“I like knowing that despite the fact that there is so much to learn about publishing, there are also so many people and so many informative books willing to help me learn what I need to know.
Why did you become a book publisher? Although the story of my mother's life is an intensely American story, it is a story that will strike a chord with people all over the world. By creating a small press, I will be able to do justice to the book I envision. Writing for the market as described by the traditional publishers doesn't interest me. I agree with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, we artists create the market with our work. This story needs to be launched; I became a book publisher to do that. Also, I wanted to create a community-nurturing organization that centered on my interests. The company is named after Ida B.Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), the African-American civil rights worker most well-known for her anti-lynching campaigns. However, she was also a suffragette, a cofounder of the NAACP, and founder of the Negro Fellowship League. It filled the void left by the YMCA's refusal to admit black members. The company intends to live up to the spirit of Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
What do you like best about publishing? I like knowing that despite the fact that there is so much to learn about publishing, there are also so many people and so many informative books willing to help me learn what I need to know. And I am sparked with delight to work with so many creative colleagues. They are helping me make The Extraordinary Life of an ORDINARY Woman: Josephine Ebaugh Jones the best written and best produced book I possibly can.
What do you publish? Right now, I have two books of my own that I will be publishing. After that, Ida Bell Publishing, L L C will open the door to other writers. The focus will be on quality nonfiction, literary fiction, and children's books. I'm especially interested in the stories of people of color, all women, and new immigrants. In addition, Ida Bell Publishing, L L C will donate 10% of all profits to educational nonprofit organizations such as schools, libraries, literacy and reading programs. All writers will be asked if they too, would like to donate 10% of their book profits to their favorite causes.
What is the most effective form of marketing for your press? So far, it has been selling (as a fundraiser for my spiritual community) and giving away (to friends and neighbors) excerpts of the book. People I know have given it to people I don't know and all of them have given me comments and suggestions for improvements. Because of one comment from two readers and a specific suggestion from a sister friend, a tenth revision unearthed golden nuggets that made the book so much better. The most effective form of promotion is first making sure you have a good story that is well written. Now everyone is asking when the book will be published.
How do you define a successful title? Chinua Achebe, the late Nigerian writer, said that he sent his first book, Things Fall Apart, into the world not knowing if anyone would like it. He received letters of praise from all over the world. But he especially liked a letter of thanks from a class of Korean high school girls. They all told him how much the book meant to them. An emotionally rich story should connect with people as different as a 22-year-old Georgian (formerly part of the Soviet Union) male college student and a 45-year-old Haitian-American widow with two children who works as a caretaker for senior citizens. The book I am publishing now does that.
Tell us about one of your titles about which you are especially proud. The Extraordinary Life of an ORDINARY Woman: Josephine Ebaugh Jones tells the story of an amazing woman. In the 1960s, my mother, a sharecropper's daughter from South Carolina, became, as far as I've been able to discover, the first black woman in management at a Fortune 500 company, then Standard Brands in New York City, now known as Kraft Foods in the United States. She raised me as a single parent after her marriage fell apart. By working three jobs, my mother was able to send me to Dalton, a private school in New York City. I went on to graduate from Yale University with a B.A. and earn an M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University. It is told in her voice with my voice interweaving with historical context and clarification. Josephine's story is an American story, a Great Migration story, a New York story, a black family's story, a mother-daughter story, and the story of a woman's fight for creativity in the workplace. Truly a life story worth telling.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving success? My biggest challenge in achieving success has been starting a small press in the first place. I resisted it mightily. Clearly, I had neither the time, the expertise, nor the money to do this. But here I am. I used to joke about starting some version of Hogarth press (the small press started by Virginia Woolf to publish herself and her friends) so I could get my talented in-laws to write something. Be careful what you joke about. I just started in May, so I haven't been around long enough to have many other challenges. However, I'm sure I will get over them, under them, around them, or through them. I am determined to succeed.
What advice do you have for newcomers to book publishing?
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How will you and your company be positioned in five years? The company will have published two of my books: the book on my mother's life and a children's book. We will be pushing another writer's book out the door, while I continue to work on my novel. In addition, Ida Bell Publishing, L L C, will have donated money to our local library, our local elementary school, and will have begun growing readers and writers for the future. We will have established our Circles of Readers (book clubs for children ages 5 to 18 separated by age and interests),and Circles of Writers (creative writing classes for children 8 to 18 separated by age and interests). We will publish quality books written by members of the Circles of Writers.
When you're not fully immersed in publishing, what do you do for fun? I read, write, cook, dance, sing (mostly in the shower), volunteer for too many community organizations, am active with my spiritual community, have scintillating discussions (that often result in laughter) with my life partner, talk too long to friends on the phone, garden, visit my mother, and try to stay somewhat sane while co-parenting a teenage son.
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