Titles published by Trinity University Press. Photo by Susan Riley.
Titles published by Trinity University Press. Photo by Susan Riley.

Trinity University Press has acquired Maverick Publishing Company and will launch a new imprint called Maverick Books. This new imprint will include the back list of the Maverick Publishing Company’s catalog as well as future books that focus on San Antonio, the state, and the Southwest region.

New titles are expected to gain a larger audience with the distributing force of Publisher’s Group West.

“Publishers often have multiple imprints under their banner name as their lists get bigger and certain niches emerge,” said Trinity University Press Associate Director Thomas Payton. “We’re really trying to be identified as having more books about Texas, quality and important and needed books about Texas, and, frankly, to be more competitive with presses like the University of Texas Press and others that have very strong Texas lines. But it is just a portion of what we do, a very clearly defined portion of what we do, and very distinctly different from other things.”

Trinity University Press hopes the move will boost San Antonio’s cultural, historical, and literary legacy.

Maverick Publishing Company is now an imprint of Trinity University Press. Photo courtesy of Lewis Fisher.
Maverick Publishing Company is now an imprint of Trinity University Press. Photo courtesy of Lewis Fisher.

“It’s as much a win/win situation as exists,” said Lewis F. Fisher, founder of Maverick Publishing, who will continue to work as an editorial adviser to the new owner. Fisher and his wife, Mary founded the company in 1996, She is a member of the celebrated Maverick family of San Antonio.

The first book to be published under this imprint is alsoffffff Fisher’s newest book, “American Venice: The Epic Story of San Antonio’s River.”

According to Payton, the book “is an epic treatment, a tour de force,” of San Antonio’s River Walk history.

With two books previously published on this subject, “Crown Jewel of Texas” (1996) and “River Walk: The Epic Story San Antonio’s River” (2007), Fisher is the leading authority on the evolution of San Antonio’s most celebrated – and developed – land feature.

San Antonio’s $12 billion convention and visitor industry thrives because of the River Walk and the institutions it connects, such as the Alamo. Richly illustrated, “American Venice” includes new historical images and documents the Museum and Mission Reach portions of the River Walk, which, according to Fisher, makes it “one of the most spectacular linear parks in the world.”

(Read more about “American Venice” here on the Rivard Report.)

Trinity University Press is a small, university-based press that just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Under the leadership of founding director, poet Barbara Ras, the press has grown to include books by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin, National Book Award winner Barry Lopez, and cultural historian Rebecca Solnit. The company is approaching 150 books in print that focus on a range of interests and disciplines, from landscape and the environment, to literature, architecture, and urban planning.

Lewis Fisher at his computer. Photo by Casey Howell.
Lewis Fisher at his computer. Photo by Casey Howell.

“I was struck by the lack of an independent non-fiction book publishing company that would focus on regional books,” Fisher said. “Other cities, other major tourist destinations, have had companies like this. New Orleans has had one for years, also Chicago … I could see a need for intelligently written and professionally produced books on the city … that would appeal to travelers.”

Payton, who has been in the book business for 26 years, explains that there are several reasons for the acquisition, from both business and mission-driven perspectives.

“We had been quietly undergoing our own strategic planning relative to who we are in San Antonio, the country and the world … and without getting sidetracked on all those components of our strategic plan, one of the things we identified is that we really wanted, just from a business perspective, to deepen the catalog and produce more titles,” he said. “Deepening a catalog by publishing books one at a time is a slow and costly way (to do it). In our part of the world, we didn’t know who might be a good fit, in terms of a back list, because there’s not an abundance of small publishing companies, but we certainly like to keep our eye open for any kind of opportunity.”

Trinity University Press Associate Director Thomas Payton
Trinity University Press Associate Director Thomas Payton

This opportunity presented itself last April at the San Antonio Book Festival. The downtown festival, which will celebrate its third annual event on Saturday, April 11, is held on the grounds of the Central Public Library and the Southwest School of Art. It brings together authors and readers and exhibitors from the local and national book publishing worlds.

