and others bemoaned the impending "massification" of print culture—ushered in by near-complete mechanization of production processes, unprecedented literacy levels, and a crowd of entrepreneurial publishers happy to hawk books like chewing gum or tinned tobacco, obliging the commonest of literary tastes. He feared that the book as he knew it, in a social and cultural as well as physical sense, could not survive the consequences.

His worries were not entirely baseless. The years following the Civil War had been an era of unparalleled growth in reading, fueled in part by a strong national drive for basic popular education and literacy. In the 1870 census some 80 percent of white Americans over the age of ten declared themselves literate (although fewer than a quarter of nonwhite Americans could make the same claim). Despite the notorious difficulties in measuring literacy and its uses, it was clear to all that an unprecedented number of Americans not only could read but also, with great energy and enthusiasm, they often did. And as Holt so bitterly noted, most of that reading was readily found in newspapers and magazines, which enjoyed wide, even national, audiences for the first time in the nation's history.

The American publisher Henry Holt voiced concerns shared by many at the turn of the century when he lamented that profit-hungry authors and publishers threatened the future of good literature. The centuries-old tension between the cultural and the commercial aspects of book publishing intensified in the late nineteenth century, and it remains a perennial aspect of the modern industry.

The more authors seek publishers solely with reference to what they will pay in the day's market, the more publishers bid against one another as stock brokers do, and the more they market their wares as the soulless articles of ordinary commerce are marketed, the more books tend to become soulless things.

Henry Holt, "The Commercialization of Literature," Atlantic Monthly, November 1905, p. 578.

But a vigorous growth in book publishing had also accompanied the push for universal literacy. Between 1880 and 1913, while the nation's population nearly tripled, the number of new titles published annually rose more than sixfold, from 2,076 to 13,470. Furthermore, those numbers generally reflect only trade titles, or books intended for purchase by "general readers," the sort of books sold in the early twenty-first century in a typical bookstore. Then as now trade publishing was dwarfed by other varieties of publishing, which distributed books to particular audiences through other channels. The textbook business alone was huge, swelled by a peculiarly American reliance on books for instruction, foreshadowing the vast markets for self-help and how-to books of the early twenty-first century. By 1860, for example, more textbooks were published each year in the United States than in all of Europe. Together with the robust activities of religious book publishers and those devoted to numerous ethnic communities, which also are rarely included in discussions of general publishing, the world of books and reading had grown vast indeed.

From the end of Reconstruction to the return of veterans from the Great War, then, as ever-growing numbers of readers presented new interests and new needs, publishers struggled both to satisfy and to shape those literary appetites. But theirs was neither a cohesive nor a coherent enterprise. Even in the sphere of general trade publishing alone, two fundamental types of publishing coexisted, sometimes in direct competition but more often operating in discrete arenas, serving different reading populations. Very roughly put, one addressed traditional audiences, typically educated readers for whom buying books was a familiar and well-regarded act; these readers were the primary audience for new works written by contemporary authors. The other vein of general publishing served less-sophisticated readers, many of whom were newly literate and unaccustomed to owning any book other than perhaps a family Bible. They were more likely to buy inexpensive reprint editions of older titles or simple formulaic fiction marketed by category more than by author.

This essay explores the activities of both strands of general publishing activity, which would gradually metamorphose into a more integrated, though no less complex, twentieth-century industry. The consolidation began soon after the Civil War, when the once largely regional nature of traditional American book publishing became solidly national, concentrated in three cities: Philadelphia, Boston, and especially New York. The mainstream industry was dominated by a dozen or so major houses, each governed by the literary, cultural, and business values of the men who ran them, men whose names continue to define the landscape of American publishing, even though none remain family-run businesses in the early twenty-first century. The Harper brothers in New York built the nineteenth century's largest publishing enterprise, and Charles Scribner, Henry Holt, G. P. Putnam, F. N. Doubleday, Henry Houghton, George Mifflin, and others all played important roles in shaping the nature of the maturing trade book business.

To understand publishers' roles in these heady decades of unprecedented demand for books and other reading material, one must trace the ways their methods of selecting, producing, marketing, and selling books are interwoven with the lively and sometimes volatile variety of those books' content. Because their markets were frequently different, traditional and popular publishers developed varying means of creating and distributing their wares.


Of the three fundamental components of the publishing process—editing, design and production, and marketing and sales—the last two were transformed more radically than the first between 1870 and 1920. Editorial practices also shifted dramatically, however, albeit with considerable grumbling and resistance. Before the 1890s or so, an unwritten but powerful code of "gentlemanly" conduct governed traditional publishers' dealings both with authors and with each other. This meant that an author was typically aligned with the same publisher throughout his or her career; publishers sought to develop and support their authors' careers, in tacit exchange for the authors' loyalty or promise to let them publish new works. An even stronger professional ethic discouraged one publisher from "stealing" another's authors. Charles Scribner particularly detested the commercial notion of bidding for a prized author's work, and he vilified any foolhardy writer or publisher who attempted to draw his house into the now commonplace practice.

In general, nineteenth-century traditional publisher-author relationships were both paternalistic and often mutually productive. Although they clearly needed each other and often enjoyed close personal friendships, many publishers and authors nurtured perennial grievances about the relationship. Most authors earned only modest royalties, and often they were paid nothing at all until a significant portion of the edition had sold and production costs had been covered. Furthermore, authors were commonly expected to bear the cost of manufacturing the stereoplates from which their books were printed. Publishers, on the other hand, perpetually complained (as many still do) about their precarious finances, lamenting that a chronic unprofitability of the majority of trade titles rendered theirs the "worst business in the world," as one mourned in 1906. In reality, both grievances were exaggerated. Although modest, authors generally earned more through royalties than through the earlier convention of a lump-sum payment, particularly on those fortunate titles that enjoyed strong sales. And publishers generally made respectable, though rarely lucrative, incomes from their livelihood.

