Publisher Leaps from Wellfleet to Falmouth
The Leapfrog Press, created by well-known writer Marge Piercy and her husband Ira Wood, praised by the Boston Globe as “The pulse of what’s hot in the publishing world,” has been sold to a group headed by Lisa Graziano, a former professor of oceanography at Sea Education Association in Woods Hole and her brother, Michael Graziano, a neuroscientist at Princeton University. The editorial offices of the press, located in the historic Mooney Building overlooking Wellfleet Harbor, will be moved to Falmouth.
The Leapfrog Press was begun by working writers who were keenly aware of the difficulties many talented authors were having placing their books with conglomerate-owned publishing houses because they were not perceived as attractive to the media or as potential best sellers. Leapfrog was established with the idea that a successful book had to be edited with care, beautifully packaged and marketed with enthusiasm. Perhaps most importantly, it had to remain in print long enough to reach its audience.
Since the appearance of its first title in 1998, Leapfrog has established a list of 30 highly praised books, including national bestsellers such as The Devil and Daniel Silverman by Theodore Roszak, BookSense picks such as The German Money by Lev Raphael, and Washington Post Book of the Year selections including The War at Home by Nora Eisenberg. From its beginnings, Leapfrog Press has enjoyed international distribution through Consortium Booksellers and Distribution, employing the same sales representation as the country’s best known literary presses. Although it never focused solely on Cape Cod authors, Leapfrog has published Rookie Cop by Richard Rosenthal, Early Grrrl by Marge Piercy, Paradise Dance by Michael Lee and Bolt Risk by Ann Wood — all of whom are Wellfleet residents. “It was inevitable,” says Wood. “We live in one of the most creative areas of the country. You can’t go to the market or the post office without bumping into a writer.” Indeed, the press’ best-selling title, with more than 30,000 copies sold, was So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Fiction and Memoir, by Piercy and Wood.
Wood, who is a Wellfleet selectman, is glad to be getting back to his own writing and has just finished a memoir. Piercy, the author of more than forty books, is writing a nonfiction title for Basic Books. “What I’m proudest of,” says Wood, “is the niche we created for the mid-list book. Authors who were rejected by the biggest names in publishing came to us with manuscripts that needed a special ‘something.’ A new beginning, a tighter focus, a dynamite title or a killer marketing plan. We were able to fix and publish those books and we flourished.”
The lineup for 2008, under the new owners, will take Leapfrog in a somewhat new direction: that of experimental fiction. Among titles to be released in the fall are Berlin by Canadian author Michael Mirolla, The Love Song of Monkey by Michael Graziano, and Billy and the Birdfrogs by B.B. Wurge. Monkey, described in one review as “part magic realism, part science fiction, part theater of the absurd,” is a meditation on the simple, inexplicable and lasting power of love, cast in the metaphor of a journey to the depths of the ocean floor. “It is difficult to fathom that a novel so brief can be so epic in scope,” says Eric Linder, owner of Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham. In keeping with its Cape Cod roots, Leapfrog’s first 2009 release will be the first volume of a historical mystery trilogy by Mary Malloy, a maritime historian and faculty member at Sea Education Association.
The first release under the new owners, Suzanne Kamata’s Losing Kei, is already in the bookstores. In this story of an intercultural marriage gone terribly wrong, the author, who lives in Japan, given us an insightful look into a family culture very different from our own, a culture with terrible meaning for a foreign-born mother when a marriage falls apart.
“It’s one of those daydreams you have all your life that you never expect to become reality,” says Lisa Graziano. “And then it does, and there you are — the slightly dazed owner of 500 plastic frogs and a nationally distributed publishing company.”