Nick Lyons has been hooked for years. "I'm a lunatic about fishing," he confesses. At 59 this New York publisher and former English Professor is a careful thinker about most things. But his passion, the stuff of his daydreams, is hooks adorned with feathers floating down clear Montana trout streams.
It's no surprise, then, that Lyons' tiny shop, Lyons & Burford Publishers Inc., is devoted to fishing books. Its nearly 100 titles on the subject include many of the best books available on fly fishing. But that isn't all L&B publishes. Recognizing that people of all stripes will pay dearly to indulge their avocations, Lyons and partner Peter Burford, a 36-year-old golf nut, have built a thriving business putting out an array of books that other publishers would tend to pass by.
Lyons, a former executive editor at Crown Books, and Burford, a Princeton English major, have been snagging anglers since 1984 with such esoterica as Power Surfcasting and Caddisflies. Now, they're after other fanatics with titles such as Making Paper and The Anatomy of a Golf Course. "A lot of specialized books are being ignored by big houses," says Lyons. "They need a printing of 15,000 copies. We start making money at 2,000." Revenues last year hit only $2 million, but L&B netted 10% of that after taxes. Is there anything they won't publish? "We were offered a book on eel fishing," says Burford. "But even we can't do an eel-fishing book."