Half Halt keeps steady publishing pace

April 08, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

BOONSBORO - Beth Carnes Burtner built her career on two fundamentals in her life - reading and riding.

The lifelong equestrian and book enthusiast owns Half Halt Press, a Boonsboro-based direct-mail company that publishes horse-related books. Burtner and her horseback-riding colleague, Jimmy Farber, have been publishing and distributing equine books together for more than a dozen years.

"I only know how to do two things - ride and make books," said Burtner, 49, who started English riding lessons as a child and competed for years in dressage competitions.

She left a successful career with a nonfiction publishing company and a national book distributor in 1986 to help fill what she perceived as a hole in the book market.


"As a serious horsewoman, I knew how disappointed I was looking for books that would make me a better equestrian," Burtner said.

Half Halt Press specializes in books about dressage, combined training, horse care and management, alternative therapies, rider fitness, driving and other reference-type topics for "serious recreational horse people," Burtner said.

Her company does not publish fiction, poetry, short stories or children's books, she said.

Half Halt Press has published titles by such notable equine authors as Max Gahwyler, Walter Zettl, Major Anders Lundgren, Sally O'Connor and Blyth Trait, according to the company's Web site at

"You develop a real relationship with your authors. They've really become my friends," said Burtner, who said she always consults her writers before making editorial changes. "I want my books to reflect the people who wrote them. That's important to me," she said.

Burtner published her first book, "The Making of a Dressage World Champion," out of her Gaithersburg, Md., home in 1987 before moving her growing business to Washington County.

"I don't have to be in New York City or another urban center," she said. "If you have a fax machine and an Internet connection, you can do your work anywhere."

Burtner's office window overlooks the sprawling pasture that is home to her pet goats and her donkey, Nelson. She boards her 10-year-old thoroughbred-quarter horse, Splendid Brooke, making time to ride whenever she can, she said.

But it isn't always easy to squeeze leisure time into her busy schedule.

Burtner and Farber handle all the responsibilities of a large publishing company on a smaller scale - and without all the resources of a big business, they said.

"We're never bored," Burtner said. "It's a tremendous amount of work."

She and Farber field all the publishing requests that come to them via e-mail, fax and postal service from around the globe. They receive at least four book proposals monthly, but accept only three to five proposals per year, Burtner said.

Half Halt Press now has 10 books in the works to be published by the end of next year, she said.

Burtner and Farber read manuscripts sent to them by authors whose book proposals were accepted, and employ "an army of free-lancers" to help them with proofreading, editing and graphic design, she said.

Printers worldwide then produce 3,000 to 5,000 copies of the polished manuscript in book form. The completed books are shipped to the Half Halt Press warehouse near Beaver Creek. Book orders received from the company's semi-annual catalogue and Internet site are shipped directly from the warehouse, Burtner said.

It takes 12 to 18 months to get a book on the market, she said.

Burtner and Farber also travel to trade shows and horsemanship clinics to market their products, they said.

Half Halt Press also buys the rights to equine books published in other languages, and sells the rights to some of its books for foreign-language publication. Burtner is especially proud to have sold two of Half Halt's titles to the renowned German National Equestrian Federation, which oversees the top-notch equestrian industry in that country.

"That was a big deal for us," she said.

Burtner in 2000 also purchased Black Horse Press, the company founded by the late equine artist Sam Savitt. Half Halt Press now sells Savitt's posters to horse lovers around the world, Burtner said.

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