As part of my job at IngramSpark, I attend many publishing, indie publishing, and author conferences each year. In fact, I was just at AuthorU Extravaganza in Denver and NINC (Novelists, Inc) in St. Pete Beach, FL. In a week or so, I’ll be boarding a flight for the long trip to the Frankfurt Bookfair, the largest book fair in the world. Even on an international stage, I’ll be meeting a lot of indie authors and publishers. I’m grateful to have a job where I get to travel like I do although it can be exhausting dealing with flights, changing time zones, lack of sleep. But when I’m at these events, I forget my weariness and am always swept up by the creative energy of the participants in sharing their wants and dreams as authors and publishers.
It Takes One to Know One
At AuthorU, I met indie publisher Jo Lena Johnson of Mission Possible Press, with some thirty titles in her catalog, a huge achievement. She pulled an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) out of her bag and proceeded to tell me the story of how she had met the author at an event. He captivated her with his story as most authors are prone to do and left her with his manuscript. She was immediately hooked not only on the story set in the segregated South of 1964 but more importantly on the brilliance of the writing itself. She felt the book is particularly relevant in the US today, with the news filled with racial injustice and unrest. More importantly, she was passionate about helping the author gain the attention he deserves based on his unique storytelling abilities. And this was exactly the source of her conflict because she wasn’t sure, as someone new to indie publishing, if she would be able to deliver on the attention part.
My advice to her was that given her passion and commitment to the author, she was the best one who could carry his book forward. I advised that she should probably shop the book around to a few agents as her due diligence, but I was fairly certain she wouldn’t be satisfied with the plodding world of traditional publishing. I gave her practical advice about distribution, formatting and we even discussed if the title adequately conveyed the importance of the story. But beyond my nuts and bolts analysis of the book itself, I felt compelled to try to inspire her as a publisher.
I’ve been a publisher myself and know what it feels like to be responsible for an author’s work. It weighed heavily as I made decisions on all the details as the author and I worked together to shape their book. What I’ve learned in retrospect was that the success of the book could be measured less by the money I invested and more about the passion that I personally had for the book, and especially for the author. And this is what I was trying to instill in Jo Lena—that her passion could carry her author’s book to success and he is lucky as an author to have her publishing his book. She did get my attention and I am reading the ARC, which as Jo Lena said, is a great story and well written.
We talk a lot about authors who self-publish their own work here on BookWorks. But the trend we’re seeing at IngramSpark* is that many authors are having such success bringing their work to market that they are seamlessly transitioning into indie publishing other author’s work. And this is what brings me the most satisfaction and pride in the work that I do of actually seeing authors evolve into thriving business people.
You go girl—Jo Lena Johnson. You make me proud.
*This is something we’ve also noted among incoming BookWorks members. But really, who better to help indie authors succeed than successful indie authors who’ve preceded them? That is what we’re all about here in the BookWorks community—fostering exactly these kinds of author-helping-author relationships. To further our mission, we are working on a dynamic new website coming in late fall, that will provide greater opportunities for members to connect, network and support each other’s dreams and goals.
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