Cleveland Landmarks Press co-founder reflects on publishing journey

by Laura Bednar

When Dan Cook’s lifelong friend Jim Toman said he wanted to leave a legacy, Cook drew from his publishing background to help him achieve his goal.

Cook, a 50-year Independence resident, is the co-founder of Cleveland Landmarks Press, a publishing company that produces books about Cleveland’s landmarks and key events. It was founded in 1980 and still produces books today, 44 years later.

Cook said Toman never married or had children and wanted to leave a legacy by writing a book about Cleveland.

“He had no idea how to get a publisher, but I had graphics friends in Cleveland from my days working at ad agencies,” said Cook.

He told Toman that if he did the research, the two would write the book together and he would use his connections in advertising to get it published. Cook said he didn’t think Toman would follow through, but when Toman showed up at his house with a box full of information on Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, Cook realized he had to hold up his end of the bargain.

Cook and Toman attended Fenn College, which became Cleveland State University. Cook majored in marketing, Toman in English. The college was a co-op school at the time, in which students alternated attending classes and working for three months at a time. Cook performed ad agency work through his co-op.

He started his career as a research manager for the trade magazine “Machine Design,” and then worked at an advertising agency called Carr Liggett. He was then recruited to work as a salesman for “Industrial Equipment News” magazine.

Cook said his boss said he wouldn’t last at the magazine more than two years before moving on to something bigger.

“Almost two years to the day, I was offered the regional manager position for ‘Chemical and Engineering News,’” he said. That was followed by another sales position with “Plastics Technology” magazine.

One of Cook’s notable accomplishments was becoming the publisher for auto parts magazine “Counterman” through Babcox Media. The magazine wasn’t doing well, so Cook included a postcard in the magazine asking customers to mark which auto-related magazine they liked best.

“We blew everyone away,” he said. “‘Counterman’ got 41%.”

Advertising increased based on the magazine’s popularity, and Cook created a sweepstakes promotion, bolstering the magazine’s success. “Counterman” is still published today.

He wrapped up his career as the publisher for three other trade publications through Babcox.

It was in addition to his full-time jobs that Cook co-wrote Cleveland-centric books with Toman, the first of which was “The Terminal Tower Complex,” celebrating the landmark’s golden anniversary.

“I went to area bookstores because I thought there was a market for Cleveland books; they had almost nothing,” Cook said.

E.S. Advertising did the typesetting and book printing and a manager at Higbee’s department store advised Cook on price markups.

“We ordered 2,000,” said Cook. “It seemed like a good number after talking with booksellers, and it was all we could afford.”

Cook promoted the book and subsequent publications through write-ups in The Plain Dealer and Cleveland Magazine. When it came to television and radio, “they couldn’t wait to get us,” said Cook, noting the stations needed to fill time. He did interviews on Cleveland morning shows, with The City Club of Cleveland and with journalist Dorothy Fuldheim.

Toman and Cook went on to write four other books covering topics like the Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the Cleveland skyline and the Terminal Tower’s 75th anniversary.

The Major League Baseball All Star game was held in 1981, the same year the book on Cleveland Municipal Stadium came out. Cook said the marketing manager for the Art Modell Corporation, which owned the stadium, said he’d buy 920 off the bat.

While putting the book together at Toman’s house, they realized there was an empty section in the middle of the book. Lucky for them, the Cleveland Indians game was on television and Len Barker was in the process of pitching a perfect game. “We got his photo the next day,” said Cook.

A copy of the book is featured in the research area of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

The Terminal Tower used to open its observation deck to the public, and Cook recalled selling books with Toman at the top of the building and answering people’s questions about what they saw from the vantage point.

Cook eventually stopped co-writing books, but remained present as an advisor. Toman was pitching a book on the history of the Higbee Company building downtown and the casino that had taken up residence in it. Cook told Toman not to dwell on the early history of Higbee’s in the pitch. “You have to move it along,” Cook said. “And if you don’t, I’m going to kick you.”

Sure enough, Cook gave Toman a hard kick under the table when he lingered on the early chapters. The casino representatives liked the book, and 5,200 copies were sold for $10 a book.

Cook said his late wife and family were supportive of him working with the press, even though it took up his time.

“The kids loved their ‘Uncle Jimmy,’” he said. Cook has three kids, two of whom live in Independence, and six grandchildren.

Cook said in order to copyright a book, you have to send two copies to the Library of Congress and all of the Cleveland Landmarks Press books now reside in that library.

Other local authors sought out the press to have their Cleveland-centric books published. “I think they were more interested in writing a book than making a lot of money,” said Cook.

Greg Deegan became a partner with the press in 1997 and has carried it forward after Cook sold his shares and after Toman died in 2016. Before Toman’s death, Deegan and Toman started a foundation through the press to support the work of nonprofits, preserve Cleveland history and support Cleveland residents engaging in neighborhood and community improvement projects.

Deegan said Cleveland Landmarks Press is in the process of merging with the foundation. He explained that books will still be published under the CLP name, but the funds will now go towards the foundation, which, to date, has over $500,000. ∞

Dan Cook (l) and Jim Toman started
Cleveland Landmarks Press in 1980.
Photo from

Photo (main / above): Dan Cook, co-founder of Cleveland Landmarks Press, is a 50-year resident of Independence. Photo by Laura Bednar.