“Wonderfully talented writers abound, but not all writers fit into today’s formulaic publishing models, nor are all writers willing to bend their stories to fit the constraints of a particular commercial genre. We think they shouldn’t have to, any more than a sculptor or painter should be told how to create.”
Why did you become a book publisher? Wonderfully talented writers abound, but not all writers fit into today's formulaic publishing models, nor are all writers willing to bend their stories to fit the constraints of a particular commercial genre. We think they shouldn't have to, any more than a sculptor or painter should be told how to create. Many fantastic stories out there aren't being read, either because they don't fit the "cookie cutter" word count figures that have become industry standards, or because the story might not be what happens to be "hot" for the book market at any given time. Our goal is to resurrect a focus on the story itself, not whether or not a particular book will sell to the mass market. In this way, we set out to create a different kind of publishing company: one that is free from the constraints of the corporate publishing world.
What do you like best about publishing? Finding stories that make a difference, regardless of the size of the author's platform or the mass market appeal. We like to think of ourselves as treasure hunters!
What do you publish? We publish books for children (Splashing Cow); books for women (Blue Boot); and books in any other genres that catch our fancy (Yellow Dot)!
What is the most effective form of marketing for your press? Word of mouth. We aren't able to mass market advertise, so we focus on quality and trust that word will spread. We are still very small, but word is spreading.
How do you define a successful title? When a story is told as effectively as possible. Don't get me wrong, we want to sell as many books as possible. But our measure of success isn't ultimately a financial one. Our measure is a quality and effectiveness of storytelling. Books that succeed in that way will, we believe, sell.
Tell us about one of your titles about which you are especially proud. An author came to us with a story that was bursting with potential, but unpolished. It was a true fixer upper. The story had amazing potential, but one that agents & publishers would easily ignore. The story, called Jack's Tales, introduces boys to the importance of expressing their feelings, which is an exciting and important premise in its own right. This particular book was also written specifically for reluctant readers, an incredibly critical demographic to reach. Like a champion coach, the author (Jim Westcott) worked tirelessly to unveil and re-construct the full potential of the story before him. Jack's Tales has now blossomed into a truly fantastic book for 8-10 year old boys who have not yet expressed an interest in reading. His book launch in February was an enormous success, but the true success is the way the story has been told, which will effectively engage a world of reluctant readers, and their ability to express their feelings, for years to come.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving success? Distinguishing ourselves in a crowded market, for sure. It's easy to print books that no one will ever read, because the market is so flooded and the competition so fierce. But publishers don't survive very long if no one reads their books! So, we need to be as creative as possible in the ways we market our books to targeted audiences.
What advice do you have for newcomers to book publishing? Do not be afraid to go against the tide. None of our titles are available on Amazon, for example. Some people thought I was crazy when we made that decision, but it has made all the difference for us. Just because everyone and their dog sells on Amazon, doesn't mean it's in the best interest of booksellers, authors and publishers. That decision has led to the creation of our distribution company, DartFrog, which distributes exclusively to independent bookstores. The titles that we distribute through DartFrog are not available on Amazon, and in this way bookstores that stock DartFrog titles can gain a competitive advantage over Amazon (DartFrog titles are not susceptible to the "showrooming" that so many others are). Authors and small press publishers too, who are used to ridiculously low royalties from Amazon sales, gain by distributing through DartFrog, who can provide higher royalties and a direct pipeline to independent bookstores. All of this from a willingness to be different.
How will you and your company be positioned in five years? From a distributor perspective, I hope that DartFrog will be the preferred distributor for authors and small press publishers who recognize the pitfalls of selling through Amazon and want a direct connection to independent bookstores. In the same way, I hope that DartFrog becomes a partner with every independent bookstore in the United States, who recognize that distributors who sell to both Amazon and independent bookstores, are ultimately undercutting the independent bookstores to whom they sell. For the publishing company perspective, I hope that we continue to find great storytellers. I know they are out there!
When you're not fully immersed in publishing, what do you do for fun? Living in Vermont, I have the opportunity to play hockey and ski, both of which I do weekly in the winter months. But the greatest fun is getting out with my family to explore a new place. Whether it be down the road or across the country, we love discovering the many different vest pockets of wonderfulness that our country has to offer.
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