Authors' most serious complaint was the lack of an international copyright law. Until the problem was remedied in 1890, American authors felt at an unfair disadvantage because publishers could issue pirated editions of foreign works, which could be sold more cheaply since no royalties were paid to the authors. This was far less common in traditional publishing than in popular, however. The low prices on which popular publishing depended were achieved by cutting costs as much in editorial as in manufacturing practices. Many popular titles were reprint editions of older, copyright-free "classics" as well as more recent works by such well-known British writers as Charles Dickens, despite their furious but futile objections. Most of these royalty-dodging pirated editions of British and French titles (primarily novels) were issued in one of the era's inexpensive, mass-produced series. Commonly known as "libraries," these sets of books with identically designed covers competed only indirectly with the standard clothbound editions in which American authors' new works were typically published. The popularity of such libraries was enormous. By the height of the craze in 1893, some ninety-four series vied for space on American families' bookshelves.

Popular publishers also issued a huge quantity of formulaic new fiction, commonly adventure stories, inspiring rags-to-riches tales, and sentimental domestic novels; these were often written on demand by hired writers for a set fee rather than royalties. A growing portion of the writers were women, who brought distinctive sensibilities to their fiction and kindled strong markets among women readers. Beginning with the huge success of dime novels in the 1860s, this phenomenon, known broadly as cheap fiction, frequently generated series of short novels featuring the same characters or settings. The partners Francis S. Smith and Francis Scott Street, for example, published several such series, including Frederic Dey's wildly popular Nick Carter books. When hot sales demanded publishing a new book each week and Dey naturally could not keep up, as many as five other writers were hired to produce the needed manuscripts. It was a small step from this and other instances of ghostwritten popular fiction to the "fiction factories" of the 1880s and 1890s. There a fleet of workers generated plot outlines by poring through newspapers for fiction-worthy accounts. These outlines were then sent out to writers on retainer with detailed specifications concerning the manuscript's length, deadlines, and payment fee.

While most authors writing for popular markets saw their artistic status diminish as they traded creative freedom for a reliable (and sometimes substantial) paycheck, conditions for authors writing for traditional markets slowly improved. Spurred in part by the changes wrought by the new copyright law, relationships between authors and traditional publishers grew more professional and businesslike in the 1890s. Reading's popularity by the end of the century catapulted some authors to celebrity status, giving them more clout in their dealings with publishers. A new player, the literary agent, emerged to forcefully safeguard authors' interests. The presence of agents helped push toward such modern practices as offering formal standardized contracts, relieving authors of a share of production costs, and paying advances or a portion of expected royalties before the work is actually published.


The great boom in reading could not have happened without the dramatic changes enabled by the shift to industrialized production methods. The new technology that enabled the increasingly mechanized production process made print more abundant, less expensive, and more timely than ever before. Four central ingredients of this mechanization were the development of steam-powered printing presses; mechanical, wood-based papermaking; stereotype plate making; and mechanical typesetting. The quantitative differences the new technology made are astounding. At the beginning of the nineteenth century a skilled printer working with a handpress could produce about two hundred impressions an hour; power-driven mechanized presses in the 1870s could spew out more than thirty thousand impressions an hour. By the 1880s an entire edition of a novel could be printed in only ten hours.

As with most technological breakthroughs, however, one advance is often stymied by bottlenecks in other areas. Even the new Fourdrinier papermaking machines could not generate enough sheets to keep up with the presses' capacity until the transition at mid-century from rag pulp to wood fiber pulp. Thanks to the cheaper and more plentiful supply of wood, the amount of paper produced in 1900 eclipsed by a hundredfold that made in 1800, and the price of even the higher grade book paper had dropped to a tenth of its earlier cost. Without this dramatic saving in paper costs, the explosion of magazines and cheap books, bound in paper covers, would not have been possible.

Type presented the last two, stubborn bottlenecks. Composed mainly of soft lead, type could not stand up to the heavy wear of industrial printing. This was solved with the invention of stereotype printing plates. By printing with steel plates made from a mold of the original hand-composed type, not only could many more impressions be printed but also the type could be promptly distributed and recomposed for other jobs. The final great advance came in the 1880s, when two methods of mechanical typesetting triumphed over the many others vying for adoption: Ottmar Mergenthaler's Linotype system debuted in 1884, and Tolbert Lanston's Monotype machine appeared in 1887. Both methods substituted keyboard strokes for manual-type assembly, activating the mechanical casting of an entire line of type or of individual letters, and both systems produced fresh, sharp-edged type for each new composition at rates that far exceeded even the swiftest hand composition.

The commercial advantages of mechanized production were increasingly weighed against its aesthetic drawbacks, however. Machine-made paper was better suited for the high-speed printing process, for example, but it had little of the crisp durability of handmade. Similarly, when printers thinned their inks and printed with a light pressure to keep the presses running smoothly, many objected to the generally pale-looking pages that resulted. This only compounded complaints about the spindly, "weak" type styles that predominated in the era. By the 1890s, inspired by the arts and crafts movement and the revival of preindustrial book design values modeled by William Morris's Kelmscott Press in England, a handful of influential American publishers introduced a radical new look to their books.

Three firms in particular—Stone and Kimball (Chicago), Way and Williams (Chicago), and Copeland and Day (Boston)—led the way toward a dramatically new typographic style, one that emulated the darker, heavier letterforms and decorative woodcut borders and opening initials of medieval books and manuscripts. These pioneers helped to influence a profound shift in modern typography, away from the finely wrought, often ornately detailed Victorian style that showcased industrial achievement toward a new style rooted in the look of handcraft.


Although technology had dramatically expanded the possibilities for print production, publishers realized they could not exploit them without effective ways to distribute and sell what was produced. This aggravated the perennial distaste many traditional book publishers felt toward publicity and marketing, stemming from their conviction that such activity sullied their gentlemanly demeanor. But theirs was a business, and promotional marketing was increasingly essential for success in the modern marketplace, even if one's wares included ideas and literature.

