IBPA Member Spotlight: Paul Dixon
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Posted by: Christopher Locke
IBPA Member Paul Dixon Gets Playful In His TEDxWilmingtonLive Talk
|IBPA Member and Papa Lemon Books co-founder, Paul Dixon, presents his TEDxWilmingtonLive Talk, Adults Let's Have Fun Playing With Your Favorite Childhood Toy.
Are we having enough fun as adults? That’s the thought-provoking question IBPA member Paul Dixon asks in his entertaining TEDxWilmingtonLive Talk, Adults Let’s Have Fun Playing With Your Favorite Childhood Toy. The TEDx Talk just went live in June and Paul is the perfect person to explore this topic about the world of toys.
Before Paul and his cousin, Lehman Riley, founded their independent publishing company, Papa Lemon Books, Paul worked for many years as a toy buyer at Target and in the Disney Toy Sales department at the Walt Disney Company. His experience in those jobs helped prepare him for his future publishing endeavor. “One of the things I learned being a Target Stores toy buyer for over eight years is that you never know what the hot toy will be, and trends change all of the time. Also, I dealt with a variety of vendors whose success took years to happen. Both points are applicable in the kids books world.”
|Lehman (left) and Paul (right) pose with two of their titles in The Adventures of Papa Lemon's Little Wanderers series.
Paul and Lehman started Papa Lemon Books in 2004 with a mission to “get youth excited about history and learning more about their family history by talking with their grandparents or elders in their family.” So far, they’ve published seven books in The Adventures of Papa Lemon’s Little Wanderers series, and it has led to many opportunities, including this TEDxWilmingtonLive Talk.
“I never planned on doing a TEDx Talk,” Paul explains. “I went to Steve Harrison's National Publicity Summit in New York City in late October 2017. You get a chance to pitch to a variety of media outlets at this event and most of my pitches were focused on Papa Lemon. A representative of TEDx Wilmington was at the event. I had begun the experiment of playing with my favorite toy for approximately ten minutes each morning on October 1. I thought this would be a good idea for a TEDx Talk, so I pitched him the idea. He liked it!! I submitted the online application a month later. In late March 2018, I received a letter stating I had been accepted to give a TEDx Talk!”
The TEDx Talk is a unique way to get the word out about Papa Lemon Books, which is just in time for their new title about bullying slated to publish this fall.
Three Questions for Papa Lemon Books’ Co-Founder Paul Dixon
IBPA: Some of our IBPA members are beginning their own publishing journeys, so can you share three key lessons you’ve learned about starting a publishing company?
Paul Dixon (PD):
1) Make sure you have a specific reason why you are starting your publishing company.
2) Your success—if that actually ever happens—will cost more and take longer than you think.
3) Do your research about the publishing business prior to starting your company. Visit bookstores, read books about publishing, attend publishing events, etc.
IBPA: In 2016, you left your career at the Walt Disney Company to work full time for your publishing company, Papa Lemon Books. There are a lot of authors out there (including some IBPA members) who work day jobs but dream of turning their writing careers into their full-time jobs. Do you have any advice for how to successfully make that transition?
PD: I would not advise anyone to quit their day job to start a publishing company!! I have a strong spiritual faith and was led by God to quit my six-figure Disney Toy Sales job and move to Los Angeles, even though I had never lived outside of Minnesota for all of my 52 years of life. I feel like the lead character, Santiago, in the book The Alchemist. My life is not being led by logic! However, if one is really spiritually connected, the guidance you receive will never fail you. In my twenty-two months of living in LA, there has not been any major success with the Papa Lemon Book business and let's just say my finances are challenging! However, I will find my "treasure" when the timing is right!
IBPA: You and Papa Lemon Books co-founder, Lehman Riley, are strong advocates for multicultural understanding and diversity, and your books champion these important issues. For our IBPA members looking to advocate for these same issues, have you encountered challenges in the publishing industry over addressing these issues in your books, and if so, how have you overcome those challenges?
PD: I have been in the Toy & Kids Book business since 1994. During this timeframe, I have rarely seen other African American males working in these industries. There are not enough racially-diverse decision makers. This has led to a lack on diversity in books for youth. [Papa Lemon Books] has had significant struggles in selling books featuring an African American male lead character. My logical business mind would never lead me to get in the business of publishing books featuring an African American male. The only reason Lehman and I are doing this is because God has guided us to do this and we really feel a positive African American grandpa helping all youth learn about history and their family history is needed. Faith and persistence has helped overcome these challenges.
Learn more about Papa Lemon Books here.
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