Tom Doherty Associates Inc. History

175 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10010

Telephone: (212) 388 0100
Fax: (212) 388 0191

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH
Incorporated: 1980
Employees: 50
Sales: $50 million (1997 est.)
SICs: 2731 Book Publishing & Printing

Company History:

Tom Doherty Associates Inc. (TDA), better known by its imprint of Tor Books, is one of the leading publishers of science fiction (SF), fantasy, and horror. Tor Books has won virtually every major award in the SF and fantasy fields and its parent has been the winner of the Locus award for best publisher for the past 11 consecutive years.

Tom Doherty Associates Inc., 1980

In 1980, Tom Doherty, then the publisher of Ace Books--a venerable paperback publishing company that had more recently been bought and continued as an imprint under Grosset & Dunlap--decided to set up his own publishing company. After leaving Ace, with the help of some investors, including Pinnacle Books and Dell Distributing (who would produce and distribute TDA's early titles) and silent partner Richard Gallen (one of the most successful packagers in publishing history, with his own line, Dell Emerald Books), Doherty formed a corporation in New York with the legal name of Tom Doherty Associates Inc., whose business it was to publish books. As one of its first business ventures, TDA created a new imprint in 1980 named Tor Books.

James Patrick "Jim" Baen and Harriet McDougal were the first two employees of TDA, leaving Ace Books to go with Doherty. Baen's career had previously led him to be the editor of Galaxy magazine (1974-77) before he went to Ace in August 1977 as a senior editor, eventually getting promoted to vice-president in 1980. He became TDA's SF editor and continued to edit the Destinies series freelance. McDougal, who previously worked as editor-in-chief of Ace, served as the nonfiction editor for TDA from her home in North Carolina.

Tor (an old Anglo Saxon word meaning "summit" or "peak") designed a logo of a mountain in a circle, signed a distribution agreement, printed a group of books, sold them, and the company was launched early in 1981. Some of the early books included movie tie-ins and cartoon books for Dell and Simon & Schuster, as well as packaging books for Pocket/Wallaby (featuring such authors as Andre Norton, Roger Zelazny, and Alfred Bester).

Tor debuted in the science fiction field in the March 1981 issue of Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field, with a full-page advertisement of Poul Anderson's The Psychotechnic League, lavishly illustrated by Vincent DiFate. By May, the publisher's ads featured the phrase: "Tor Books: We're Part of the Future." The company would quickly establish its place in SF publishing history with early titles such as Norton's Forerunner; Fred Saberhagen's Water of Thought, The Best of Berserkers, and Earth Descended; Poul Anderson's Winners, New America, Starship, Explorations, The Psychotechnic League: Cold Victory, The Gods Laughed, Fantasy, Conflict, and Guardians of Time; Keith Laumer's The Breaking Earth, Beyond the Imperium, The Other Sky, and The House in November; Harry Harrison's Planet of No Return and Planet of the Damned; Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen's Coils; Steve Barnes and Larry Niven's Belial; Gordon R. Dickson and Ben Bova's Gremlins Go Home!; Philip José Farmer's Father to the Stars, Greatheart Silver, Stations of the Nightmare, The Purple Book, The Other Log of Phineas Fogg, and The Cache; and C. M. Kornbluth's Not This August.

In the beginning, Tor published mostly rack-sized paperback science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural horror, with some westerns, historicals, mysteries, and thrillers thrown into the mix. That year, the company picked up a Nebula Award for Best Novel for The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe and his The Shadow of the Torturer won Best Novel World Fantasy Award.

In the mid-1980s, the company began publishing hardcovers, which were distributed by St. Martin's Press (SMP). Titles during the mid-1980s included Poul Anderson's Dialogue with Darkness, Maurai & Kith, Past Times, Time Patrolman, and The Long Night; Norton's Forerunner: The Second Venture; the first two volumes of Norton and Robert Adams's five Magic in Ithkar anthologies; and Norton and A. C. Crispin's Gryphon's Eyrie. Awards during that time included The Prometheus Award for The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith (1982) and the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (1985). Other products during the mid-1980s included such computer games as Fred Saberhagen's Berserker and Larry Niven and Steven Barnes's Inferno, plus a computer version of the I Ching, packaged for Apple, TRS-80, and IBM computers, developed in conjunction with Pinnacle and Warner (owner of Atari).