At mid-century, most traditional publishers depended on reviews for gaining attention for their books. Because they functioned primarily as publicity, reviews tended to be more like the early twenty-first century's "blurbs" in that writers, who were frequently paid to "puff " a work, served authors' and publishers' interests more than readers'. Some authors had no scruples about reviewing their own books with extravagant praise.

Book advertising in the modern sense of printed circulars, display ads in magazines, and so on emerged—with lingering misgivings and reluctance—for good around the turn of the century. Saddled with few of the qualms felt by traditionalists, popular publishers led the way in marketing breakthroughs. One of the first to embrace advertising was the maverick Caro Clark, the only woman publisher in Boston at the time. Through tireless personal appearances and lavish billboard and newspaper ads, she sold more than 200,000 copies of Quincy Adams Sawyer (1900) by Charles Felton Pigdin. Defending her brash temerity, which mortified many other publishers, she candidly credited her advertising for the strong sales of the otherwise unremarkable novel. Clark pioneered the practice of developing a striking, unified graphic identity for each title, an image or scene duplicated in posters and ads that potential customers could not help but notice and remember. By 1910 publishers had shifted this promotional function to memorably designed book jackets, making them the cornerstone of a title's advertising effort.

Peaking between 1902 and 1904, efforts to "boom" books included an array of ingenious and audacious stunts. In 1898, for example, effusive full-page magazine ads for Charles Major's best-selling romance When Knighthood Was in Flower sparked phenomenal interest in the book. Likening the author to Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, but coyly withholding his name to further intrigue readers, these ads yielded not only huge sales but also a popular stage version of the novel, an early version of the media "tie-ins" that still delight publishers in the early twenty-first century. Later, to promote a new edition of the novel, the publisher hired a man dressed in faux medieval armor to ride through the astonished streets of Manhattan.

Traditional publishers' deep-seated ambivalence toward marketing had a practical as well as an ethical dimension: creating a demand for books was pointless without sufficient means of getting copies into buyers' hands. Distribution woes were often acute in the nineteenth century; only a tiny portion of U.S. counties had even a single bookstore. Many Americans, especially those living in rural areas beyond the East Coast, did not even know such stores existed. Furthermore, then as now, the number of trade titles published each year far exceeded the space available to display and stock them in any retail store. Competing for precious shelf space, publishers sent agents known as travelers to visit far-flung shops and pitch the season's new titles to store owners. Travelers were thus crucial to both marketing and distribution; the integrity or persuasiveness of their pitches usually made a huge difference for most mainstream titles' prospects.

Given this paucity of bookstores, publishers sought other means of reaching buyers. By far the most successful was an old but effective method, direct sales through agents traveling from door to door. Some 90 percent of all books purchased before World War I were bought in this way. Armies of agents canvassed urban neighborhoods and the rural countryside, as many as twenty thousand of them in 1894 in Chicago alone by one estimate. Popular publishers particularly relied on direct sales through agents, since so many of their potential customers otherwise seldom if ever bought books. Canvassing agent sales thus expanded the markets for books and reading dramatically by helping many ordinary people develop new habits of, or at least attitudes toward, owning books.

The closing decades of the nineteenth century were the heyday of subscription publishing or selling titles by taking orders for copies, often before they were printed. This method diminished publishers' financial risks, assuring them of the sales they needed before proceeding with particularly expensive ventures. For example, nearly a million copies of William Cullen Bryant's Picturesque America (1874) were sold in this way; the handsome parlor book filled with engravings was typical of one of the mainstays of subscription book sales—beautifully, even extravagantly produced volumes meant for display more than for reading.

Subscription selling, however, channeled much of the new appetite for books toward a narrow variety and relatively small number of available titles, which usually received intense marketing efforts followed by huge sales. In addition to lavish editions like Picturesque America usually purchased to impress visitors with one's gentility, subscription sellers had particular success with books about the recent Civil War, which appealed to people's still-stirred patriotism. Some contemporary fiction sold well in this way as well, as Mark Twain's great success demonstrated; nearly all of his novels were sold though door-to-door subscription sales.

With the great growth in ephemeral print—newspapers, magazines, flyers, and so on—publishers were able to get word of new titles and series to vast new audiences, who then ordered copies by mail. Most popular books were distributed through the mail, not through retail outlets. Accordingly, low postal rates were key to cheap books' success; fluctuations in postage rates and regulations often hastened the crest, or the collapse, of each boom market for cheap books throughout the 1870s and succeeding decades.


Cheap books and serialized fiction in magazines popularized recreational reading in America as never before. From 1890 to 1914 the demand was so insatiable that literary historians refer to the era as the great Fiction Boom. While popular publishers eagerly supplied inexpensive editions of older novels and seemingly inexhaustible quantities of formula fiction, traditional publishers enjoyed the boom as well, issuing record numbers of original works by the nation's most respected mainstream novelists. Some of them sold spectacularly well.

Paradoxically, the boom market troubled many traditional publishers, who struggled to balance their financial need to publish books Americans wanted to buy with their responsibility for nourishing the nation's cultural and intellectual development. These were not always conflicting conditions, of course. Even so, throughout the era publishers and other voices of the literary establishment fretted that literary merit and popular taste had precipitously diverged—a seemingly eternal complaint. Most publishers managed to pursue both objectives, however, by publishing a spectrum of titles.

Although its editor at Harper's did not consider General Lew Wallace's novel Ben-Hur "legitimate literature," for example, the firm recognized its potential popularity and published it in 1880. The book sold more than half a million copies in the following decade and became the first blockbuster best-selling trade novel in the modern era. It paved the way for hundreds of other new mainstream novels whose popularity would make literary history. In 1894 Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda helped launch a huge market for historical romance novels, and Kate Douglas Wiggin's 1903 novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm similarly whetted the appetites of millions of readers for "home and Jesus" family novels.

