Publishing Gulf?

How Internet pipe dreams and literary ambitions dismantled one of Texas's largest publishers

He'll have close to full autonomy, Hamrick and Lyons agree, to get the list back on its feet and begin the expansion that TaylorWilson planned but failed to pull off.

"The one thing I would say about TaylorWilson," Hamrick says, "is that anytime you acquire another publishing company, you are essentially starting over, you are a start-up company. And TaylorWilson was certainly a small start-up company that just happened to acquire a prestigious and well-known backlist. We're in the same position at Rowman, except we're going to be bigger."

The other difference is that the Lone Star list under Rowman & Littlefield won't have the Graves titles. Because of contracts, every time those books are sold to another company, the new company has to go back and relicense the rights from Graves's original publisher, Knopf. And this time, for the first instance in six go-rounds, Knopf declined to license the paperback rights to Goodbye to a River. It's keeping them, with reported plans to reissue its own paperback under the Vintage imprint.

The now-razed Gulf building on Allen Parkway.
Deron Neblett
The now-razed Gulf building on Allen Parkway.

Ironically, it may have been Hamrick's efforts to jump-start TaylorWilson with his letters book that pulled Graves's flagship out of reach.

"I questioned them," Hamrick admits. "Why now? You've had six opportunities. They've never published it in paperback. It's tough for me to comment on it, and it's hard for me because of my love for [Graves's] work, and my fondness for him. But I think it would certainly seem like the attention that the letters book was getting…I mean, I think it brought it to their attention. I've asked myself the question, If we hadn't done the letters book, would we have lost Goodbye?"

There's no solid answer to that question, of course, and no definitive reasons -- aside from dancing visions of IPOs and insinuations of over-reaching -- for the uncertain out-of-state future of Gulf's printed heritage.

But Goodbye's farewell does point up one seeming truth about small publishing in Texas: You can hardly win for losing.

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