Angling for a Bigger Piece of the Pie
From its humble beginnings publishing a few fishing books, The Lyons Press today casts out 220 titles a year in 14 different categories.
The Lyons Press is a classic business-school case study in the value of keeping a sure and nimble hand on the company keel to achieve a well-defined vision. Begun in 1984 by Nick Lyons, a former professor of American Literature at Hunter College and an avid angler, the New York-based company's first year revenues were only $300,000. By 1990, revenues reached $1 million; by 1998, $5 million. And by this coming March, the company's fiscal year earnings are expected to reach $10 million—effectively doubling in only two years. Its backlist counts more than 1,000 titles.
Such solid growth compelled one magazine to name The Lyons Press one of the top small publishers in the United States. Company officials cite myriad reasons for their success: staying flexible, nurturing good authors, a depth of knowledge in their chosen niches, co-branding titles with other companies, and staying as lean as possible—all while growing the number of book categories and titles within those categories. Today, the Lyons Press publishes not only its trademark fishing books, but has expanded into other topics, such as adventure, travel, food and wine, fiction, golf, fitness and more.
"We want to stay in the categories we know, and publish more titles within those categories," says Tony Lyons, president, publisher and son of the company's founder who stays active as chairman of the board and part-time editor. "In addition, we do all of our own selling in-house. And this year, we plan to hire more salespeople and one more production
editor. We think this will add to the likelihood of growth." Lyons describes his company not as a general trade publisher, but as a privately owned, multi-niche, small press.