On the other hand, although such popular titles clearly outsold serious ones, as they have always done, the era also sustained remarkably eager audiences for works recognized in the early twenty-first century as serious literary classics. The 1890s witnessed enthusiastic fan clubs for writers such as Robert Browning and Rudyard Kipling, and Shakespeare basked in near-cultlike reverence. Important nonfiction flourished as well. In the 1870s, the first university presses, at Cornell and Johns Hopkins universities, joined the publishing landscape. By 1919, thirty-eight university presses had been established, ensuring that important and provocative serious scholarship was disseminated throughout and beyond the nation's academic communities.


With books and reading becoming more central than ever to American society by the late nineteenth century, new concerns arose about the nature and consequences of what was read. Most notoriously, Anthony Comstock (1844–1915) galvanized many Americans' worries when he proclaimed a new crusade to fight for "Morals, not Art or Literature." In 1872 the young Comstock persuaded the YMCA to sponsor his newly founded Society for the Suppression of Vice. The following year his tireless lobbying resulted in a congressional law outlawing the distribution of "obscene materials" and giving Comstock police powers to interpret and enforce it. For more than forty years Comstock terrorized booksellers and publishers, seizing hundreds of thousands of books whose morality he deemed suspect. He met little resistance until, in 1885, he began to attack the works of critically respected authors such as Honoré de Balzac, Émile Zola, and Leo Tolstoy. In 1905 George Bernard Shaw successfully defied Comstock's attempts to prosecute his works, but for the most part Comstock continued to exercise powerful control over American literary culture until his death. His work continued with unabated zeal into the 1930s under the leadership of his successor, John Sumner.

While some publishers stood firm in their defense of free literary expression, notably G. P. Putnam, Albert Boni, and Horace Liveright, most were fairly conservative themselves on moral issues. Houghton Mifflin of Boston refused to publish works of literary realism, for example, rejecting writers such as Theodore Dreiser and Upton Sinclair for the profanity and explicit violence in their work. And during World War I several New York publishers joined the efforts of a private group of writers known at the Vigilantes to ensure that only "patriotic," pro-British, and prowar sentiments were published. Others, however, recognized more shrewdly that attempts to suppress certain works usually only heighten their appeal. For every copy of a book confiscated by Comstock's forces, hundreds of others were avidly purchased, and works by controversial writers like Dreiser in fact enjoyed both critical success and substantial sales.

Although his 1905 prediction of the book's demise proved to be needlessly bleak, Henry Holt had astutely perceived that the nature of book publishing in America was fundamentally changing. By the end of the First World War, the traditional publishing world that he knew was poised to come of age as a modern industry. Despite his and others' anxious observations that traditional publishing was absorbing many aspects of more popular-minded publishing, time would quickly prove that it was largely energized—not suffocated—by the latter's commercial vigor. The strength of trade publishing in the 1920s and beyond was grounded in the legacies of both its popular and mainstream forebears.

See alsoChildren's Literature; Copyright; Dime Novels; Editors; Harper & Brothers; Houghton Mifflin; Little Magazines and Small Presses


Secondary Works

Boyer, Paul S. Purity in Print: Book Censorship in America from the Gilded Age to the Computer Age. 2nd ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002.

Brodhead, Richard H. Cultures of Letters: Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Coultrap-McQuin, Susan. Doing Literary Business: American Women Writers in the Nineteenth Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture, 1880s to 1910s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Hackenberg, Michael, ed. Getting the Books Out: Papers of the Chicago Conference on the Book in Nineteenth-Century America. Washington, D.C.: Center for the Book, 1987.

Hart, James D. The Popular Book: A History of America's Literary Taste. New York: Oxford University Press, 1950.

Hochman, Barbara. Getting at the Author: Reimagining Books and Reading in the Age of American Realism. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

Kaestle, Carl F., et al. Literacy in the United States: Readers and Reading since 1880. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991.

Lehmann-Haupt, Helmut. The Book in America: A History of the Making and Selling of Books in the United States. 2nd ed. New York: Bowker, 1951.

Madison, Charles A. Book Publishing in America. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.

Tebbel, John. Between Covers: The Rise and Transformation of Book Publishing in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Tebbel, John. The Expansion of an Industry, 1865–1919. Vol. 2 of A History of Book Publishing in the United States. New York: Bowker, 1981.

Thompson, Susan Otis. American Book Design and William Morris. New York: Bowker, 1977.

West, James L. W. American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1988.

Megan Benton

Book Publishing

views updated Jun 11 2018


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, publishing in the United States was primarily the work of small, local printers or booksellers; by the time of the Civil War, publishing had become a modern business, largely concentrated in a small number of major publishing centers catering to a national market. This transformation was made possible by three major factors: important innovations in print technology, enabling publishers for the first time to print large numbers of books quickly and inexpensively; improvements in roads, waterways, and, especially, the introduction and rapid expansion of railways, making possible much wider distribution of books to a national rather than a local market; and the continued expansion of the consumer market, which was a result of both a growing literate audience with the means and the leisure to buy books and the institutionalization of reading in the United States through schools and churches.


The size and economic significance of the book publishing industry increased steadily throughout the period 1820–1870. Between 1830 and 1842, about 100 books per year were issued by U.S. publishers; by 1853 the number had jumped to 879; and by 1860 more than 1,300 American books were published. On the eve of the Civil War, there were four hundred publishing firms in the United States. John Tebbel has estimated the gross value of books manufactured and sold in the United States in 1820 at $2.5 million (with schoolbooks accounting for the largest single category, at $750,000); a decade later, in 1830, the gross value is estimated to have been $3.5 million; for 1840 the value was $5.5 million; for 1850, $12.5 million; and for 1856, $16 million, with New York publishers alone representing $6 million. Throughout the period (and in fact well into the twentieth century), the publishing industry as a whole cultivated a self-image as a genteel, often family-run, enterprise self-consciously performing the important civic duty of disseminating knowledge to the nation; yet the publishing industry was also a volatile, risky, and at times even cutthroat business—more volatile, perhaps, before the Civil War, but with increasingly high economic stakes throughout the century. While several major publishing houses established before the war thrived and endured (in several cases, to the present day), many other publishers were buffeted by the economic depressions of 1837 and 1857, by the disruptions of the war, or were simply unable to compete in the business and failed.

