Whoever the next Kurt Divich is—that eighth-grader working on her fantasy fiction set in the Mojave Desert; the stay-at-home-dad polishing his manuscript on 1950s sports stars from Sin City—he or she won’t be discovered by Carolyn Hayes Uber, publisher of Stephens Press. That means he or she may not be discovered at all, at least not in the traditional sense.
“It will be hard for new authors,” says Divich, who’s converting his Stephens-published debut novel Lords of Las Vegas into a screenplay, and who’s halfway through his second book. “That low rung that I was able to start out on is now gone.”
Stephens Press, the book division of Stephens Media, will cease publishing new books as soon as it has completed ongoing projects. Uber says that could take as long as two years, with the last contracted book due for release in early 2014 and previously published books cycling through the sales process, from royalty payments to returns. She’ll continue with Stephens as a consultant until all that’s wrapped up.
Uber was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago. “I’m well-known for working through chemotherapy,” she says. “But that’s been challenging.”
Combined with the economic challenge of a weak publishing market, running the press took a toll on Uber—who some credit with almost single-handedly keeping her labor of love afloat for years.
“That we were able to publish primarily Nevada-centric titles for 11 years seems a success to me,” Uber says. “Personal issues and market forces changed the equation … and we move on. Perhaps another publisher will emerge; maybe not.”
With few other Nevada publishing houses in action, some Las Vegas authors will take the increasingly common route of self-publishing—an ironic factor in the demise of small local presses such as Stephens. While self-publishing allows authors to circumvent the cumbersome, daunting path of print, industry insiders say it’s akin to shooting a pebble into outer space. Millions of self-published titles hit the Internet each year; just try to stand out among them without a publisher to market and sell your work.
Meanwhile, the flood of titles hitting the digital market, including e-books, has altered the print publishing business forever, lowering profits that various parties along the distribution chain nibble to the bone.
“We lost an entire generation of booksellers to Amazon and Borders, and now Borders is gone too,” says Scott Krause, Vegas Seven’s book reviewer and a publishing-industry buyer and seller for nearly 30 years. “Local bookstores create demand for local publishers.”
Stephens Press will complete Liquid Vacation, P Moss’s celebration of tiki culture that comes out July 1, and the official Nevada Sesquicentennial book, marking 150 years of statehood. That ambitious project, compiling various authors’ musings on the culture and history of the state, is due out next year.
Thereafter, the press and its subsidiary imprints will exist only to help current authors convert their titles to e-books. Southern Nevada’s culture and history will cease to be documented and illuminated in the Stephens Press way, which was, in essence, the Carolyn Hayes Uber way.
“She launched the careers of a number of authors who will be forever grateful,” Divich says. “That’s her legacy.”