St. Martin's Press, 1986

Macmillan Publishers Ltd. (Macmillan U.K.) was until recently a privately held British company owned by the Macmillan family (the same family that produced a British prime minister), consisting of several British divisions, including Pan Books, Picador, Macmillan General Books, Pan Macmillan Australia, Macmillan Magazines Ltd., and Nature magazine, among others. Macmillan U.K. used to own American Macmillan, but that company was sold to a U.S. owner in 1950 and now has no connection to the British company. At one point, American Macmillan was part of the British-owned Maxwell Communications Group and was eventually purchased by Simon & Schuster.

Because the idea of owning an American publishing company was still attractive, in the mid-1950s Macmillan U.K. started another company in the United States called St. Martin's Press (named so because, at the time, Macmillan Publishers Ltd. was headquartered on St. Martin's Street in London).

In 1986, Doherty sold his company to SMP, and TDA/Tor Books became a division of the larger company, at that time one of the ten largest book publishers in the United States, featuring a broad range of books, from fiction and biography to mysteries and cookbooks, including bestsellers such as Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris; All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriott; and Will, by G. Gordon Liddy, among others. SMP also included divisions such as St. Martin's Press Scholarly and Reference Division and The Stonewall Inn imprint (a trade paperback line founded at SMP in 1987 by then-editor Michael Denneny and the only gay/lesbian imprint at a major publishing house in 1998); and distributed books by companies including Rodale Books and Rizzoli.

TDA titles which won recognition that year included the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Science Fiction Chronicle (SFC) Reader Award for Best Novel for Card's Ender's Game and the Nebula Award for Best Novel for his Speaker for the Dead; as well as the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for Dan Simmons's Song of Kali.

Titles in 1987 included Poul Anderson's The Enemy Stars. Awards won in 1987 included a Hugo for Best Novel and Locus for Best SF Novel for Card's Speaker for the Dead; a Nebula for Pat Murphy's The Falling Woman; a Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel for Wolfe's Soldier of the Mist; SFC Award for Best Editor (David Hartwell). The following year brought a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology for Hartwell's The Dark Descent; a Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel for Card's Seventh Son; SFC Awards for Best Novel (Wolfe's The Urth of the New Sun) and Hartwell picked up Best Editor the second year in a row. That year also marked the beginning of Tor's reign as Best Publisher in the Locus Awards, which it held every year through at least 1997, with titles including Anderson/Greenberg/Waugh's Space Wars and Norton's Moon Mirror and Tales of the Witch World 2.

In 1989, Storeys from the Old Hotel by Gene Wolfe won the Best Collection World Fantasy Award; Red Prophet by Card picked up the Locus Best Fantasy Novel Award; and Moon of Ice by Brad Linaweaver picked up the Prometheus Award. Other titles included Poul Anderson's No Truce with Kings and Saturn Game; Fritz Leiber's Ship of Shadows; and Norton's Dare to Go A-Hunting and Four from the Witch World. In 1990, Card's Prentice Alvin won the Best Fantasy Novel Locus Award; Subterranean Gallery by Richard Paul Russo won The Philip K. Dick Memorial Award; The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman was awarded The John W. Campbell Memorial Award and The Arthur C. Clarke Award; and SFC bestowed the Best Editor Award on Beth Meacham. Other titles that year included Poul Anderson's The Shield of Time; Farmer's Dayworld Breakup; Norton's Tales of the Witch World 3; and Norton/Robert Bloch's The Jekyll Legacy.

By 1991, the company was publishing more than 200 hardcovers and paperbacks a year. More recognition came to TDA books as well, with Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner winning The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and Best Novel in the World Fantasy Awards; Card's Maps in a Mirror winning Best Collection in the Locus Awards; Gwyneth Jones's White Queen winning The James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award; Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson picking up The John W. Campbell Memorial Award; and The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson winning Best SF Novel in The Lambda Literary Awards.

