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Gibbs Smith Publisher

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This is Fred Ball for Zions Bank, speaking on business.

It’s always interesting to hear how some business owners found success. Utah publisher Gibbs Smith is a good example.

Gibbs had wanted to be a history professor. But while in pursuit of a master’s degree during the ‘60s, he wrote a dissertation on Joe Hill—the American labor martyr, proletarian folk hero and songwriter. The dissertation had surprising success. It was published by the University of Utah press and made into a movie. But besides that, it caused Gibbs to rethink his career goals and choose a new kind of work in the field of publishing. It was a tough decision so he wrote to Alfred Knopf--a man Gibbs considered to be the greatest publisher in America. Knopf responded with words of encouragement and invited Gibbs to call him. Gibbs did and from that moment, he was determined to become a publisher.

In 1969, with his wife Catherine, Gibbs started his company, calling it Gibbs Smith Publisher. That first year, they published four books for use as supplementary texts in college history classes. One book titled The Shirley Letters has never been out of print.

The first years were tough. The couple ran the company out of their studio apartment in Santa Barbara, Calif. Then, in 1973, they moved to Utah. Interestingly enough, they set up business in an old barn, which at the time still housed farm animals. But it seemed to work and the Smiths continued to build their little company. That year, they published a textbook called Utah’s Heritage which was successful and gave them the financial stability they needed.

Well, 34 years later, Gibbs Smith Publisher sells books worldwide and is the eighth-fastest growing publisher in the country. Still true to his roots, Gibbs is promoting several books by Utah authors--Old Dog Town and The World According to Julius are two books by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary founder Michael Mountain. And there’s Mountain Style, a book by designer and Park City resident Mary Whitesides. There’s also First Tracks, A Century of Skiing in Utah from the legendary Alan Engen and co-writer Gregory Thompson. And there are many more books—popular titles that might not have been were it not for the successful Gibbs Smiths.

For Zions Bank, I’m Fred Ball. I’m speaking on business.

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