Never-Ending Stories

Here's the tale of one entrepreneur who refused to close the book on her favorite out-of-print classics.

What: Publisher of out-of-print books for children and young adults
Who: Madelene Towne of Green Mansion Press
Where: New York City
When: Started in June 2001

As the mother of three children, Madelene Towne wanted her kids to read the same books she had enjoyed as a child. But after shopping around unsuccessfully, she realized that most of her favorite titles were out of print. Rather than giving up, this former trust and estates lawyer decided to bring them back to life with her own book publishing business.

Towne started out by researching the availability and copyright status of her favorite books, then she purchased and acquired the rights to those that were available. She then hired a printer, artists and designers to give the old books an updated look.

After joining The Small Press Center, a New York City organization that assists small presses, Towne, now 47, happened to sit in on a seminar where a Barnes & Noble buyer was discussing selling books. When the two met, the buyer asked Towne to submit her titles and find a distributor, because they wouldn't be able to deal with her directly. Towne secured a distributor-and Barnes & Noble placed its first order.

In fall 2002, the self-financed entrepreneur released her first five titles, including The World of Henry Orient by Nora Johnson, The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis and The Wonderful Winter</.I> by Marchette Chute. The books are also available on Amazon.com and at independent bookstores, and 15 more titles are in the works.

Says Towne, whose business posted quarterly sales of $30,000, "For me, it's more than just a business. It's really a mission to get these books out there, [to] have them read again."

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This article was originally published in the February 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Never-Ending Stories.

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