by Arkansas Business Staff ● Posted 9/15/2014 12:00 am
Nine years after selling August House Publishers to an Atlanta firm, one of the former owners and leaders of the award-winning Little Rock publishing company is getting back into book publishing.
Liz Smith Russell is returning to the field with the launch of Plum Street Publishers Inc. Plum Street “will focus on books that celebrate travel, tourism and local culture for children and young readers,” Russell said.
Russell previously was a co-owner of August House, which was founded by Ted Parkhurst, Russell’s former husband, in 1979.
After August House was sold to Marsh Cove Productions in 2005, Russell served as managing publisher. Under Russell, August House titles earned the Texas Bluebonnet Award as well as awards from the National Council of Social Studies, International Reading Association, American Folklore Society and Public Library Association.
She left August House in 2009 to earn an MBA and work and teach in small-business management, specifically as a business consultant at the Arkansas Small Business & Technology Development Center and most recently as a loan specialist at alt.Consulting.
“It was just one of those ideas that would not go away,” Russell said of returning to publishing.
Even after leaving the field, “I continued to pay attention to what was going on in the industry,” she said. “It’s the absolute craziest time to be getting back in, so it’s very exciting,” Russell said, pointing to “everything that’s going on with digital publishing and all the disruption with Amazon.
“But I feel like there is a space that I can occupy that is economically feasible now that would not have been economically feasible before the technologies came along, and that’s basically local-interest books,” she said. “Before, you just had to do such big press runs to get your unit costs down and it was really hard to serve a niche that size, and now the numbers work.”
‘A Colorful History’
The inspiration for Russell’s new company came from her grandchildren. “Seeing Arkansas through their eyes really caused me to fall in love with my home state all over again,” she said. “Our state has a colorful history and such abundant resources. I love sharing that legacy with my grandkids one-on-one — but I can reach even more children by passing it along through books.”
Titles to be released this fall include “Haunted Legends of Arkansas” by Layne Livingston Anderson; “Lost Treasures of Arkansas’s Waterways” by W.C. Jameson; and “Fun Facts of Arkansas: 100 Firsts, Bests, Oddities, and Curiosities.” Other titles under development include a new edition of “The Legend of the Arkansas Traveler” illustrated by printmaker Nancy Dunaway and “Finders Keepers,” a book about the diamond mine at Crater of Diamonds State Park.
As for the name of Russell’s new venture, Plum Street: “I grew up in Pine Bluff on Plum Street. Our formal address was 32nd Avenue, but the side street — Plum Street — was the site of my childhood.”