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Courier-Journal Article

Datestamp: 08/06/2007
Leaving an imprint
Small publishers can unlock niche markets
By Bill Wolfe
bwolfe@courier−journal.com
The Courier−Journal

Film and television director/writer Josh Becker never thought his first book, “The Complete Guide to Low−Budget Feature Filmmaking,” would get a lot of attention from big−name publishers. The title, which was aimed at a niche market, would find better reception at a small independent company, Becker reasoned.

His New York literary agent had different ideas. She said, “Here’s a list of who I’m going to take it to,” Becker recalled, “and it was like the 10 biggest publishers in the world. And after the first five turned her down, she said, ‘Nobody likes your book. I’m giving up.’”

Abandoning hope of seeing his work in print, Becker eventually decided to place it on his Web site, www.beckerfilms.com . That’s when Point Blank Publishing, operated by J.T. Lindroos and Kathleen Martin in New Albany, Ind., came to the rescue.

“Immediately, J.T. read it and went, ‘Hey, that’s a good book. I’d like to publish it,’” said Becker, of West Bloomfield, Mich. Now, after a successful debut by “Complete Guide,” Point Blank will issue a second Becker book, “Rushes” in a few weeks, and is working on a third from him. “We can publish books that none of the big companies would touch,” said Lindroos, who married Martin and moved to the United States from Finland in 2000.

“We can publish a book that is, say, half screwball comedy, half mystery and maybe with a dash of science fiction in it,” he said. “No big publisher would publish a book like that,” because they’re focused on mass−market success.

The husband−and−wife team own Oiva Design Group. It encompasses their work for the Point Blank label, where Lindroos is senior editor and Martin is senior copy editor.

Point Blank is a publishing name or “imprint” of Wildside Press, based in Rockville, Md., which concentrates on science fiction, fantasy and horror under several labels.

Point Blank, however, focuses on “hardboiled crime fiction … in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler ,” along with occasional film−oriented titles, Lindroos said.

Such niche markets are an important part of publishing, said Tina Jordan, vice president of the Association of American Publishers in New York. Helping to push their success, she said, is on−demand printing, which allows smaller book−printing runs than are practical with traditional methods.

On−demand printing is not to be confused with self−publishing or vanity press operations. It limits the need for warehouse space and gives publishers more control over the number of copies they must print, which is “extremely valuable,” Jordan said.

Point Blank uses both traditional and on−demand printing, depending on the book to be published, Lindroos said.

The Helsinki native got into publishing in the mid−1990s with no formal training, he said. Fluent in English, he was a fan of American movies, but wasn’t satisfied with the book covers he saw from one of his favorite U.S. publishers.

“I thought, ‘I can do better than they are doing,’” said Lindroos, who contacted the publisher and “offered to do it for free.”

The company liked what it saw, and soon began paying him. At about the same time, Lindroos met Martin, a former actress, through an online discussion group. “We started exchanging e−mails and chatted and then started making phone calls. I guess one thing led to another.”

The two were wed in January 2000, and later decided to try running their own publishing company, partly out of necessity.

Lindroos had been a Web designer with Sony’s Emazing.com in Louisville but was laid off in 2001 as the online−tips company foundered. Because of an illness, Martin lost her job with a music publisher the same year. The couple decided to pool their talents in the publishing venture.

“I had been doing layouts for books and things like that. I knew all the technical aspects of making a book, and I knew the printers they were using,” he said. In 2003, the couple launched Wit’s End Publishing, which offered a mix of new fiction and reprints of crime writers such as Charles Willeford .

Wit’s End published three books in its first year, but the owners soon found they didn’t have enough capital to finance outlays for printing, author advances and other expenses.

In 2004, “the idea came to talk to Wildside and ask if they’d be interested in a mystery imprint,” said Lindroos, who e−mailed the suggestion to the company. “It took them five minutes to write back and say, “Sure, let’s do it.’”

Point Blank has since published 26 books, including two novels by veteran writer James Reasoner: a 2004 reprint of his 1980 novel “Texas Wind” and an original crime novel, “Dust Devils,” which came out this summer.

Reasoner said he has “worked with the biggest publishers in the business,” but has no hesitation to sell books through a small imprint like Point Blank.

“They’ve just really mushroomed over the past few years,” Reasoner said. And in many cases, a smaller publisher devotes more attention to its writers than a larger enterprise would, he added.

And for the writer, “you certainly can make as much with a small press” as with a big−name publisher, he said. “It depends on how successful a book is.”

If there was ever a stigma attached to smaller publishers, “I think that’s become pretty well overcome,” Reasoner said.

Lindroos, who has also taken on work as an artist for New Albany award manufacturer Bruce Fox Inc., said his goal is to see Oiva (the Finnish word for super) and Point Blank grow to the point where he won’t need a second job.

“We still have a lot of books we’d like to publish,” he said, and “we seem to be kind of expanding all the time.”

Reporter Bill Wolfe can be reached at (502) 582−4248.
OIVA DESIGN GROUP
Owners: J.T. Lindroos and Kathleen Martin
Address: 1933 Indiana Ave., New Albany, Ind. 47150
Phone: (812) 945−3228
Online: www.oivas.com