At the beginning of the period considered here (1820), publishers in the United States were printing works by British authors over those by American authors by a ratio of more than two to one. The United States was only at this moment beginning to produce any major writers (Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper were the nation's first successful professional writers with genuinely international reputations); moreover, British works, unprotected by international copyright, were not only better known to U.S. readers but also cheaper for U.S. publishers to print. In 1834 the average cost for a single volume by an American author was $1.20; by a foreign author, $.75. Nevertheless, over the next several decades the ratio of British- to American-authored works shifted steadily in the other direction, reaching a roughly equal balance around 1840, and by 1856 the ratio was roughly seventy to thirty in favor of American-authored books. Gradually U.S. writers reaped the benefits of America simply having a much larger market, which was drawn to native products: by the mid-1850s best-selling books in England sold in the neighborhood of ten thousand copies, compared to numbers reaching fifty thousand in the United States. Moreover, by 1860, school textbooks comprised the single largest category of books published in the United States (about 30 percent to 40 percent of the total market), and American schools preferred American texts, such as Noah Webster's numerous readers, spelling and grammar books, and dictionaries.


As the publishing industry grew, it became increasingly centralized. The Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey was the first to successfully enter into large-scale book production and distribution. His firm dominated the publishing industry of the 1820s, but New York publishing houses soon followed its example. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, almost half the works of American fiction were printed outside of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston; but by the 1840s, only 8 percent were published outside of these cities, New York having by this time surpassed Philadelphia as the leading publishing center, with Boston remaining third in importance. Before the Civil War, only modest publishing enterprises existed in the South, in such cities as Richmond, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina; and Cincinnati, Ohio, emerged as an important early western publishing center—by 1850 it was just behind Boston. In the decades after the Civil War, New York extended its domination of the publishing industry, though Boston and Philadelphia continued to support large, enduring publishing establishments, and Chicago surpassed Cincinnati as the major publishing center in the West.

Although many publishers in the United States had begun as retail booksellers, with the expansion and centralization of the publishing industry, major publishing houses gave up the retail component of their businesses almost entirely and concentrated on large-scale wholesale production and wide distribution. The Philadelphia firm of Carey and Lea shut down its retail business in 1830; and the dominant New York publishing house, Harper's, succeeded in part because it eschewed the retail business right from the time of its establishment in 1817. Boston firms, slower in expanding into the national market, also retained their retail components longer.

Harper's was the predominant U.S. publishing house through the Civil War years, establishing a very strong base with textbook publishing as well as relying on periodical publication and on reprinting uncopy-righted popular British works. Other major New York houses established before the Civil War and that continued to thrive in the decades after the war (though house names tended to shift over time) include Appleton's (established 1831), John Wiley and Sons (established 1814), G. P. Putnam (established 1836), Dodd, Mead, and Company (established 1839), Scribner's (established 1846), and Edward Dutton (established 1852). Among enduring Philadelphia publishing houses, Lippincott (established 1836) was second to the Carey firm in importance. Boston emerged as a leading publisher of belles lettres, the most important houses being Little and Brown (established 1837), Ticknor and Fields (established 1832), and, somewhat later, Houghton (established 1864). While many of these houses vied for the popular writers of the day, especially as fiction became increasingly popular, they also realized the necessity of establishing more reliable business with textbooks, religious works, scientific writing, and the like, and over time each publisher tended to establish its specialty. Several publishers (such as Harper's, Ticknor and Fields, and Putnam) also capitalized on the magazine boom that began in the second quarter of the century and published magazines whose contents complemented their book lists.


The technology of book publishing had changed little since the fifteenth century; then, in the first decades of the nineteenth century, several dramatic improvements revolutionized printing and made possible the emergence of the modern publishing industry. Isaac Adams developed the steam-driven flatbed press in the early 1830s, which immediately made printing both faster and easier. In 1847 Robert Hoe further improved upon Adams's flatbed press by inventing the steam-powered cylinder press. Hoe's first press used four impression cylinders and could make eight thousand impressions per hour; by the end of the Civil War, rotary presses using ten cylinders could make fifteen thousand impressions per hour. Also crucial to the modernization of publishing was the invention of stereotype (1811) and then electrotype (1841) plates. These were simply metal molds of set type that could then be stored and reused for subsequent printings. Setting type had been a labor-intensive, skilled job, and once an edition was printed, the type had to be broken up to be reused; creating another edition meant having to reset the type from scratch. With stereotyping and electrotyping, subsequent editions could be produced quickly and inexpensively; the plates were portable and storable and could also be sold; moreover, they also took much of the risk out of estimating the appropriate size of a first printing. After 1865 curved stereotype plates were developed to accommodate cylinder presses.

Papermaking also became faster and cheaper during this period. By the 1830s papermaking machines began to employ belts and cylinders that allowed for the production of paper in the form of a continuous roll rather than as single sheets; and after the 1850s paper itself was being produced from inexpensive wood pulp rather than the more expensive cotton and linen rags. The actual binding and manufacturing of books was also made cheaper and more efficient, beginning before mid-century and extending through the 1870s, by the mechanization of paper cutting and folding, gluing, marbling, gilding, and embossing.


