by Mallory Moad
When you think of locally-owned, family-operated businesses, what comes to mind? I’m guessing it’s a restaurant or maybe a hardware store. Perhaps it’s a nursery or place that sells pet supplies. But there’s one Valley-based company you may not be aware of, in spite of it’s achievements.
Lacking the visibility and curb appeal of a bakery or hair salon, Linden Publishing is one of the most successful local businesses you’ve never seen. You might not be familiar with this establishment because it doesn’t make things, it makes things happen.
It’s all about the books.This small but mighty company was founded in 1978 by Richard Sorsky. While working for his family’s furniture store, Richard would purchase hard-to-find books on woodworking and carpentry while on business trips to England, then resell them back in America. Eventually it became clear that while there was a demand for this kind of literature, the supply was limited, so he began reprinting new editions of the rare volumes. Richard’s enterprise went beyond supply and demand. He has, in some cases, saved some of these volumes from extinction. “Thanks to Richard, a great many classic books on Victorian craftsmanship, documenting woodworking techniques from the nineteenth century and earlier, have been brought to a wider public,” says Linden Publishing marketing director, Jaguar Bennett (yes, that Jaguar Bennett – there can only be one).
Fast forward forty-two years. Although the company has not grown much in terms of full-time staff – there’s Jaguar, Richard Sorsky serving as president, and his nephew, Kent Sorsky as vice president – Linden Publishing’s output has increased significantly. Jaguar says “We’re a very small, very independent publisher, but we publish a lot. We typically publish around twelve books a year and have a back catalog of hundreds of books. We’ve become a publisher with world-wide distribution, whose books have received wide recognition.” And it’s happening right here in Fresno.Let’s take a moment to talk about what, exactly, a publisher does. Jaguar explains it this way: “A publishing company takes a written manuscript and turns it into an actual book, a commercial product you can buy in a bookshop or check out of the library.” What a publisher does not do is print books. “Everyone who comes to our office expects to see whirring printing presses,” but in truth, book publishers and book printers are two different animals. “Publishing a book is a lengthy process that typically takes at least a year” and involves numerous steps and a variety of people. It is the publisher who facilitates this process. There are editors (“Every manuscript, even by the greatest writer in the world, can be improved by editing”), copy editors (check for errors and accuracy), book designers, graphic designers, and marketers. Large publishing companies have these specialists on staff, but Linden Publishing uses freelancers. Once all of these time-consuming tasks have been completed, the manuscript will finally leave the building and go to the printer (electronically speaking) to be assembled into words on bound pages. “The author is undoubtedly the most important part of creating a book,” Jaguar says, “but countless people are needed to take a book from the author’s word processor and put it into the reader’s hands.” As the number of books published has increased, so has the variety of genres, including local history. “We are the known universe’s leading publisher of Fresno and Central Valley history,” Jaguar says, with maybe just a touch of exaggeration. One of these books received international attention for revealing the truth about a series of events that took place during California’s Spanish colonial period. A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions by the late Elias Castillo exposed the role the Spanish colonial missions played in the destruction of the tribes and culture of California’s Native population. Proving the power of the pen, this meticulously researched book has frequently been referenced by activists in California’s American Indian movement and has led to a change in how Junipero Serra has been evaluated. That’s pretty heavy stuff, but A Cross of Thorns led to a significant adjustment in how we view and teach about California’s past. That’s a big deal, brought to you by a small company.
Another nonfiction book from Linden Publishing that has received wide recognition is 400 Things Cops Know. Written by San Francisco Police Department sergeant, Adam Plantinga, it covers the everyday life and work of police officers. The Wall Street Journal referred to it as “the new bible for crime writers,” and it has been praised by Lee Child, George Pelecanos, Joseph Wambaugh, and other noted writers of mysteries and police procedurals. “For a small company,” Jaguar says, “we regularly punch above our weight in terms of recognition.”Linden Publishing doesn’t limit itself to nonfiction. Their catalog includes an impressive collection of of mystery titles as well, with three releases scheduled for 2020. Readers of KRL News and Reviews (Kings River Life’s sister site) may be familiar with a recent review of As The Crow Dies by Kenneth Butcher. It is in stores now. Upon This Rock by David Eugene Perry, a thriller described as “Dan Brown-esque,” will be released on September 1, followed by Timothy Cole’s The Sea Glass Murders – featuring rich people and a decapitated corpse – on October 6. All books will be available on Amazon. Linden Publishing is open to submissions from local and first-time authors, offering both traditional and self-publishing options, but at this time, only nonfiction submissions are being accepted. “When proposing a book to us, we ask for an extensive proposal that outlines the book’s purpose, target audience, and what you as an author can do to help market the book.” Very selective in what they accept, they are looking for books that will have strong commercial potential.
From selling second-hand finds to resurrecting endangered editions, with some serious consciousness raising and a lot of local history in the mix, Linden Publishing has proven that success isn’t based on size or location. This three-person company housed just around the corner from the “Best Little City in the USA” sign in Downtown Fresno has brought us books that have educated, entertained, and opened our eyes, all without the use of curbside delivery or a truck with a logo on the side. You may not see them, but they’re there, a small, local, family-owned business that has made a name for themselves in the wide world of publishing.
My name is Mallory Moad, and I believe you don’t have to be big to be a big deal.
One of the Linden Publishing mysteries was featured in a recent Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast: