Avon Books (International) assertion i(133 works by) (Organisation) assertion
Born: Established: 1941 New York (City), New York (State),
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United States of America (USA),
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Americas,
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BiographyHistory

Joseph Meyers and his sister Edna Meyers Williams founded Avon Books in 1941 as a pocket-book reprint firm. In 1929, Meyers had founded the Illustrated Editions Company. In 1936, he and his sister decided to expand into the area of popular reprints by purchasing J. S. Ogilvie Publications, a pulp-magazine publisher that they already partly owned, and renaming it Avon Publications. The Meyers' objective was to compete against Pocket Books in the cheap end of the publishing market. By November 1941, Avon's advertisements began announcing complete unabridged editions of books by the 'world's leading writers of fiction, nonfiction, biography, poetry, plays and the best of the world's classics', some of which would be 'illustrated throughout' for 25 cents per copy ('Avon Books' p. 26). The similarity between the book format and design of both companies' publications led Pocket Books owner Robert de Graff to take out an injunction against Avon, alleging unfair competition. Although he lost the first case, de Graff later won on appeal, forcing Avon to drop the word 'pocket-size' from its covers and to adopt a different design and format for its covers.

During its first few years of operation, Avon's titles were dominated by mysteries. The works of some significant literary writers were nevertheless also published, notably those such as D. H. Lawrence, Thomas Wolfe and John Steinbeck. By the late 1940s, the company had engaged Donald A. Wollheim as editor; within a few years, the company began to expand its lines of publications. Avon double-sized books were implemented in 1951, and shortly afterwards, Avon began to publish original fiction. With the emphasis clearly directed towards popular fiction, Avon began publishing horror and ghost stories, sexually suggestive love stories, fantasy, and science fiction, thereby moving further away from Pocket Books's more literary market. Avon's popular appeal also lay in its pricing structure: prices ranged from 25 to 50 cents for most of the 1950s, and the company was able to turn over more than 20 million copies a year during this period.

Another publishing direction for Avon in the 1950s was the larger digest-format paperback, which comprised titles such as Murder Mystery Monthly, Modern Short Story Monthly, and Avon Fantasy Readers. Among the best-known authors to be published within these titles were A. Merritt, James M. Cain, H. P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, and Robert E. Howard. Avon also branched out into comic books.

After the death of Jo Meyers in 1957, Avon continued without either a president or an editor in chief for a number of years. During that period, the company's operations were controlled by the company's vice president, Joseph M. Mann. In 1960, the Hearst Corporation acquired Avon as an imprint. In 1964, Walter Meade, the company's former education editor, was appointed editor in chief. The following year, he finally succeeded Meyers as publisher. Meade established Avon as a paperback imprint for quality fiction in 1967, but by the early 1970s, he began to focus on the lucrative modern romance genre. In 1975, Publishers Weekly reported that Avon was still managing to sell eight million books a year. Avon remained a Hearst Corporation imprint until 1999, at which time the parent company's book division was acquired by News Corporation. Avon was subsequently merged with HarperCollins, while its hardcover and non-romance paperback lines were moved to sister company Morrow. Since then, Avon has operated solely as a romance publisher.

Avon imprints have included Camelot, Flare, Equinox, and Discus. Flare and Equinox were both founded in 1971, with Flare being a large-format trade paperback line. Equinox was similarly conceived as a large-format line, but with a focus on quality publications.

A number of high-profile Australian writers have been published by Avon, including Patrick White (who had some of his novels reprinted by the company in 1975), Nevil Shute, Morris West, and Colleen McCullough, to whom Avon paid US $1.9 million for The Thorn Birds in 1978. Among the Australian authors whose works have been first published by Avon Books are Philip Lindsay, Damien Broderick, Jane Routley, and romance writers Sara Bennett and Stephanie Laurens. Authors who have had works reprinted by Avon include Christina Stead, Geraldine Halls (aka Charlotte Jay), Estelle Thompson, George Turner, Christopher Koch, Sue Hines, and Veronica Geoghegan Sweeney.

Notes

  • Further Reference:

    • 'Avon Books.' In Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 46 - American Literary Publishing Houses, 1900-1980: Trade and Paperback.' Ed. Peter Dzwonkoski. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986, p. 26-8.
    • Davis, Kenneth C. 'The Cinderella Story of Paperback Originals.' Publishers Weekly 217 (11 Jan. 1980), pp. 43-45.
    • 'Joseph Meyers.' [obituary] Publishers Weekly 172 (18 Nov. 1957), p. 32.
    • 'The Seventies: A Paperback Montage.' Publishers Weekly 217 (22 Feb. 1980), pp. 46-7.

  • Speculative Fiction Imprint
    Founded in 1991 by John Douglas, AvoNova was a science fiction paperback imprint of Avon Books and a sub-imprint of William Morrow, also co-owned at the time by the Hearst Corporation. AvoNova bought paperback rights and an agreed number of copies to some Morrow science fiction titles. Titles in both formats carried the name of both publishing houses either together on the title page or on the title page verso.
    George Turner and Jane Routley were published under the AvoNova imprint.
    AvoNova was discontinued in September 1998. Avon Books launched science fiction and fantasy imprint Eos in February 1999. All reside under the HarperCollins umbrella (2012).

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