IBPA Member Spotlight: Open Books Press
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Posted by: Christopher Locke
Open Books Press’ Book Subject Honored with Day Named After Her
|Author Judy Mundle (left) stands next to the honorary proclamation from the City of St. Louis at The Block Manager book launch event in the Missouri Botanical Garden. Gordon Koizumi (right), who is the son of the book’s subject, Janice Hattori Koizumi, holds a photo of Judy and his mother.
Janice Hattori Koizumi (the subject of IBPA member Open Books Press’ new title, The Block Manager: A True Story of Love in the Midst of Japanese American Internment Camps) received the unique honor recently of having the city of St. Louis name May 7, 2019, Janice Hattori Koizumi Day.
“We were thrilled that the mayor and the city chose to honor Janice Hattori Koizumi,” says Open Books Press Publisher Jennifer Geist. “The City of St. Louis factors heavily into Janice’s story. Many Japanese Americans who left Camp Rohwer and Camp Jerome after the war took trains to Chicago to start new lives. When the trains stopped in St. Louis, the recently-released Japanese Americans were overwhelmed to find that St. Louisans were waiting to welcome them, promising to help them find homes and jobs. Entire trains, including the one Janice’s family was on, chose to stay in St. Louis.”
The author of The Block Manager, Judy Mundle, is the one who reached out to the mayor of St. Louis directly to inquire about an honorary proclamation for the book launch event. For other independent publishers who might consider a similar idea, according to Jennifer “the St. Louis city government website has a form for citizens to submit a request for honorary proclamations. I know many cities have similar protocols for requesting an honorary proclamation.”
|Open Book Press' The Block Manager by Judy Mundle
The proclamation was announced at the launch party for the book in the Missouri Botanical Garden. Janice is 99-years-old and lives in Chicago, so she wasn’t able to attend the event in person, but she had family there. The event was also attended by over 200 people, an impressive number for a book launch. Jennifer shares her insight about how they were able to attain such high attendance: “I believe the number one reason we had such a successful book launch is that we had a dedicated author with a very supportive group of friends, family, and acquaintances who were able to help get the word out. It’s always easier to leverage existing contacts than it is to build new ones. Additionally, Janice, while in Chicago herself, still had a large number of friends and family in the St. Louis area.
“With regards to how we promoted the event: We created postcards that the author sent out to both personal contacts and media personnel, and we handed out at events and at the venue prior to the event. Speaking of the venue, it was perfect: the Missouri Botanical Garden is a mainstay of St. Louis, with many supportive members. We created a large poster that was displayed in the lobby leading up to the event, which captured the attention of regular Garden visitors.
“Additionally, we created a book launch landing page on our website and made event listings on sites such as Facebook, Eventbrite, Reddit, and many St. Louis–specific event calendars. We created a press release that we sent to St. Louis–area newspapers and radio stations. I had another speaking event the weekend before the event, where I mentioned the book and the upcoming launch event a few times and left flyers for St. Louis Writers Guild members to take. And we had support from the Japan America Society Women's Association in St. Louis, many of whom know Janice.”
Open Books Press has another nonfiction book coming out this summer: The Sweden File: Memoir of an American Expatriate, Second Edition by Bruce Stevens Proctor and Alan Robert Proctor.
Three Questions with Open Books Press Publisher Jennifer Geist
IBPA: Why was Open Books Press passionate about publishing a story about Japanese internment during WWII?
Jennifer Geist (JG): We at Open Books Press are passionate about sharing extraordinary stories about ordinary people; that is, relatable people who are able to survive and thrive through whatever comes their way. And I think we have a special place in our literary hearts for stories that celebrate peace, activism, and inner strength. We’ve published (or are publishing) memoirs about a man who realized the U.S. was targeting civilians during the Vietnam War and chose to defect to Sweden rather than support what he considered an immoral war (The Sweden File: Memoir of an American Expatriate by Bruce and Alan Proctor); about a Quaker woman who left her suburban life to support peacekeeping efforts during the Yugoslav Wars (Treading Water at the Shark Café: A Memoir of the Yugoslav Wars by Lyndon Back); about a city’s efforts to prevent an invasive species of seaweed from overtaking their lagoon (Caulerpa Conquest: A Biological Eradication on the California Coast by Eric Noel Muñoz); and about a woman from a stable family who finds herself in not one but two abusive relationships and her journey to self-discovery (Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse by Kathleen Pooler).
So while we've been publishing these types of stories for several years, I do think there's a special relevance to how U.S. citizens and residents were treated before, during, and after WWII and how refugee children are currently being separated from their families. On the bright side, St. Louis, as it did in 1945, has been welcoming refugees from war-torn countries such as Bosnia in the 1990s, and more recently from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and central America. I hope that by sharing stories such as Koizumi's that we can learn to be more empathetic and welcoming of our fellow humans.
IBPA: Can you list three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?
JG: I definitely feel like I’m learning more every day about what helps an independent publisher succeed, and indeed, it’s a changing landscape. But here are a few of the key lessons I’ve learned:
- Partnering with authors that already have an author platform will allow you to take your marketing efforts much further. We always ask for a marketing plan to accompany queries to allow us to make an informed decision regarding publishing. More than just having a platform, authors must be willing to do what they can in order to help sell their book, including attending events and even just telling people in their lives that their book exists.
- Publishing is a partnership between authors and the publishing house. Timely and transparent communication makes for a smooth collaboration; makes authors feel appropriately valued; and allows us to form long-lasting relationships. We allow authors to have input in both the editing and cover design process. We work together to create a book that not only is marketable, but that the writer is also proud of. Many of our authors want to work with us on future projects, refer other authors to our press, or offer to help with other books by providing endorsements or hosting other authors on their blogs.
- Pre-publication endorsements, book reviews, and book awards are enormously helpful and provide additional book marketing opportunities. We always make sure to allocate a portion of our marketing budget on these publicity efforts.
IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of Independent Book Publishers Association?
JG: We’ve been a member of IBPA since 2016 and find it enormously helpful, from the IBPA Independent magazine articles on a wide variety of publishing topics, to the online discussion boards which offer a wealth of information, to the member discounts and benefits offered by the IBPA such as discounts with Lightning Source, Bowker, and FedEx. We also really enjoy our local St. Louis IBPA affiliate, the St. Louis Publishers Association.
IBPA: Thank you for sharing your story and insight with the IBPA community, Jennifer!
Click here to learn more about Open Books Press!
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