A locally-owned Catholic book publishing company is remaining competitive in the industry by staying small, but complete.
“Everything we need to publish a book we have here,” said Jeffrey Campbell, owner of Tau Publishing. If you drive past the publishing house on 12th Street, you’d likely miss it. It’s a deceptively small building, with big ideas inside.
“If we sell 200-300 books, we make our money back,” Campbell said. One of his success secrets is to keep inventory costs down by publishing a much smaller number of books as they are needed. “We don’t have to reduce our prices because we don’t have an excess problem.”
Tau began in 2002 in Campbell’s bedroom. Then he knocked a wall down so he’d have more space. He built a separate building in his backyard until finally he moved the company to its current location in Phoenix, where he has four fulltime employees.
They do it all in house — they get the manuscripts, edit them, design the books and finally print and bind them. They deliver hardcover and softcover books directly to Catholic bookstores, which means they don’t have to pay a distributor.
“We’ve upended the whole publishing model,” Campbell said. “And the volume has gone up every year.”
Tau, which carries 175 titles, has seen sales increase every year they’ve been in business. That includes orders to places as far away as Australia, Hong Kong and Ireland.
Recently, Tau published a pro-life children’s book called “Before I Was Born, Jesus Knew Me,” by St. Louis author Karin Niemeyer.
“If you teach children to respect life, they’re going to be adults that respect life,” Campbell said. Tau publishes dozens of children’s titles and has an illustrator on staff.
“We found a niche,” said Campbell, an author of several books himself. “We’ll take stuff that other publishers won’t take.” Printing fewer books means less risk to Tau as a publishing company.
“We’re always looking for authors, especially Catholic authors,” he said. Tau published “Anthem of Hope,” by local Deacon K.J. Kulinowski and “Soul Searching: Journeys Into Spirit,” by a local retired priest, Fr. Joe Hennessey.
Tau carried several titles by Franciscan Father Alonso de Blas, a local priest and a longtime friend of Campbell’s. He’s been watching the publishing company since its inception.
“It’s gone no where but up,” he said. “He loves to find worthwhile things that have gone out of print.”
Campbell also offers a service for customers that want to self-publish. The appeal to these customers, he said, is that everything is in one place — editing, book design and marketing. They can also keep costs down by printing as few as 50 copies. Also, if there’s a mistake, authors aren’t stuck 1,000 copies with two or three misspelled words.
“I’m an old guy, so I love the printed page,” Fr. de Blas said. “There’s something about holding a book and underlining sentences and writing in the margins.”
He isn’t alone. Given his success over the last 10 years, Campbell doesn’t foresee business slowing down anytime soon.
“People will always want to hold a book,” Campbell said of the value of the printed copy, though Tau also offers e-books. “Books will never go out of style.”