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IBPA Member Spotlight: Wendy Jones

Thursday, October 11, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Christopher Locke
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An Anonymous Sponsor Is Moved to Donate Wendy Jones’ Book to Libraries
Ida Bell Publishing Founder Wendy Jones' Book, An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones, was donated to libraries by an anonymous donor

As any author publisher can tell you, one of the greatest gifts you can imagine is to have your work truly move someone. IBPA member Wendy Jones experienced that and more with her book, An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones—a biography about her mother’s many accomplishments.

After an anonymous sponsor read Wendy’s book (this person prefers to remain anonymous, so they will be referred to as “anonymous sponsor” in this article), they created a library donation memorial program in which they donate copies of An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones to libraries, and in each of those books the sponsor inserts a dedication plate in honor of the sponsor’s mother.

“I was touched that this anonymous sponsor was so warmly supportive of the book,” said Wendy. “Especially heartwarming was what the anonymous sponsor said about the dedication plate to honor the sponsor’s mother: ‘I’m taking care of two things at the same time.’ That is, that both of our mothers are being honored by the donation.”

Not only is the book being donated to libraries, but specifically libraries in low-income, working class, and black neighborhoods in New Jersey. This was especially meaningful to Wendy. “All of these groups are part of one of the book’s core audiences. My mother was part of the Great Migration, the mass movement by African Americans from southern cities and towns to major cities in the north and west of the United States.

An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones by Wendy Jones

“Her story rhymes with the story of all oppressed people who leave their birthplaces in search of a better life. Whether your journey began in Vietnam, Russia, Nigeria, El Salvador, or communist Poland, you have something in common with my mother. Despite racial, gender, and class discrimination, marital difficulties, and family burdens, Josephine E. Jones had a vibrant and successful life. In 1967, she may have been one of the first black women in management at a Fortune 500 company. In addition, she was a Harlem activist who, as a single parent, worked three jobs so I could receive my education from Dalton, Yale University, and Columbia University.”

The anonymous sponsor was one of twenty-four that Wendy is grateful to have (read the explanation below of how Wendy was able to garner so many dedicated sponsors). “Sponsors have given me promotional ideas, done their own book promotion campaigns, made suggestions about changes for the second printing, hosted me during the Austin, Texas IBPA Publishing University conference, and lifted my spirits with their encouragement and joy at the book's success. I feel warmly embraced.”

It was a long journey to getting this book published. Wendy started writing it in 1993, and then after some initial frustration during her search for an agent and a publisher, Wendy decided to take matters into her own hands and start Ida Bell Publishing in 2015 to publish An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones. She explains, “I do intend to publish other people’s books after I publish one more of my own. It is a children's book about what happens when a nine-year-old girl makes her first cake.”

You can meet Wendy at one of her upcoming speaking engagements:

  • Oct. 13 - Indie Authors’ Day at Springfield Public Library in Springfield, NJ
  • Nov. 1 - (Really Good) Book Discussion Group at Springfield Public Library in Springfield, NJ
  • Oct. 20 - Indie Authors' Day at Elizabeth Public Library in Elizabeth, NJ

Four Questions with Ida Bell Publishing Founder Wendy Jones

IBPA: Can you list three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?

Wendy Jones (WJ):

  1. Don't take anybody's recommendation for production vendors without doing your own research. The printer I intended to use only for the galleys compounded a mistake I had made with one of its own, so I ended up missing a deadline for print media publicity. Without doing my own research, I had accepted the recommendation of two stellar sources. The second printer, whom I knew much more about since he had done a fellow writer’s book, ended up doing the galleys and the finished copies and did excellent work.

  2. Don't be afraid to ask questions, but take notes so you won't have to ask again. My illustrator and copy editor both confirmed my researched understanding of the production process.

  3. Save and raise as much money as you can for promotion. $10,000 if you can, but at least $6,000. I hired a publicist, but she had to switch to a less effective social media strategy because of the missed deadline.

I raised a little over $3,000 (without Kickstarter, I didn’t want to pay the fees) to keep her for another three months. She was able to get some online publicity for the book.

IBPA: You recently participated in the IBPA Media Outreach Program, which landed you an article on BlackEnterprise.com. Can you explain how the article came about and your experience with the Media Outreach Program in general?

WJ: This promotion started September 12 and by September 17, the article was online. WOW!

This was a combination of the superb Black Enterprise journalist doing a quick turnaround on the writing and me giving her background newspaper and magazine articles on my mother within hours of her asking for them. I had them readily available because I am writing an article about my mother for blackpast.org, a black online encyclopedia (another sponsor suggested I might be interested in writing for this encyclopedia).

Lee [IBPA’s Director of Marketing and Programming] explained to me that I had to have a keyword that would be used to search the databases I had chosen: African American, Feminists, Educators, Students. We decided "Great Migration" would be the best choice.

So far, I have had six requests. I have sent four review copies out to two newspapers, one magazine, and a TV station.