“I saw Lewis and Mary and the Maverick crew down the way, and I said to my co-workers, I love the list and have such respect for what he’s doing, because small press publishing is fraught with so many challenges, plenty of rewards, but so many challenges,” Payton said. “As soon as I got a little break I just wanted to walk down there and introduce myself, and say hello and get to know Lewis. And so I did just that and we ended up having a nice conversation on what was a beautiful afternoon. We talked a little about publishing and a lot about other things, and then later the next week it occurred to me … maybe there was a potential fit.”

Maverick Publishing features books by 26 other authors in addition to Fisher that fill both academic and tourist niches. Its catalog includes a wide variety of subjects covering the San Antonio region and the state, from history to Texana, architecture, photography, food and wine, travel, and military history. There are guides to Texan beer, motorcycle rides, and Hill Country walks.

“San Antonio, like other travel destinations, has a self-renewing market. People come into the San José Mission gift shop, where a large number of these books are carried, and they just sell,” he said. “People come in from out of town in large numbers and they buy books. So, from that, I expanded, got offers to do other books on the city, and we expanded into the state,” Fisher said.

Bestsellers have included “The Spanish Missions of San Antonio” and “The Wine Roads of Texas.”

“We have had to be basically a commercially oriented press in that we had to have books that had to deal with broad, general subjects that travelers, especially to San Antonio or elsewhere, will buy,” Fisher said. “But what’s frustrating is that there are many subjects that are of great importance but will not just fly off the shelves to the general visitor or even the general resident of the city but that will have great import for a particular type of knowledge or a particular area. And those – we have published a couple of books that fit into the traditional area of an academic press. We’ve done one on the Spanish Acequias of San Antonio, we’ve done another called ‘An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas: The Letters of Carl Hilmar Guenther.‘ These are books that would not really sell, generally. So what really pleases me about this acquisition is that many of these subjects can now be covered by a press that is set up with a broader marketing system and with more resources to be able to support very significant books of this type.”

Payton, who arranged the acquisition, explained that “Trinity University Press itself is, on the one hand, a nonprofit educational cultural publisher affiliated with Trinity University, and, on the other hand, a stand-alone operation within Trinity’s framework, meaning we operate as a business ourselves and certainly have all the normal business kind of budgets and fiscal constraints and have to run ourselves like a business. But that said, we have a deep commitment to our community, and we are always committed to publishing important books without regard, necessarily, to their financial profile.

“We like our books to certainly break even and be successful and even profitable when you measure them from a business point of view and we have many such books that have been very successful by that standard,” Payton said. “But at the same time, if a book is important to Texas and meets whatever other criteria that may be, then we see ourselves as a cultural community organization whose initiative is to find a way to bring that book out. We have, to some great degree, the capacity to do it and certainly are backed by other donors and wonderful supporters who want to see us do work like that, without regard to economics.”

Many university presses have imprints that focus on their region and home state, such as the University of Nebraska Press and the University of Georgia Press. The Maverick Books imprint will also incorporate books previously published by Trinity University Press that are specifically Texas books. When inventory is low and they need to be reprinted, they will be repackaged under the Maverick name.

When asked what kinds of books will be published under the Maverick imprint in the future, Payton said, “We certainly are open-minded as to anything and everything about Texas. We do strategically view ourselves as focusing in a few particular areas. We’re particularly interested in Texas history and culture, which of course is natural and very broad … we’re very interested in Texas nature, environment and outdoors books, but also just general books about nature and outdoors.”

Next year, Maverick Books will publish a 50th anniversary of Cornyation, a Fiesta celebration and a part of “quirky San Antonio culture and history,” Payton said.

He promised there is a lot more in the pipeline. “We’re just growing in lots of directions and we’re very committed to our backyard region.”

*Featured/top image: Titles published by Trinity University Press. Photo by Susan Riley.

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Wendy Weil Atwell is a writer living in San Antonio, Texas. She received her MA in Art History and Criticism from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2002. Atwell is the author of The River Spectacular...