Who is Seacoast Publishing?
Tom Bailey’s Story
The company began in 1980 as a hobby by Tom Bailey, who is presently editor for the company, but at that time was managing editor of The Birmingham News.
Bailey was searching for a hobby that allowed him to write (managing editors don’t get to do much of that) books of his choosing and published in forms of his choosing. That first self-published book was Vacation Guide to the Alabama/NW Florida Gulf.
He developed a sales route, sold the book from the trunk of his car and found a welcoming audience of bookstores, gift shops, tackle and dive shops along the coast. Before it went out of print, 35,000 copies sold.
As the sales route grew, customers asked him to convert the vacation guide’s dive and seafood chapters into separate books, which he did. They too sold well. In fact, the seafood cookbook has gone through seven versions since that time and sold approximately 150,000 copies. The newest edition, Northern Gulf Seafood Favorites, will be released March 1.
Those early success stories brought other writers to Seacoast and in just a couple of years, the self-publishing hobby had grown into a company.
Janis Bailey, Tom’s wife, who had worked hand-in-hand with him from the beginning, incorporated the business, and remains publisher today.
A number of beach and outdoors guides follow, along with non-fiction titles about Alabama folklore, history, humor, travel, cooking and sports. The company moved into offices in downtown Birmingham and remained there until 2000.
At that time, with a need for more warehouse space, Seacoast leased storage space in Calera and built an editorial office in the basement of the Bailey’s home in Hoover, Alabama.
Also at about the same time, Seacoast launched the acclaimed Alabama Roots Biography Series—a 45-book series of biographies of famous Alabamians aimed at middle readers. That series continues to grow, with the latest four titles—Jeremiah Denton, Janie Shores, Bienville and Helen Keller—released in mid February.
The company has evolved from a beach book publisher to one specializing in topics of Alabama interest. In addition, Seacoast is marketing agent for books published by The Birmingham News Co. When Bailey retired from The Birmingham News in 2010, he came to Seacoast as editor and began working full time for the company that began as his hobby.
Seacoast offers a manufacturing division that produces about 15 books each year for clients. Some of those titles are self-publishing efforts by individuals, but most are specialty books for corporations, churches, colleges or groups with special information objectives. That part of the company provides business, student and teacher training seminars related to reading and writing, and publication development seminars for businesses and other institutions.
And Now . . .
Tom and Jan sold the company to talented writer and theater director Darren Butler, who later decided he had too much on his plate. Much to the delight of Alice and Martine, he offered to sell the company to them, and they jumped at the chance. Both had written books for Seacoast, and both loved the Alabama Roots series.
On a hot summer day in July of 2019, Alice, Martine, their husbands Duane and Ottis, and some kind family members (Martine’s son and grandsons, and Alice’s nephews) moved just over 58,000 books to the new warehouse, where they quickly overflowed the storage unit rented for them . . .then another . . . then another. They had underestimated what so many books would look like!
Serendipity . . . what a wonderful thought! Each time it is spoken, this delightful word evokes whimsy and speaks to my heart, and one of my favorite quotes about this expression comes from the movie simply entitled Serendipity – life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences, but rather, it is a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan.”
One of the most amazing serendipitous threads woven into the tapestry of my life was being given the opportunity to share ownership in a company that I love and have such respect for. The summer of 2019 I was asked to share books I have written for Alabama Roots during a fund-raising event for our local library. I needed copies of my books to carry to the event, so I contacted the person who had taken over as owner after our founders, Tom Bailey and Edgar Weldon, decided to retire. I also requested information about another Seacoast author who lived in our area and invited her to participate, and this person just happened to be my now current business partner, Martine Bates Fairbanks.
From the moment we met, it was obvious that Martine and I both valued and believed in the Alabama Roots series, and we also shared the belief that middle school students in Alabama should definitely have access to books from this series. There is so much more to Alabama History than simply names and dates . . . our students need to know the story behind the little deaf and blind girl from Tuscumbia who has become a symbol of courage throughout the world . . . the hearts of our students should swell with pride when reading about the young man from Oakville who erased racial barriers and disproved wickedly misguided prejudices during the 1936 Winter Olympics. These, plus other stories of courageous people from our state are found on the pages of each and every Seacoast biography about famous Alabamians.
During the reading event, Martine and I talked about our love for the series and decided that we should schedule a meeting with the person who was leading Seacoast at that time to encourage and offer our support, and to ask how we might help promote Alabama Roots. Within a week, the current owner offered us the company!
Along with my appreciation for the word serendipity, I have always cherished words from the book of Jeremiah . . . for I know the plans I have for you . . . and I find tremendous comfort in knowing that someone much, much greater than me continues to create “a tapestry of events” to “culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan” for my life.
The summer after graduating from high school, I entered college with no idea what my major might be, and at that time the college I attended pretty much offered three career paths for females – education, nursing or social work. Thank goodness I somehow found myself on the pathway to education! I loved my classroom experiences, and later assumed other roles in education including guidance counselor, Curriculum Director, and teaching Child Development classes at Calhoun Community College. Since retirement from full time teaching, I have contracted with Alabama’s Department of Early Childhood Education, visiting state-funded preschool programs, which continues to be a very rewarding job.
During every step of my career, writing has tugged at my heart. As with most writers, I love reading books – well-written books that bring stories to life and make you want to crawl inside the pages and live among the characters you cherish. And like many others who love books, I too, have novels in the works, but so far all of my written works and documentaries focus on the history of this great state where I was blessed to be born and raised.
Martine Bates Fairbanks
You know those children who always have their noses stuck in a book? Yes, that was me. I have always been a joyful and enthusiastic reader, nurtured by my mother, whose love of reading was inherited from her father. With that history, I didn’t stand a chance. Fortunately, that love has been passed on to two more generations–my sons and my grandchildren!
As much as I loved reading, I never thought about writing. When I was a young teenager, an insurance man came to our home, and for some reason that I cannot remember, he wrote the name of a publisher on a piece of paper and gave it to me, suggesting that I contact them. I stuck the piece of paper in a book (of course), and forgot all about it for many years.
As a young mother and teacher, I made a few aborted attempts to write, but never got far with it until one day when I saw a notice that a statewide denominational paper needed local correspondents. I signed up for the training they offered and almost immediately began writing articles for the paper and other publications, as well as a travel website.
Soon, some friends who knew Tom Bailey was looking for writers for his Alabama Roots series told him about me. I was thrilled to be able to write for a series that checked all of the boxes for me–local history, written for children, and I could do it while I continued my career in education. You can imagine how excited I was when an opportunity presented itself to actually own the company!
Alice and I are having a great time, getting the company organized and updated, making plans to release several more titles, and to expand our “Alabamiana” to include more Alabama-themed books.
What a blessing, to have had a career as teacher, principal, central office director, and university professor, then cap it off by having this wonderful publishing company dropped into my lap!