As the book market expanded and the technology improved, publishers early began to produce multiple editions of the same book, at varying prices, for different markets, ranging from very inexpensive paper- or cardboard-bound editions to elaborately bound and gilt-edged editions of the highest quality, exhibiting the state of the art of book production. The first "paperback revolution" took place in the 1840s, by which time the United States had the largest literate population in the world. The publication of cheap books was stimulated by the frantic competition among publishers for profits from the reprinting of popular foreign works unprotected by international copyright and was enabled by the transformation of print technology (in particular the cylinder press) that allowed for the very rapid publication of large-volume, low-cost books. The boundaries between books and periodicals began to blur when, in 1841 and 1842, New York's competing weekly periodicals Brother Jonathan and the New World, which had both been serially reprinting "pirated" British novels, now began to produce entire novels sold as "extras" or "supplements" to their regular weekly issues. Sold on the streets with colorful paper covers, or sent through the mail without covers (and so taking advantage of postage regulations that distinguished between books and newspapers), these mass-market books sold for twenty-five cents. As competition heated up, other periodical publishers and book publishers entered the fray (in some cases issuing cheap editions of the same novel simultaneously); soon entire paperbound novels were selling for as little as six cents, severely threatening the entire publishing industry (as well as drastically diminishing the already constrained market for U.S. authors). Only changes in postal regulations implemented in 1844 brought this paperback war to a halt. There was again a market for cheap paperbound books inaugurated in 1860 by "Beadle's Dime Novels," for which demand grew steadily, even during the Civil War when they (and other cheap paperbound books) were popular in the military camps. After a brief lull in the popularity of cheap books, a new wave of low-cost book production, both hardbound and paperback, began in the 1870s.

At the other end of book-production technology, the "gift books" and "souvenirs" that were in vogue in the 1830s and 1840s (and which, like the cheap "supplements," also tended to blur the boundaries between books and periodicals) featured elaborate, state-of-the-art bindings, illustrations, and printing, at prices within reach of the growing genteel middle class. Although well-known writers sometimes contributed to these gift books, they were clearly less important as texts than they were as artifacts of genteel culture and showcases for bookmaking arts. Publishers also printed elaborately bound and embossed, gilt-edged, and illustrated editions of selected individual works, from Bibles to poetry. Harper's tremendously ambitious Harper's Illustrated Bible, published serially in fifty-four parts (1843–1846), was an important early demonstration of the marketability of elaborately illustrated books, though developments in illustration ultimately had a greater impact on magazines than on book production.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston were the three largest cities in the United States. Because publishing was largely a local enterprise before 1820, it is not surprising that the largest cities were also the largest producers of books. More extended book distribution was hampered at this time by difficult and unreliable roadways, and so, until mid-century, distribution of goods depended heavily on waterways. This was a significant factor in the steady rise of Philadelphia and New York as major publishing centers, with their combination of deep harbors and their access to navigable inland waterways enabling them to reach both coastal and inland markets. Philadelphia tended to dominate the southern market, New York the western market. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 was a major advance in the reliable and timely distribution of goods into the West, and it especially benefited the rise of New York as a publishing center. Boston was the third major publishing center, with a strong, highly literate local market and a good harbor for expanded coastal trade, but it was hampered by its lack of navigable rivers inland. In the West, Cincinnati's situation on the Ohio River made it the leading western publishing center until after the Civil War. Waterways were not reliably accessible year-round, however, and winter freezes largely constrained extended book distribution to seasonal cycles.

The introduction of the railroad was therefore crucial to the extension of affordable and dependable distribution of goods beyond local markets, and the rapid expansion of the railways after the 1840s was crucial to the consolidation and nationalization of the publishing industry. Prior to mid-century, Boston publishers had been quite slow to engage in wholesale publishing and extended distribution, and they tended to retain the identity of local printers and retailers, competing more with each other for the local retail trade than with New York and Philadelphia publishers for a more extended, national market. The development of the railways, however, and particularly the extension of railways beyond the Alleghenies as of 1850, was an important factor in the reemergence of Boston as a major publishing center. The first transcontinental railroad, completed in 1869, of course dramatically transformed accessibility to the emerging Far West at the very end of the period under consideration here.

Publishers were slow to advertise their products before the Civil War, except for trade circulars and modest notices in papers and in the back pages of their own books. Beyond these, publishers relied primarily on reviews to promote their books, and this singular reliance tended to corrupt reviews and reviewing, with publishers pressuring reviewers to "puff" their books. As late as the 1870s, even major publishing houses were typically spending only around one hundred dollars to promote a book. Advertising was perhaps constrained not only by the volatility of the business and the narrow profit margins but also by the industry's self-cultivated image that publishers were genteel public servants. Thus, even when they did begin to advertise, their ads were conservative and staid.


At the beginning of the period under consideration, publisher-author relations were quite variable. Because most publishers were still also retailers, generally undercapitalized and competing for relatively small local markets, they were not inclined to take significant risks on authors. The simplest publishing arrangement, then, was one in which the author bore the financial risks and simply employed the publisher to manufacture and sell books. Under this arrangement, the author saw a profit only if and when production costs were met. This arrangement, of course, required the author himself to have sufficient capital to publish the book. In some cases, the publisher allowed the author to charge manufacturing costs against sales, but if sales were insufficient to recoup production costs the author was still indebted to the publisher for the balance. Washington Irving (1783–1859) and James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851), the first U.S. writers to demonstrate the economic viability of authorship, reaped considerable benefit from underwriting the cost of manufacture while retaining the rights and also owning the plates for their books. Well into the mid-century, such successful authors as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) also chose to underwrite and thus retain control of the publication of their works, confident that they could recoup costs and ultimately realize a greater profit. For other authors, however, such arrangements were prohibitive or highly risky. When Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was unable to find a publisher willing to risk the costs of producing his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), he was persuaded to undertake the financial responsibility himself; but four years later Thoreau owed his publisher $290 for unsold copies.

