Growing up, Rudy Shur forced himself to read. He would slowly, repeatedly read passages until they made sense. Shur wrote the names of books he'd read on a bookmark he still keeps. It was a point of pride.
But it wasn't until he was nearly 30 that Shur discovered while watching "60 Minutes" that his struggles with reading were because he was dyslexic.
The discipline that came from forcing himself to read set him on a path that would serve him well as an entrepreneur. Despite battles with reading, his life revolved around books. He worked as a salesman selling textbooks to colleges and later as an associate editor at William C. Brown Publishing Co.
In 1976, he started Avery Publishing Group in the basement of his home in Garden City Park. Avery became such a player in alternative health that it was snapped up by the Penguin Group in 1999. Shortly thereafter, Shur started over and aptly named his company Square One Publishers.
More than a decade later, the company that specializes in books on cooking, parenting, business and personal finance, self-help, history and alternative health has been named one of the 10 fastest-growing indie book publishers in North America by Publishers Weekly for six years in a row. Square One asked that it be removed from the category so others would have a chance to be recognized.
How has the emergence of e-books impacted your business?
I benefit. E-books take what we publish and give it a form that's more accessible for those who want it that way. Publishers like me won't disappear. Paper books may shrink, but the growth in e-books will make up for it.
What's your strategy for standing out from the competition?
We have no competition. Large companies focus on the same market. They look at each other to see what's selling well, they have a herd mentality. I produce books that answer questions, that fill needs. We're independent and can take on books that are more interesting, such as the memoir "Taking Woodstock" [by Elliot Tiber and Tom Monte] that was made into a movie from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee.
To what do you attribute your success?
We sell in venues beyond bookstores, based on a book's topic. We also pay attention to visuals. A book has to look a certain way, the paper has to be high quality. A book should be accessible. I don't mean that it's dumbed down. The smartest people will read it and appreciate it, as will someone like me, who has to fight to understand. . . . I have great people. I have one employee who started with me in my basement more than 35 years ago, and others who have been with me 20-30 years, as well as great new people.
Reading is a challenge, but books are central to your life. Explain?
The thing that tries to beat you down makes you strong. There are a number of dyslexic publishers.
I collect posters. I enjoy finding them, restoring them. I've gone to Europe and found gems in weird places like grocery stores.
Name: Rudy Shur, founder and publisher of Square One Publishers
Headquarters: Garden City Park
What company does: book publishing
Employees: 20 total, including three in Florida and one in upstate New York
Roles they play: Editing, art, rights and permissions, special sales, business and warehousing
Revenue: $7.2 million