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Insights from Hawthorne Publishing

New Year’s Day: Recollections of a publishing past

Hawthorne Publishing was founded in 2004, but the history of this publishing enterprise goes back to 1987, with its predecessor Guild Press of Indiana.

Guild Press was founded through the publication of one book: The Movers: A Saga of the Scotch Irish. Founder Nancy Baxter researched and wrote a novel based as strictly as possible on historic events: the story of one of the earliest pioneer families into southern Indiana, the McClures. It was the beginning of a five-book series on this family, but that first book had no publisher and Waldenbooks wished to purchase it for Indiana stores even before it was printed: thus Guild Press was born.

But the manager of Indiana Waldenbooks had more to say about Indiana books. “There is no regional publisher of popular history books in Indiana. We need one.” Guild Press became one of three traditional publishers in the state. It put out over three hundred titles during the fifteen years it was in existence, concentrating on Civil War and frontier history which had not before been documented in book form, but also releasing memoirs of leading Hoosiers like Ralph Teetor of Hagerstown, who invented cruise control.

Emmis Communications, specifically Emmis Publishing, which puts out city magazines like Indianapolis Magazine and Texas Monthly, bought Guild Press of Indiana in 2004. Although it had intended to broaden the mission of regional publishing for Indiana, the management that was hired took the company to Ohio and, experimenting with national publishing, closed it down in three years.

That sale of Guild left Nancy and Arthur Baxter with a very small publishing arm which they called Hawthorne Publishing. Why that name? “Out the window of our farm home in Marshall County was a Hawthorne tree,” says Nancy Baxter. “It struck me that it was like regional publishing, beautiful blooms in the spring and thorns accompanying the blossoms.” Regional publishing in most states and especially Indiana, could not exist to make large sums of money but really to fulfill the needs of history documentation.

The first book at Hawthorne was the biography of a local woman in the grips of fan mania: Beverly Fauvre chronicled her passage in and out of obsession with Lisa Minelli. It was the beginning of the publication of over 150 titles to date.

 

 

During the thirty years of publishing by Guild and Hawthorne, what are the best-selling books?

Clearly the winner is one first published in the late nineties and selling strongly to this day: Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosier from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman, by Nelson Price, some four reprintings to this date. The book had come about with a phone call from Nelson to Nancy in the 1990s when he was a reporter for The Indianapolis News. He had done a series of interviews with famous contemporary Hoosiers and wondered if they could turn into a book. “No, Nancy said, “but we do need a book about the lives of famous Hoosiers from earliest history to now.” And so Indiana Legends was born. It has sold probably 3,000 copies in its publishing history both at Guild and at Hawthorne, and its author travels the state speaking about famous Indiana people and leading tours of landmark places where they lived and worked.

Other titles that have endured and sold many books, more recently, are Gallant Fourteenth: The Story of an Indiana Civil War Regiment by Nancy herself, with five editions both hardcover and paperback; Hoosiers All: Indiana High School Basketball Teams by Emerson Houck in two editions,  and 500 Strong: Wabash College Students in the Civil War by James and Patience Barnes. And the very strong perennial seller Day at a Time: An Indiana Girl’s Sentimental Journey to Doris Day’s Hollywood and Beyond. More about that in blogs to come.

And so a regional need for our Hoosier state has been met. And there is no sign that that effort to document Indiana history for small and large towns and history aficionados in the Hoosier State will stop doing what it does successfully.

 

These books are available on the Hawthorne website, click back, or from Amazon used.