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Publisher hopes to get teenage boys to open up – a book, that is
By Ron Berthel, Associated Press Writer 11-13-2006 16:59 NEW YORK (AP)

What do young teenage boys like to read? Or perhaps that should be: "What? Do young teenage boys like to read?" Getting some boys to curl up with a good book often isn't easy, with so many social, athletic and high-tech distractions vying for leisure-time attention. So in August, Sterling Publishing, in collaboration with book packager Flying Point Press, introduced its Sterling Point imprint with eight books, all nonfiction, aimed at a share of the market they say "has been notoriously difficult to reach" --boys between 11 and 15.
     This is an especially important age for young readers. "Studies indicate that kids determine whether they are readers or not by the time they are 11 or 12," says Frances Gilbert, editor in chief of Sterling's children's division. "But if you put a really good book in front of a kid, he'll be reading."
     Sterling Point books feature themes of adventure, exploration and warfare that would seem to appeal especially (although not exclusively) to young males. "My partner and I felt there was an empty space for exciting and adventurous books for boys," says Steve Hill, president and publisher of the Boston-based Flying Point Press -- and, not incidentally, the father of two boys aged 11 and 15. So he and Peggy Hogan started their company three years ago as a packager of such books. (A book packager provides ideas and content to publishers, usually for a series of books. The packager can provide finished books or only their components.)
     For generations, boys have found excitement and adventure in fiction such as the fabled Hardy Boys series of mysteries. But this is different --a foray into reality-based adventure. "I think nonfiction can be as compelling as fiction," Hill says. "And I was always frustrated by the fact that so many nonfiction books are found only in libraries and not in bookstores." Hill, who once worked for a major book publisher, believes there is a "bias among children's book publishers that think boys don't read books."
     "Boys don't choose to read. We're not enticing them to read," says Judy Nelson, coordinator of youth services for Pierce County (Wash.) libraries. Nelson is also president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association. When boys do read, she adds, "they are more inclined to read nonfiction."
     The first eight Sterling Point titles include "Old Blood & Guts," a biography of Gen. George S. Patton by Alden Hatch; "The Pirate Patriot," Armstrong Perry's account of the exploits of John Paul Jones; "Lawrence of Arabia" by Alistair MacLean; and "The Deadly Hunt," the World War II story of the sinking of the Bismarck, by William Shirer. Easy-to-find endpaper maps are an important feature of the books. Says Hill: "When I read, I always want to know where I am." The maps help readers locate the sites described in the narrative. The books are available in hardcover ($12.95) and paperback ($6.95) editions. Some of the first eight, as well as future books in the series, were originally Landmark Books, a series of more than 100 nonfiction titles published by Random House between 1950 and 1970. Hill, 57, was an avid young reader of Landmark Books and still has some in his personal collection. The Sterling Point editions feature new looks, including covers, maps and, in some cases, updated text and even titles. Eight additional volumes are planned for spring 2007, including one brand-new book, the first-person account of a bomber pilot who was captured during World War II; and biographies of two adventurous women, Amelia Earhart and Sacagawea. Hill notes that one of the series' goals was to find worthy heroes besides "music stars and athletes" for kids to admire. "We truly believe there are no good role models for kids this age," Hill says. "We believe there is a hunger out there for some rollicking bits of adventure and intrigue."We do not accept email submissions, but you may send a cover letter
and a sample chapter of no more than 2000 words to:


Editor
Flying Point Press
The Pilot House, Lewis Wharf
Boston, MA 02110

Globe  February 27, 2007
An adventure in finding books for boys
By David Mehegan, Globe Staff
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For years, the thinking in the book world was that adolescent boys don't like and won't read nonfiction books. Steven D. Hill and Peggy Hogan think that opinion is wrong, and they're out to prove it.
     Hill and Hogan, president and editorial director , respectively, of newly founded Flying Point Press, spent years in the 1980s and '90s at Boston-based Houghton Mifflin Co., he as head of the trade and reference division, she as marketing manager for children's books. A couple of years ago they met to talk about new ventures and hit upon the idea of publishing nonfiction books for boys ages 10 to 15.
     They had noticed there's a strong nonfiction market for men -- adventure books such as Sebastian Junger's "A Perfect Storm" or Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air." But, said Hill, "it was clear that publishers were ignoring adventure, history, and nonfiction for 10-to-15-year-old boys." Hogan said, "If you look at what men read, there was no springboard for boys. If they want to read the kind of books they will read as adults, there is nothing to lead them into that area."
     Then Hill, 57, remembered a series of books he had loved as a boy: the old Random House Landmark Books. Started in the 1950s by Random House co founder Bennett Cerf, they featured narrative nonfiction, mostly history and biography. Cerf signed up such adult stars as John Gunther, C.S. Forester, Alistair MacLean, and William L. Shirer. The series sold millions of books, but Random House (which still publishes several Landmark titles) let many of the classics go out of print. Hill and Hogan got the idea of bringing them back.
     After scrapping the idea of starting a publisher from scratch -- startup costs were prohibitive -- they made a deal with Sterling Publishing, which is owned by Barnes & Noble. Sterling would act as publisher, marketing the books under the name Sterling Point Books, while Flying Point would act as packager. (A book-packager is to a publisher what a ghostwriter is to an author: The publisher's name is on the cover, but the packager does the work of putting the book together.)
     Hill and Hogan sought out the out-of-print Landmark rights - holders, usually the authors' estates, signed new contracts, and are putting the books back in print. The first eight came out last fall, eight more are coming this spring, and another eight next fall. The list includes: Bruce Bliven's "Invasion: The Story of D-Day," MacLean's "Lawrence of Arabia," Forester's "The Barbary Pirates," and Shirer's "The Deadly Hunt: The Sinking of the Bismarck."
     "A single book is not going to make a difference," said Hogan, 65, "but a series for children is a powerful concept, as it was with Landmark. The idea is to have a list of all the titles in each book, so that if you like one, you know you can find something similar."
     Not all the books in the first 24 are Landmark Books, and there is one wholly new title, a World War II first-person memoir called "Behind Enemy Lines: A Young Pilot's Story," by H.R. DeMallie. Hill and Hogan plan to seek new and out-of-print books, and to expand into current adventure, the adolescent equivalent of the Krakauer and Junger books.
     Will it work? Some librarians, booksellers, and children's book specialists have their doubts. For one thing, today's boys are not the boys of the 1950s.
     "I wonder if it's that there aren't enough books or that the cultural mind-set is that reading is not the cool thing to do," said Leonard Marcus, children's book editor of Parenting magazine. "My son, who is 14, and his schoolmates have to read for school, and when they come home they want to play video games or go to sports practice. There's a lot of competition for kids' attention."
"I don't do well with nonfiction of any type, even for girls," said Ellen Richmond, owner of the Children's Book Cellar in Waterville, Maine. Other booksellers said much the same.
     "Really good boy readers almost all read fantasy," said Caroline Ward, past president of the children's division of the American Library Association. She also has doubts about the Landmark Books themselves. "One of the criticisms of that series in the 1950s and '60s is that it was somewhat fictionalized to sweeten the material. There is such interest in fact-checking and documentation today. We try to avoid narrative nonfiction if it has dialogue that is conjectural."
      However, some booksellers think Hill and Hogan may be right that boys will read nonfiction if the books are there.
      Terri Schmitz, owner of Brookline's Children's Book Shop, has ordered the Sterling/Flying Point books. "I am trying to find a way to display them," she said, "to let people know they are there."
     "You do get that kid who loves nonfiction," said Carol Stoltz, children's manager at Porter Square Bookshop in Cambridge. "When they say, 'I want to read some adventure,' we steer them to our 'Thrills and Chills' section, for adventure, mountain climbing."
     Asked about their reading tastes, some boys did mention fiction first. "When I was 14, my favorites were science fiction, mystery, and fantasy," said David Chu, 16, of Hanover.
     But they didn't exclude nonfiction entirely. "I like books that have a lot of suspense," said James Golden, 12, of Weymouth. " I don't really care if it's fiction or nonfiction, as long as it's a good story."
Ben Logan, 12, of Brookline, has several Sterling Point books. "I started 'The Deadly Hunt,' " he said. "It starts with a good introduction. It seems more story-like, with a plot, more action-packed."
     No one disputes that boys will read if they love the books. Jon Scieszka, author of the "Stinky Cheese" children's books, has started a website called guysread.com to encourage boy readers and their parents. Librarian Michael Sullivan of Portsmouth, N.H., author of "Connecting Boys With Books: What Libraries Can Do," has a blog called "Boy Meets Book," linked from his site, talestoldtall.com.
     "We have not done well in promoting reading for boys," Sullivan said. "It's a good time to be a boy reader right now. There are new authors, like Gordon Korman and Ben Mikaelsen, writing amazing outdoor adventure stuff. Boys are a tougher audience to reach. But when you give them books they like, they react as well as girls do. Everybody loves a good story."
David Mehegan can be reached at mehegan@globe.com.

PW art 4Flying Point Targets Tween Boys
ByJudith Rosen, Publishers Weekly 06-12-2006