Baen was offered the chance by Pocket Books to start his own science fiction line to replace the canceled Timescape line. So, with the help of investors including Doherty, Baen left Tor and created Baen Books.

Orb Books, 1992

As the list of new titles increased, it became more and more difficult to keep older titles (the publisher's "backlist") in print. In 1992, TDA created the Orb Books imprint in response to persistent complaints from readers and booksellers that some of their favorite science fiction and fantasy backlist titles were no longer available. Some of the books chosen for the Orb list have included previously published Tor mass market editions such as Murphy's Nebula Award-winning The Falling Woman; Jones's Tiptree Award-winning White Queen; Kim Stanley Robinson's acclaimed "Three Californias" trilogy; Storm Constantine's "Wraeththu" novels; Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's A Candle for D'Artagnan; Bruce McAllister's Dream Baby; and Michael Bishop's Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas. The Orb list has also included new editions of books previously issued by other publishers, such as Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" sequence; Charles de Lint's contemporary fantasy novels Greenmantle and Moonheart; Jack Vance's "Planet of Adventure" series; Kenneth Morris's rediscovered fantasy masterpiece The Chalchiuhite Dragon; A. E. van Vogt's classic novel Slan; Jack Williamson's The Humanoids; and Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. New accolades included China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh winning the Tiptree Award and the IAFA/Crawford Award going to Flying in Place by Susan Palwick.

Forge Books, 1993

The percentage of non-SF "mainstream" titles (nonfiction, thrillers, suspense, mystery, historicals, westerns, romance, etc.) in the Tor list continued to grow. By 1993, over half the list was non-SF. Because the Tor Books name had become strongly identified with SF and fantasy, however, TDA decided to create a new imprint to better market these mainstream titles and Forge Books (replete with a logo of a flaming anvil) was born.

The first Forge title, Paul Erdman's Zero Coupon, a financial thriller, was published in the fall of 1993. At first the imprint was only used on hardcovers but, in 1994, it began appearing on paperbacks as well. Among the books that have appeared under the Forge imprint are Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's New York Times bestselling thriller Relic; the mainstream historical novels of Judith Tarr; and Sharan Newman's medieval mystery The Wandering Arm.

In 1993, Tor featured Greg Costikyan's novel By the Sword, which he originally wrote as a 26-installment science fiction story released on Prodigy as a weekly serial. More TDA books picked up awards that year, with McHugh's China Mountain Zhang receiving a Locus Award for Best First Novel and a Lambda Literary Award for Best SF Novel; mathematician Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep garnering the Hugo Award and an SFC Award for Best Novel; Jack Womack's Elvissey winning The Philip K. Dick Memorial Award; Meacham receiving another SFC Best Editor Award; and Jane Yolen's Briar Rose claiming The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. The following year saw Greg Bear's Moving Mars winning a Nebula and an SFC Award for Best Novel; Meacham meriting another SFC Award as Best Book Editor; Jonathan Lethem's Gun, with Occasional Music winning The IAFA/Crawford Award; and L. Neil Smith's Pallas taking home The Prometheus.

Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, 1995

In April 1995, Stuttgart-based media giant Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH (The Holtzbrinck Publishing Group), acquired a majority interest in Macmillan U.K., with the Macmillan family remaining minority shareholders. The German family-owned publishing empire, founded in 1971 by von Holtzbrinck patriarch Georg, already owned several trade, academic, and business-oriented publishing operations on both sides of the Atlantic, in addition to several German book publishing houses (including fiction, nonfiction, school books, textbooks, specialist books, professional information publications, and science publications); weekly and daily newspapers and periodicals, including Scientific American magazine; printers; television, radio, and multimedia companies; and the publishing houses Henry Holt & Company Inc.