Balancing the economic risks more evenly between author and publisher was the "half-profits" agreement, by which the author and publisher split both the costs (and therefore the risks) of production and also the profits on sales. When publishers were sufficiently well capitalized and anticipated strong sales, they were willing to undertake the entire risk of production and distribution costs in exchange for publishing rights, in which case they paid authors a commission, or royalty, on sales, usually set from 10 percent to 15 percent of the retail sales prices. When the Boston publisher John P. Jewett agreed to publish Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), he offered Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) a choice between a half-profits contract or a 10 percent royalty on retail sales. Stowe, advised not to risk her own capital, accepted the royalty contract; as it turned out, Stowe ended up accepting 10 percent rather than half the profits of the best-selling book of the century—over 300,000 copies in its first year. By the end of the 1850s, however, as the publishing industry grew and became more centralized, royalty agreements became the standardized and mutually preferable contractual arrangement between publisher and author.


Until the beginning of the twentieth century, U.S. copyright laws regarded printed materials as essentially public property, the private rights to which were ceded to authors or publishers only temporarily and with numerous constraints. The first national American copyright law, in 1790, protected only U.S. citizens and residents, and these copyrights could be held for only fourteen years, renewable for another fourteen years if the author was still living at the expiration of the first fourteen-year term. In 1831 copyright was redefined as heritable property, and the initial term was extended to twenty-eight years. Subsequently the term of copyright was extended still further. While copyright was perceived from the very beginning as an incentive for the publication and dissemination of learning and culture, this same interest in the public dissemination of knowledge was invoked in limiting individual property rights in print material. Most legal, economic, and commercial printed materials could not be copyrighted at all. The Supreme Court case of Clayton v. Stone (1829) confirmed that materials printed in newspapers were public property and could not be copyrighted. This principle was implicitly extended to magazine literature as well—regarded as equally ephemeral and equally public—and so newspaper and magazine literature was widely reprinted without permissions or payments. While such reprinting kept costs down and so served the interests of periodical publishers and consumers alike, it of course worked to the great disadvantage of U.S. authors and those periodicals that were paying increasingly substantial fees for original material. The 1834 Supreme Court decision Wheaton v. Peters reinforced the underlying public right to printed materials as a matter of public interest, even as market forces continued to exert pressure in favor of increased copyright protections. The 1854 Supreme Court decision Stowe v. Thomas established very narrow rights even for literary matter printed in book form: when Harriet Beecher Stowe brought suit against an unauthorized (American) translation into German of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the court determined that only the exact words of a printed text were protected by copyright; an author's rights did not extend to translations (or to any other "original" appropriation, whether as a play or a parlor game or decorated plates). Not until 1870 did Congress grant to authors the legal rights to the dramatization and translation of their published works.

Although the absence of international copyright became an increasingly contentious issue after the 1830s, no international copyright law was passed until 1891. The mass market for literature that emerged in the decades prior to the Civil War depended heavily on the cheap reprinting of pirated foreign materials unprotected by international copyright. While the availability of uncopyrighted foreign texts was crucial to the growth of several leading publishing houses—most notably Harper's—and therefore contributed to the increasing consolidation and centralization of the publishing industry, it was also the case that this same lack of copyright protection enabled any printer or publisher to participate in the production of cheap reprints, and so the absence of international copyright laws also acted as a counterforce to the centralizing process, enabling the persistence of decentralized, local printers. Opposition to international copyright laws was cast in political and ideological, as well as economic, terms: the absence of international copyright laws facilitated the dissemination of information, knowledge, and culture that promoted an informed, democratic citizenry. In political terms, opposition to international copyright was part of a more comprehensive resistance to centralized government and so constituted one of several issues dividing the decentralizing Jacksonian Democrats and the federalist Whigs.

Another important source of resistance to international copyright came from almost all of those who labored in the actual production of books (printers and typesetters, binders, papermakers, and so forth), who feared that such laws would severely diminish the publication of cheap reprints on which their continued employment largely depended. In the debates over international copyright, then, the interests of U.S. authors tended to be opposed to those of publishers, laborers, and consumers. U.S. (and British) authors advocated strenuously for international copyright laws through most of the century, petitioning Congress repeatedly from the 1830s through the 1850s, but to no avail. Petitions to Congress were renewed after the Civil War, and Congress engaged in serious debate about international copyright from 1870 to 1873, but nearly twenty more years would pass before an international copyright law was finally enacted. Especially before the Civil War, advocates of international copyright argued that the absence of such laws placed U.S. writers at an unfair disadvantage with publishers. International copyright law was thus represented not as a matter of fairness to foreign writers but as a matter of American literary nationalism. They argued that international copyright would not only protect the rights of U.S. authors but, by making American works more marketable, also help break American dependence on British culture. Of course, the lack of international copyright could cut both ways. Between 1841 and 1846, 382 American books were printed in England without permissions or payments to authors, and by the late 1860s U.S. writers began to complain about British piracy of American works—but before the Civil War this was not yet a significant component of the arguments in support of international copyright. Most publishers opposed international copyright laws, arguing not only on behalf of their own economic interest but also that of U.S. consumers. Publishers also recognized, however, that the absence of international copyright created a highly competitive, risky, and nearly anarchic market for foreign reprints, and so they came to practice an informal means of self-regulation, referred to as the "courtesy of the trade," by which any publisher who announced in print its intention to bring out an edition of a foreign work would be granted proprietary rights to it by other publishing houses. And in order to secure the privileges of the first American printing, publishers sometimes voluntarily paid foreign authors for their manuscripts or their cooperation. These trade "courtesies" were unenforceable and only partially successful (the cheap book wars of the 1840s between book publishers and newspaper "supplement" reprints of foreign works made such courtesies entirely impracticable), but they continued to be widely honored in the years after the Civil War.

See alsoDime Novels; Editors; Gift Books and Annuals; Literary Marketplace; Periodicals; Publishers


Secondary Works

Ballou, Ellen. The Building of the House: Houghton Mifflin'sFormative Years. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

Barnes, James J. Authors, Publishers, and Politicians: The Quest for an Anglo-American Copyright Agreement, 1815–1854. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1974.