Steve Hill, former head of Houghton Mifflin's trade and reference division, has started a packaging company aimed at a slice of the market that has been notoriously difficult to reach—boys between 11 and 15. Based in Boston, Flying Point Press will develop primarily nonfiction titles. "People laugh when I tell them that I started a packager for such a narrow niche," said Hill. "But when I headed the trade division of Houghton Mifflin, I was always bothered by the fact that we were way too eclectic. I always felt the only way to be successful is to be highly focused."
Hill, whose own reading tends toward history, adventure and travel, said that he was struck by how few narrative nonfiction books are published for kids. "I felt that this was an empty space," he said. "Nonfiction is so popular for adults, but adult books are a little too sophisticated and too long for 12-year-olds."
     When Hill and cofounder and ex-HM marketer Peggy Hogan first drew up plans for Flying Point, they were planning to become publishers—until a buyer at Barnes & Noble suggested that they package their first list of books for Sterling instead. Sterling Point Books will launch in August with eight, 175-page reissued books on historical figures like Lawrence of Arabia and Geronimo, and on moments in history, such as the sinking of the Bismarck. Many were originally part of Random House's Landmark Books series started by Bennett Cerf 60 years ago, when he had trouble finding well-written histories for his son, and include some of the leading writers of the day, including William Shirer and John Gunther.
     Sterling Point Books have been vetted by historians, said Hill, and have been repackaged with fresh, contemporary covers and newly drawn maps. "This isn't republishing the Bobbsey Twins just like they looked in the 1930s," he noted. However, getting the right look wasn't the hardest part in putting together the series. To track down copyright holders, at one point Hill had to hire a private eye.
In addition to reintroducing older titles long out of print, Flying Point will package new material. The second Sterling Point list, due out in spring 2007, includes a previously unpublished book by H.R. DeMallie on what it was like to be a bomber pilot and prisoner of war during WWII. Flying Point is currently shopping a second series of true adventure books. Going forward, Hill said, the company may add historical fiction.

Rebecca Rupp
2231 Maple Hill Road
Shaftsbury, VT 05262
(802) 375-2956
rebeccarupp@gmail.com
           
Sterling Point Books
Does anybody remember Landmark Books? These wonderful (and immensely popular) history books were originally published in the 1950s by Random House, and written by prize-winning authors, among them such luminaries as Sterling North, MacKinlay Kantor, Alistair MacLean, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Stewart Holbrook, William Shirer, and C.S. Forester. (Pearl Buck contributed a volume on Sun Yat-sen.) The Landmarks were staples of my childhood; the local public library had a substantial stash and I lapped them up, from the story of Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde to the dramatic tale of the sinking of the Bismarck during World War II. There were dozens of these, all superbly researched, creatively written, breathtaking, and addictive. I’d be willing to bet that a lot of historians and history buffs today owe a debt to Landmark Books.
     Regrettably, most of these terrific books eventually went out of print – when our kids were younger, we combed used-books stores for them, while I fumed over the shortsightedness of the publishing world. Recently, however, I was tickled pink to hear that Steven Hill and the Sterling Publishing Company have brought many of the original Landmark titles back, in new editions with added endpaper maps. Once more available are Ralph Moody’s Geronimo: Wolf of the Warpath, C.S. Forester’s The Barbary Pirates, William Shirer’s The Sinking of the Bismarck: The Deadly Hunt, Neta Lohnes Frazier’s Path to the Pacific: The Story of Sacagawea, and many more. As well as acquiring the rights to older titles, Hill is also steadily adding new contemporary authors to his list (collectively known as the Sterling Point Books), all in the Landmark spirit: history books with a strong story line, a wealth of human interest, and careful attention to fact. Your kids will love them. A highly recommended resource.
     The Sterling Point Books are chapter books, approximately 150 to 200 pages long, appropriate for readers ages 9-12 (or so). The titles are available from Barnes & Noble bookstores (www.bn.com) and other online book suppliers, or from Flying Point Press; to order or for the complete list, visit www.flyingpointpress.com or call (617) 854-3260.
           
Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions
January 17 is Ben Franklin’s birthday – the great event took place in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1706 – which makes the first month of the year a perfect time to devote to a study of Franklin’s life, times, and inventions. A terrific resource for this is Carmella Van Vleet’s 120-page Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself (Nomad Press, 2007), a collection of over 25 Franklin-inspired hands-on projects and activities, interspersed with reader-friendly biographical information, quotations, interesting fact boxes, helpful vocabulary lists, and illustrations. The book is arranged in fourteen short chronological chapters, covering Franklin’s life from birth to epitaph. Titles include “Swim Paddles, “Pennsylvania Fireplace, “Bifocals, the Long Arm, and the Library Company of Philadelphia,” “Printing Press, “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” “The Gulf Stream Map,” “Electricity and the Lighting Rod,” “Postal Service,” and “The Declaration of Independence.” Projects and activity suggestions accompany each chapter: kids, for example, make their own letterpress, kite, thermometer, piggy-bank (“A penny saved is a penny earned”), parchment paper, feather pen, model Liberty Bell, and spectacle case - and there’s much more. For each project, the author includes a supplies list, step-by-step instructions, and an estimated time to completion (the range is five to 45 minutes).
            The book is recommended for ages 9-12. $14.95 from bookstores and online book suppliers.
            For more on Ben Franklin, see:
            Fleming, Thomas. Ben Franklin: Inventing America. (Sterling, 2007). By acclaimed historian Thomas Fleming, this 179-page biography in the Sterling Point series (see above) is a great choice for ages 9 and up.