I'd hoped to include Deborah's interview during the Virtual Writers' Conference last week. Since I just got the interview today, however, I wanted to go ahead and post it. I think it will be a welcome addition to the conference articles, and I hope you enjoy it.
Gayle Trent: How did you make the transition--or, I should say, addition--from NYT bestselling author to publisher?
Deborah Smith: About ten years ago I sat with a group of old friends, all veteran authors with long track records at the big New York houses, and we bemoaned the lack of places to publish some folksy Southern short stories we wanted to write. It was like in the old movies where Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney get a great idea for a Broadway show but they've got no theater so they get all their pals together and put on a show in a barn (complete with amazing music, costumes and sets).
We decided that maybe we could put on a show in a barn.
So five of us pooled our pocket change, wrote a collection of stories, titled it Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes, printed a few thousand copies, and started learning how to be publishers instead of merely authors. To our amazement, "STAJS," as we abbreviate it, made money, sold out its first printing, and was picked up by a big New York publisher for reprint.
Stunned with glory, we formed BelleBooks. Now, ten years later, we've slowly but surely published more than two dozen books in a variety of styles (including two illustrated hardcover children's books) and are now entering a big new phase with a new imprint, Bell Bridge Books. Starting in 2008 we added a lot of new titles, and this year we'll publish nearly a dozen books. So our list is taking a giant leap forward.
I left my last New York publisher about four years ago and began publishing my women's fiction novels through BelleBooks instead. While I miss the bigger paycheck and the vast distribution of a major publisher, I love having control over all aspects of the process, including cover art and marketing. Now, if there are mistakes, I know where to point the finger of blame. Right at the mirror.