IBPA Member Spotlight: Finding My Way Books
Thursday, March 28, 2019
Posted by: Christopher Locke
Finding My Way Books Chosen for Reading Is Fundamental Program
|Finding My Way Book's team (left to right) author Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier, marketer MyaGrace Rentier, publisher and author Jo Meserve Mach, photographer and book designer Mary Birdsell.
“What a great day it was when it finally happened!” says Finding My Way Books Co-Founder and Publisher Jo Meserve Mach about having their books chosen by Reading Is Fundamental. “As a small independent company, it’s very, very difficult to get books into the mainstream educational market. Our books feature children with disabilities and we hope they become a part of elementary educational programs all over the country. We want them to help teach and promote inclusion. By having these books included as part of Reading Is Fundamental (the largest non-profit national organization focused on literacy), they are vetted for educators.”
Jo explains that it was a long road to being chosen by Reading Is Fundamental. “I first reached out to Reading Is Fundamental about two years ago. I connected with a product manager and she asked for book samples. She expressed interest in including all our titles in their new Literacy Central. We spent six months working on making this happen and then she left the position. I wasn’t able get any responses from other staff I attempted to contact. Then a year ago, following my presentation at a PBS educational program for educators, the Education Director suggested I contact Reading Is Fundamental. He was friends with the CEO. The CEO liked the information I sent her and connected me with the Reading Is Fundamental Content Officer. I sent new book samples which were of 12 books we had recently published through Brown Books Publishing Group. It took another nine months to actually get the titles up onto the Reading Is Fundamental website and I was extremely happy to have it finally work out!”
|Finding My Way Book's upcoming title, Cooper Wants to Help With Chores
The twelve books selected were originally published by Finding My Way Books, but a year ago, they redesigned the books and published them through hybrid publisher, Brown Books Publishing Group. Jo credits this move to being a major factor in the books being chosen by Reading Is Fundamental. “Brown Books Publishing Group’s ability to reach target markets for distribution is what is going to make it possible for us to reach schools.”
Finding My Way Books was founded by Jo, Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier, and Mary Birdsell in 2013, and their newest title, Cooper Wants to Help with Chores by Jo Meserve Mach and Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier will be coming out in April.
Three Questions with Finding My Way Books Co-Founder and Publisher Jo Meserve Mach
IBPA: Finding My Way Books honors children with disabilities by sharing their stories. Can you explain why this mission is important to you, and how you promote inclusive practices in education through your books?
Jo Meserve Mach (JM): The reason we started writing books was because we wanted to have children with disabilities be able to “see themselves” in books they might find at their library or school. Mary, Vera, and I all worked professionally with families who had a child with a disability and heard families share their concerns about their child not be included in their community. We believe that children’s literature is a great way to build community inclusion.
We promote inclusive practices in education by sharing true stories of inclusion. Our books aren’t about children with disabilities. They are stories about a fun activity which involves a child with a disability doing what is natural for any child to do. All our titles have several educational handouts for teachers to help educate students on the concept of inclusion and to promote students’ understanding that children with disabilities are, most importantly, children, just like them.
IBPA: Can you list three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?
- Don’t let your mistakes stop you from trying. We have done so many things incorrectly, used money in ways that didn’t help us, and just plowed forward anyway. You learn a lot from your mistakes.
- Follow every lead you see. I am always trying to connect with someone that might be interested in our books. 90% of the time I don’t get a response, but when I do, it is usually helpful.
- There is always something new to learn. I don’t even know what I don’t know but when I learn something new it is often amazing. There are a lot of wonderful ways to learn and the little tidbits you gather make a big difference.
IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of Independent Book Publishers Association?
JM: My membership has made a big difference in my journey. It has helped me become more confident and feel like I am a professional. I worked in such a different area previously that I had no idea what was involved in publishing. I felt very unsure for many years.
The financial benefits are helpful. I use the IngramSpark discounts all year round. The webinars are great. I’ve learned a lot and it’s so nice to always have a person to contact with a question.
IBPA: Thank you, Jo, for sharing your news with the IBPA community!
Click here to learn more about Finding My Way Books!
Share your own publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (such as, you’re a cookbook author who won a national cooking competition), unique news (such as, 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 (such as, you visit shelters every weekend to read books to the dogs and cats there).
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