IBPA: Can you give marketing tips to other indie publishers out there who are hoping to spread the word about their books?

WJ:

  • I agree with the advice given in an IBPA webinar: focus on no more than three groups who might be interested in your book. I had already done this and I think it is about all you can handle. Then figure out where they would be.

  • I don't think too much of social media because it's as crowded as Times Square on New Year's Eve.

  • Look for the side streets: special online interest groups that cater to your subject (genealogy, cooking, astronomy).

  • I am a member of aalbc.com (African American Literature Book Club). I set up an Author Profile there to send people to my website for information on book events. I share information about independent publishing with the writers’ group. Two book sales (and a reunion with a long-lost much-treasured mentee) have come directly from my involvement with this community.

  • Libraries—there are over 100,000 in the United States. Many libraries now have regional and geographic applications online. I have applied to the New York City, Queens, and Brooklyn library systems to place my book. Search in your home area and also in the area where the book takes place.

  • For any independent publishers out there, I recommend using Nextwave Web for printing needs. They did excellent work for me!

  • Look for holidays or National Days of (Roses, Horses, Constitution Day, etc.) that tie-in with your book and offer programs for those events. The birthday months of people who connect to your book (Ida B. Wells, Zora Neale Hurston, David Walker, Charlie Parker) would also work.

  • Start sending out program information to libraries and schools six months in advance. Decide on your policy. Will you charge libraries?  If so, find out what their usual rate is and agree to that. Schools and colleges have a budget for this, so again, find out what their usual rate is.

  • Indie Authors' Day is coming up in October (The anonymous sponsor researched this and told me about it last year—my home librarian didn't know about it. Now we do it every year). Get someone to videotape it or at least take a picture. Last year we had a short video, this year we'll have a picture to put on our respective websites.

  • At the suggestion of one of the other indie authors at Indie Authors’ Day, I have had bookmarks made that tie-in with the book. Recently, I gave one to a person interested in the book. It may be better than a business card because the book cover is on it. I will give them to everyone with a copy of the second printing of the book. I am also considering laminating copies (except for one sponsor who does not like plastic) for the 24 sponsors as a “thank you” gift.

  • Nurture your communities: readers, sponsors, writers and publisher’s groups. Think of ways you can help others in all your communities.

IBPA: It’s impressive that you were able to garner twenty-four sponsors to support the book (especially since you didn’t even do a crowdfunding campaign to do so). Can you explain how this came to be?

WJ: I have been writing this book since 1993. During that time, I did several readings of the work in progress at my spiritual community's Poets' Night. After the first year, I was co-chair with the member who started the Poets' Night, in which members would read poetry and excerpts from short stories that they had written.

All my friends in my other social spaces (I mean physical, not online) knew about and asked me about the book: the library book club, the political group I founded in 2014, and the garden club. Also, many of my friends knew and loved my mother and wanted to read this book about her life. So, after I had used up most of my budget for the book as we went into the publicity phase, one of my artist friends volunteered to help me create a fundraising video.

The video gave a summary of the book and explained what I had already done: hired and paid a developmental editor, a copy editor, and had 200 copies printed. I then asked for donations totaling $10,000—one-third for the publicist, one-third for printing more books, and one-third for an emergency fund. An excerpt from the book was also included. My website wasn't up yet or I would have sent that, too. I sent the video to everyone in my email box who had encouraged me while the book was being written. I did get enough for the publicist and was able to cover the rest of it without the additional funds.

One other note: I wanted the focus of the video to be on the book, so I did voiceover; and we used handwritten signs, the book cover, and pictures from the book to tell the story.

Those friends sent the video to other people who knew me or knew my mother. I always immediately sent emails thanking donors for their generous donations.

I knew I wouldn't have time do all those incentives for different levels of giving and I also did not want people to feel badly about the amount they could afford to give. Anyone who gave over the price of the book plus tax and shipping would get a signed-stamped (my hands have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel disorder, most of the book was written with voice recognition software) copy of the book with their name on the donors' list at the back of the book.

Two people missed the cut-off for the first printing. That's why I am sending them a copy of the second printing, which includes their names.

In terms of this article, it makes me feel really good to share any information that can help other publishers. So many people have helped me and continue to help me. I get a kick out of returning that help to others. The Oklahoma Woman's Club of the 19th Century had a motto: Lift as you climb. That says it all.

IBPA: Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your story with the IBPA community!


Click here to learn more about Ida Bell Publishing.

Share your own publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to christopher@ibpa-online.org. Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (you’re a cookbook author who won a national cooking competition), unique news (you wrote a book about cycling and now you’re riding a bike across the U.S. for your book tour), or human interest stories (you visit shelters every weekend to read books to the dogs and cats there).

Though launching a new book isn’t the focus of our Spotlights articles, IBPA is happy to share that exciting news on social media. Please contact christopher@ibpa-online.org with the launch date, your book cover, your book title, a link to where readers can learn more about your book, and your Twitter handle.

Whether you have news or not, all of us at IBPA are cheering you on!


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