Rudy Shur has been publishing traditional and alternative health books for almost 45 years. His first company, the Avery Publishing Group, was sold to Penguin in 1999, when he was outvoted two to one by his partners to sell the company they had formed in 1973.
Shortly after the sale, Shur formed Square One Publishers (“Going back to square one,” he explained, referring to the name’s origin), and though a number of his indie rivals in the health space have been sold, Shur has no intention of selling out. “I love what I do,” he said. “Providing information to people looking for answers.”
Since Square One’s launch, the publisher has released 206 health titles, most of which are still in print. “I only take books out of print if the information has changed,” Shur said. He tends to stay ahead of the curve, as is the case with Square One’s most recent hit, Healing with Hemp CBD Oil by Earl Mindell. Originally released in November 2017, the book caught fire this summer as stories began to appear about the health benefits of CBD oil, and Square One has now sold more than 40,000 copies in four printings.
Over the course of his career, Shur has faced controversy over some of the books he’s published. One such instance was the publication of Dressed to Kill: The Connection between Breast Cancer and Bras. The authors, Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, were criticized by much of the medical establishment, including the American Cancer Society, regarding their findings, but Shur believed it was important to provide the results of their work to the public. An updated edition of the book was released last November.
“I don’t back down because something is controversial,” Shur said. But he is not reckless in what he publishes. He looks for authors who offer a “common-sense point of view” about a particular medical issue.
A number of authors who write for Shur at Square One had been published by him at Avery, such as Nancy Appleton, whose new book, Suicide by Sugar, has been a good seller and has been translated into eight other languages. In looking for new authors, Shur, like most publishers, is looking for people with platforms. Such was the case with Pamela Wartian-Smith, whose titles with Square One include What You Must Know About Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs More, and with Jeffrey Anshel, author of Smart Medicine for Your Eyes.
Since he started Square One, Shur has focused on special markets and direct-to-consumer sales, and though Square One sells to trade and libraries, he would like to expand the company’s presence in that area. He noted that one of the toughest sales challenges in the past few years has been gaining attention for Square One’s titles given that so much media attention has been focused on the Trump administration.
Square One’s list extends beyond health and totals over 350 titles in areas ranging from self-help to biography. Looking at 2019, new titles include What You Must Know About Hashimoto’s Disease by Brittany Henderson and Allison Futterman; a new book from Mindell, What’s In Your Blood Why You Should Care; and What You Must Know About Dry Eye by Anshel.