Oceanview Publishing: Starting a Publishing Company that Breaks the Rules

At the 2006 BEA, I interviewed Robert Gussin, CEO and 1/3 owner of startup hardcover publisher Oceanview Publishing.

We’re bucking the trend. Everybody says, “why did you get into the publishing business?” It’s tougher and tougher, a few large groups with many imprints. We came out of medicine. When we retired, my wife started writing novels. We went to writer’s meetings and heard the frustrations. Either they couldn’t get published or if they did get published, even by some of the big houses, they were getting no support. We thought we could do better for them.

We attracted two authors from larger publishers. Don Bruns came to us from St Martins, and Martha Powers, Death Angel, this is her 12th novel; she came from Simon & Schuster. They liked that we’d support the authors we took on.

In addition to trying to recruit writers, we put together a very good team. We contract our production to Susan Hayes Assoc, Arlington, MA. George Foster does our jacket design. Susan Kendrick of Write to Your Market does our jacket content, Maryglenn McCombs is our publicist.

We’re in our first year, we have five books from five separate authors. Two are out, the third will be published September 1, the fourth on October 1, and the fifth on October 15. We’re working on our 2007 output now, we’ve got a couple of manuscripts. We’ll bring out the second book by the author of Shadow of Death, and we may bring out a couple of trade paper issues.
We’re not a vanity press, we pay an advance, and we pay royalty. We set up signing tours. For Shadow of Death, we’ve had 25 stores in Michigan, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. We’re starting a major tour for Perfect Assassin, 30-40 stores. We do tours for all our authors—$3000 budget, we get them on conference panels, we’re distributed to the chains and wholesalers (by Midpoint). We have our website and we set up a linked site for all our authors.

We’re a small publisher acting like a big publisher, but for a limited number of authors.

We’re getting a lot of manuscripts. When we started, they were all coming from authors. Now 50-50 authors/agents. We’ve been accepted by Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers as accepted publishers. So I think we’ve come an awful long way. We’re going to publish nonfiction but haven’t found the right titles yet. We are dedicated to quality. Our authors are getting pretty nice blurbs—we’re getting endorsements from Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, etc. We’ve found some, the authors have found some, they’ve guided us to some people.

We were introduced to Warren Phillips, retired CEO of Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones. I said, “we’re thinking of starting a publishing company,” and he said, “why would you do that?” I said, would you mind getting together?” Warren and his wife run Bridgeworks Publishing and they’ve helped us a lot. They told us about Susan Hayes. They recommended us to Midpoint—three people coming out of the medical field, we couldn’t have gotten that! And they guided us to the other suppliers.

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