Brown, Richard D. Knowledge Is Power: The Diffusion ofInformation in Early America, 1700–1865. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Charvat, William. Literary Publishing in America, 1790–1850. 1959. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993.

Charvat, William. The Profession of Authorship in America,1800–1870. 1968. Edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Dzwonkoski, Peter, ed. American Literary Publishing Houses, 1638–1899. Detroit: Gale, 1986.

Exman, Eugene. The House of Harper: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Publishing. New York: Harper and Row, 1967.

Hackenberg, Michael, ed. Getting the Books Out: Papers of theChicago Conference on the Book in Nineteenth-Century America. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, Center for the Book, 1987.

Hamilton, Sinclair. Early American Book Illustrators andWood Engravers, 1670–1870. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1958.

Joyce, Donald Franklin. Gatekeepers of Black Culture: Black-Owned Book Publishing in the United States, 1817–1981. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983.

Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut, Lawrence C. Wroth, and Rollo G. Silver. The Book in America: A History of the Making and Selling of Books in the United States. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. New York: Bowker, 1951.

Madison, Charles Allan. Book Publishing in America. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.

McGill, Meredith. American Literature and the Culture ofReprinting, 1834–1853. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Mott, Frank Luther. Golden Multitudes: The Story of Best Sellers in the United States. New York: Macmillan, 1947.

Schick, Frank L. The Paperbound Book in America: TheHistory of Paperbacks and Their European Background. New York: Bowker, 1958.

Tebbel, John. A History of Book Publishing in the UnitedStates. Vol. 1, The Creation of an Industry, 1630–1865. New York: Bowker, 1972.

Tebbel, John. A History of Book Publishing in the UnitedStates. Vol. 2, The Expansion of an Industry, 1865–1919. New York: Bowker, 1975.

Thompson, Ralph. American Literary Annuals and Gift Books, 1825–1865. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1936.

Winship, Michael. American Literary Publishing in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: The Business of Ticknor and Fields. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Zboray, Ronald J. A Fictive People: Antebellum EconomicDevelopment and the American Reading Public. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Steven Fink


views updated Jun 27 2018


To circulate, distribute, or print information for the public at large.

Inlibel and slanderlaw, to utter to a third person or to make public a defamatory statement; incommercial paperlaw, to present an instrument for payment or declare or assert that a forged instrument is genuine.

The meaning of the term publish differs according to the context in which it is used. In its broadest sense, the term publishing describes the act of making something known to the general public. A publication can be accomplished by speaking in a public place, printing information on paper and distributing it on the street, buying or otherwise securing time on television, placing information in a circulated newspaper or magazine, or other similar methods.

Laws can mandate specific forms of publication of certain information. For example, federal administrative agencies are required to publish their rules in the federal register. 5 U.S.C.A. sect; 552 (1996). These rules are later published in a subject-matter arrangement in the code of federal regulations. Similarly, federal law requires that administrative agencies under the executive branch publish a notice in theCommerce Business Daily before entering into a contract worth more than $25,000 with a private business. 41 U.S.C.A. § 416 (1997). The notice must contain information that is relevant to the proposed job and give all qualified private businesses an opportunity to compete for the contract with the agency. An agency may use additional sources of publication, such as trade journals, magazines, newspapers of general circulation, and other mass communication media to advertise its intention to enter into a contract with a private business.

Publication of information is required by law in other areas as well. State laws require a mortgagee who has foreclosed a mortgage on real property to publish a notice in a local newspaper before conducting a sale of the property. Both state and federal laws require administrative agencies to publish notices of public hearings that will be held by the agencies. Before taking action that affects legal rights, administrative agencies hold public hearings to give members of the public an opportunity to be heard.

In libel law, a defamatory statement can give rise to civil liability if the statement is made public. To be libelous, a statement must appear in print, in a picture, or in a sign. To be considered published, the statement must be received by at least one other person apart from the speaker and the defamed person. In the law of slander, the term publish refers to defamatory statements that are spoken in the presence of at least one other person. A transitory, humiliating gesture that is defamatory also constitutes slander if it is published, or understood, by a third party.

The term publish has another meaning in the law of commercial paper. Commercial paper law relates to negotiable instruments such as bills of exchange, promissory notes, bank checks, and similar documents. In the law of commercial paper, publishing occurs when a check or other negotiable instrument is presented. Publication also occurs when a person vouches that a forged instrument is in fact genuine. By publishing a negotiable instrument, the publisher declares that the instrument is valid.

further readings

Kunz, Christina L., et al. 2000. The Process of Legal Research. 5th ed. Gaithersburg, Md.: Aspen Law & Business.


Defamation; Libel and Slander.


views updated May 11 2018

pub·lish / ˈpəblish/ • v. [tr.] 1. (of an author or company) prepare and issue (a book, journal, piece of music, or other work) for public sale: we publish practical reference books | [intr.] the pressures on researchers to publish. ∎  print (something) in a book or journal so as to make it generally known: we pay $10 for every letter we publish. ∎  [usu. as adj.] (published) prepare and issue the works of (a particular writer): a published author. ∎  formally announce or read (an edict or marriage banns).2. Law communicate (a libel) to a third party.DERIVATIVES: pub·lish·a·ble adj.


views updated May 29 2018

pub·lish·er / ˈpəblishər/ • n. (also publishers) a person or company that prepares and issues books, journals, music, or other works for sale: the publishers of Vogue a commercial music publisher. ∎  a newspaper proprietor.


views updated Jun 11 2018

publish make publicly known XIV; issue copies of (a book, etc.) to the public XVI. ME. puplise, -ische, publishe, f. stem of OF. puplier, (also mod.) publier — L. pūblicāre make public, f. pūblicus PUBLIC; see -ISH2.
So publication XIV. — (O)F. — L.