Mount Pleasant-based Arcadia Publishing says it has purchased a Charleston-based self-publishing service in an effort to round out its business model at an uncertain moment for the industry.
Arcadia says its acquisition of Palmetto Publishing Group is meant to provide a new source of revenue for a traditional publishing house. Palmetto Publishing charges authors upfront to edit their manuscripts and lay out their books rather than take royalties later.
That business, which was founded in 2015, will continue as a self-publishing service, said Michael Shannon II, Palmetto Publishing's founder. But it will also be central to a new effort to publish titles Arcadia would otherwise pass on.
Shannon says Arcadia, which specializes in local- and regional-interest titles, is launching a new imprint, Vertel, to publish locally focused books like niche histories and regional photography collections. Like Palmetto Publishing, it will charge authors up-front fees to get their books to press.
But the new imprint won't purely be a self-publishing service. If books perform well, Arcadia plans to pick up them up for its existing imprints, like The History Press, which it acquired in 2014. The idea is to throw its resources behind books once they've proven they have a market.
"Arcadia realized that they were having to turn away authors that were coming to them with local/regional content but it just wasn't meeting their revenue model," Shannon said. "Instead of sending them a rejection letter, we now have an alternative where that person can publish their book."
Arcadia CEO Richard Joseph said the hybrid model is intended to take some of the risk out of a publishing niche that has plenty. The company faces much of the same uncertainty that larger publishers do, but it's starting from a smaller base of customers for each of its titles.
Shannon says he's aiming to publish a few hundred books a year with Vertel, adding to the roughly 600 Arcadia already releases annually. He expects the imprint to crack $1 million in revenue in its first year.
Still, the acquisition is a relatively modest one for Arcadia, adding about 10 local employees to a staff that now totals about 100. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
"It's just another way to keep local and regional content alive," Joseph said. "It was not a very substantial acquisition, but we have big aspirations for it."
Arcadia is one of only a few publishing houses in the Lowcountry. The Post and Courier's parent company owns Charleston-based Evening Post Books, and Advantage Media Group, which runs the business-focused imprint ForbesBooks, is headquartered downtown.