The book-publishing industry has been taken to task by many critics for allowing itself to be infiltrated by a lot of nonpublishing types, but nobody is picking on Barbara B. Friedman. In fact, several major publishers would like to own Barbara Friedman. Friedman, 37, founder and president of Computer Science Press Inc. (#272), in Rockville, Md., was a "pregnant, frustrated housewife with absolutely no background in the business" when she sat down with her husband, Prof. Arthur D. Friedman, in 1974, to discuss his next book. He and his academic colleagues had no trouble publishing their work, she says, but they didn't like the way they were treated by the large houses. So she talked about handling him in-house, so to speak. Why not? he said. There's always the garage.
That was at least two garages and some 60 titles ago. Today, CSP has become a hugely successful small house, publishing scholarly texts in such high-level professional fields as computer sciences and telecommunications. What made Friedman think she could do it?
"Ignorance, pure and simple," she says with a laugh. "Actually, my husband and his friends felt that their books were so specialized that they got lost in the superstructure of large publishing companies. These works are not like freshman textbooks, which get wide distribution. They sell on the name recognition of the author to a fairly select audience. I thought we could do an effective job by rewarding authors with high royalties, giving away lots of [complementary copies], and getting to as many conferences as we could."
Another of Friedman's marketing ploys was to avoid sales reps, who, she feels, have an impossible job. "They have to take a book they can't begin to understand and try to sell it to an expert in that academic field," she says. "All the best ones do is say, 'Here's the book; have a look at it.' I thought, gee, I can do that."
And so she has. Friedman's best-selling title is Fundamentals of Data Structure, with over 125,000 copies in print. Many of CSP's works have been translated into foreigh languages. Friedman is also planning new ventures in high school computer sciences and college math programs. With 20 employees and a lease on 9,000 square feet of office space, she has more to worry about than where to park her car among the surplus inventory, but she is managing. "My feelings about the major houses have even mellowed over time," she admits, "although I still have no desire to sell out to one of them."