Holtzbrinck split Tom Doherty Associates Inc. off from St. Martin's Press and it became an independent company within the German empire. More awards followed in 1995, with Lethem's Gun, with Occasional Music picking up the Best First Novel Locus Award; Hartwell getting SFC's Best Book Editor Award; The Lambda Literary Award for Best SF Novel going to Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott; and The Prometheus to Poul Anderson's The Stars Are Also Fire. Similarly, in 1996 a World Fantasy Award went to The Prestige by Christopher Priest for Best Novel; Locus Awards to Alvin Journeyman by Card for Best Fantasy Novel and Expiration Date by Tim Powers for Best Dark Fantasy Novel; an SFC Award to Patrick Nielsen Hayden for Best Book Editor; The IAFA/Crawford Award to Canadian author Candas Jane Dorsey's Black Wine; The Lambda Literary Award to Shadow Man by Melissa Scott for Best SF Novel; and The Compton N. Crook Memorial Award to Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle. In 1997 a Hugo for Best Novelette went to "Bicycle Repairman" by Bruce Sterling, from Intersections; a Nebula for Best Short Story to "Sister Emily's Lightship" by Jane Yolen, from Starlight 1; a World Fantasy Award to The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye by Lethem for Best Collection and to Starlight 1, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, for Best Anthology; a Locus Award to Whiteout by Sage Walker as Best First Novel; The Tiptree Memorial Award to Black Wine by Dorsey; and The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for The Wood Wife by Terri Windling.

Also that year, Tor cashed in on the popularity of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with three full-color illustrated tie-ins to the film (The Movie Storybook, a "Behind-the-Scenes-Look" Scrapbook, and Adventure on Phaedos).

In 1998, Random House Inc., including its many subsidiaries (The Ballantine Publishing Group--Ballantine Books, Del Rey Books, Fawcett Books, Ivy Books, One World, House of Collectibles&mdash well as Ballantine Doubleday Dell and others) was picked up by Bertelsmann, putting nearly half of American publishing in the hands of two German media companies.

By that time, TDA was publishing annually what was arguably the largest and most diverse line of SF and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher, with 1998 titles including works by TDA's early authors Poul Anderson, Andre Norton, Fred Saberhagen, Harry Harrison, Orson Scott Card, Fritz Leiber, Gordon R. Dickson, Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and L. Neil Smith, among others. Other notable titles included Robert Jordan's bestselling epic "Wheel of Time" series; Tim Powers's award-winning Earthquake Weather; and physicist Robert L. Forward's Saturn Rukh, as well as numerous other books by a list of authors that read like a veritable Who's Who of great SF, fantasy, and horror.

Tor and Forge titles were distributed to the trade in the United States by former parent company St. Martin's Press; in Canada by H.B. Fenn and Company Ltd. (one of the top ten trade book suppliers in Canada); to the wholesale side of the book business by Hearst ICD; and elsewhere in the English-speaking world by Pan Macmillan. Nearing its third decade of operations, Tom Doherty's visionary company continued to forge ahead to a new tor in publishing.

Principal Divisions: Forge Books; Orb Books; Tor Books.

Further Reading:

  • "Baen Quits Ace; Allison New Editor," Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field, September 1980, p. 1.
  • "Doherty Expands SF Publishing Line," Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field, January 1983, p. 1.
  • "Doherty Starts New Paperback SF Line," Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field, August 1980, p. 3.
  • Feldman, Gayle, "Picador About to Enter the American Arena; St. Martin's Launching U.S. Version of U.K. 'Literary' Imprint in January," Publishers Weekly, May 9, 1994, p. 26.
  • Milliot, Jim, "Sargent, Grisebach Rise at Von Holtzbrinck," Publishers Weekly, February 2, 1998, p. 16.
  • Nathan, Paul, "Short Subjects," Publishers Weekly, July 10, 1995, p. 17.
  • Pedersen, Martin, "Serial from Prodigy to Be Hardcover Book," Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1993, p. 18.
  • Reid, Calvin, "Tor Hires Extra Reps with Money Saved by Skipping ABA Convention," Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1991, p. 16.
  • Reilly, Patrick, "Steamy, Far-Out Tale of Publishers Who Made It Big; Romance Formula Sold by the Cover; Salesman's Savvy from Alien Sources," Crain's New York Business, June 23, 1986, p. 3.
  • "TDA Opens Offices," Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field, October 1980, p. 3.
  • "Tor/Forge Loses Age Bias Lawsuit," Publishers Weekly, April 1, 1996, p. 12.
  • "A Wizard in Midgard," Publishers Weekly, May 11, 1998, p. 55.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 25. St. James Press, 1999.