TFCB’s Beginnings—Part II from Jean Reynolds

[Here is the continuation of Jean’s blog posting on the back story of TFCB. I’ve added a photo of her (left) with our director of rights and special sales, Maria Kjoller, at LPG’s 50th anniversary gala. Thanks, Jean!]IMG_3814aJeanne Vestal retired in 1998. Meanwhile, Holt had made the decision to sell the by now well-established imprint, as it didn’t fit in with its overall marketing plan. The fortunate buyer was Millbrook Press, a company established by three former Grolier employees—Howard Graham, Frank Farrell, and me. Howard had been the president of Franklin Watts during the years that Jeanne Vestal and I had respectively been the publisher and editorial director.

The transition couldn’t have been easier. Since Jeanne and I had come out of the same company, the cost estimating forms, the contracts, even the rejection letter templates that we used were all the same. And, of course, many of the authors that we worked with were shared as well. Millbrook was able to pick up the editorial program of TFCB without missing a beat. It became the young adult branch of Millbrook and thrived there just as it had at Holt. (At left is a cover from the series 101 Questions, which we launched in 2002.)

When Millbrook was sold to Lerner in 2004, TFCB was part of the package, and once again, it was a perfect fit. Lerner, like Millbrook, had done some young adult publishing, but its strength was elementary and middle school. The TFCB part of the list fit in perfectly as a stand-alone imprint under which all young adult nonfiction material would be published. (At right is a cover from the series Images and Issues of Women in the Twentieth Century, which launched in 2007.)

So we have an unusual history here. It is rare that a single imprint survives for almost a century—especially when it has undergone several corporate ownerships. I believe the reason for such longevity is the clarity of editorial vision. When a line has remained true to its original mission of high-quality nonfiction for a very specific age group, authors and editors know exactly what to produce, the marketers know where to display the product, and the purchasers and the readers know exactly where to find what they need.

Hopefully in about 80 years, as the phrase twenty-second century begins to creep into our consciousness, Harry Lerner’s great, great, great grandchildren will be compelled to consider a name change…