Burrs, Obi Wan, and my new fiction press

In June, I began thinking about publishing fiction. I read fiction. I write fiction. I edit fiction. Why wouldn’t I publish it too?

Marketing Me was wary. The problem with publishing fiction is that it is so hard to position yourself against the market. “Publishers of quality fiction.” That tagline could belong to anyone. Whereas it’s been relatively easy to create an identity for Goosebottom Books that gives you a pretty clear idea of what we’re all about.

Still, the idea hung in there. Like a burr. You know the ones. If you’re reading this blog you’re probably a creative person yourself. Those ideas that won’t shake loose, they will change your life if you let them.

That month, I helped one of my students edit a manuscript as an application for a scholarship. The work was so good I felt agitated — as if I’d taken a swig of my sister’s triple-shot coffee. (My sister can metabolize caffeine but not alcohol; I’m the other way around.)
I wanted to publish that book; never mind that only the first few chapters had been written. Those chapters not only delighted me and touched me, they made me think. They brought my mind to something that I’d never thought of much before, and they made me compassionate in my contemplation.

In the same month, I bumped into not one but two ex-students at two separate conferences. Both of them were working on wonderful, altruistic projects. Both projects didn’t scream “money.” But they rumbled, “the Force is strong.”

Then at another conference, I started talking to an author about a project languishing in her drawer. Something in her description caught my attention. “Use the Force” echoed just beyond the range of human hearing.

At this point, part of me cringed. I have a Business Jedi brother, and I could already see the disbelieving shake of his head, the single word laughed, not spoken — “Wh-ut??”

“I want to start an imprint publishing worthy fiction. Fiction with a cause — only it’s fiction that doesn’t read like fiction with a cause. It just reads like great fiction, but it has a cause.”

Follow the “whut” with some expletives.

From where I sit, the big question in independent publishing is how do you do what you love, what is worthy, what you think will be on the side of good, and not go bankrupt?

How, indeed.

Actually, at this point that’s exactly what my two ex-students asked me. And I realized, there may be a way, if we did this together: if we shared the risks that I could no longer afford to assume single-handedly; if I provided the design and marketing skills and the industry knowledge that they were lacking — and access to my rolodex and to national distribution; and if seed funding were provided by other people who also believed that the projects were worthy…

And just as this thought took shape, just as the burr untwined its spines and grew, I came across this story of a publisher combining publishing services with crowd funding. They’ve published 6,000 books this way in the last five years. Maybe I can publish six?

Anyway, now we’re four months along. I’m starting this new month by announcing my new imprint: Gosling Press, four years to the day after we announced Goosebottom Books. It’s called Gosling not because we’re publishing for younger kids (although we still are focused on kids); but because I’m taking these authors under my wing. Gosling Press is a partner publisher — we will share the investment, and share the rewards.

That’s the positioning: A curated list of partner-published, fiction-with-a-cause.

It’s riddled with hyphens, but I’m very excited.
May the Force be with us.