49 Writers Publisher Interview: Sasquatch Books

“Niche publishing is the future,” says Sarah Hanson of Sasquatch Books. If you’re been in Alaska for more than a day or two, you know Sasquatch has a firm grasp on their niche. Releasing forty new titles every year, they’re a big player in the Northern book scene.

Tell us about your company. Who started it? Why? Which books were among the first you published? What niche do you hold in the marketplace?

Sasquatch Books was founded by David Brewster, who also created the Seattle Weekly. In the 80s Brewster and his friends enjoyed traveling around the Pacific Northwest and always traded notes about their finds and hidden gems in the region. There was no travel guide to the region at that time, so Brewster enlisted a team of local experts to help him compile the original Northwest Best Places. The book is now in its 17th edition (and has changed names slightly, now called Best Places Northwest), and has nearly half a million copies.

Sasquatch Books publishes books from or about the West, with an emphasis on the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. While three-quarters of our titles are regional, the rest came from the region but aren’t necessarily regional in content.

What are some of your best-selling titles? Has there been a shift in what readers expect and which Alaskan authors/books do well?

Our best-selling title is The Encylopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. Originally self-published by Emery in the 70s during the original back-to-the-land movement, Sasquatch acquired the book in the late 80s. Through all editions, The Encyclopedia of Country Living has sold more than half a million copies. Book Lust and the other by Nancy Pearl have also been hugely successful, with over 200,000 copies sold combined.

We have seen a real resurgence in reader’s interest in local and regional books. Americans are more interested in living locally and celebrating where they live, and our books fill that desire in many different ways.

In Alaska, our Paws IV list of children’s books is tremendously successful. Created by author Shelley Gill and artist Shannon Cartwright, the Paws IV series is beloved by locals and tourists everywhere for the fun and educational window they offer into the great state of Alaska.

How many books do you typically publish each year? In which genres? Over the years, what kinds of changes have you made to your list?

We publish about 40 titles per year in the following subject areas: cookbooks, nature, children’s books, travel, outdoors, blank books/journals, gift books. We have been moving our book in the gift book direction so they can find readers in bookstores, but also non-traditional outlets like gift shops, cruise ships, park outlets, etc.

Describe your ideal author. In other words, if one of us wanted to wow you with a proposed project, how would we do it?

Look at our list and make sure your book idea fits well with our publishing program. Then research the market: what’s the competition like? who/how big is the audience? how can we reach that audience? are there organizations we can work with or have you created an excellent blog that’s developing a following? Our publisher Gary Luke likes to say that the ideal book project comes with a built-in audience of 10,000 readers. If you can show us how your book can reach that kind of crowd, we’ll listen.

The economy has hit publishing hard. Are you seeing any encouraging signs? What is the future for small and regional publishers?

Niche publishing is the future, and we’re thankful for our strong regional niche. There still are many books sold every day, every week, every year, but the market is getting more selective about what’s available. I think as long as publishers are smart about what they are publishing and working hard to reach readers and create demand for their books, the good ones will survive.

What do you most want to communicate to readers about your books and to writers about submissions?

Do your homework: make sure your book fits on our list, has a good identifiable market, and you have a plan to help us reach it. As a small publisher, we don’t have the resources to build a book from scratch. We need authors who know their subject and audience and are motivated to help us reach their readers.

1 thought on “49 Writers Publisher Interview: Sasquatch Books”

  1. I can't believe it's been ten years now, but I sure did enjoy working with Sasquatch. Nice to see them on your blog.

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