When She Writer Patricia Dunn and her agent and friend, Alexandra Soiseth, became disillusioned with the traditional system, they decided to seize control of their publishing destiny--and they founded Alikai Press. Here's their story.
I finally found a great publisher for my YA novel two years ago: Evelyn Fazio from Westside Books. Evelyn was amazing. She really understood my characters and she got the book. It was Evelyn who suggested that I include the Egyptian Revolution in the story. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I said “of course.” She was so right! So we worked together from February to May, and then the book was done. The book was solid, and Evelyn made an offer. She believed in it so much that she got the Barnes and Noble rep interested, and was going to nominate it for a National Book Award. Her confidence in the book meant the world to me. It was a dream come true.
Then, the day that she received my signed contract in her office, the president of the publishing company announced he was selling the house and, well, my book no longer had a home; it was back on the streets. If I wasn’t so sure this book was good, and ready for the world, I would've probably taken to bed for a week, or a year. Yet something in my gut said this is going to be okay.
I’ve been writing for twenty years. I got my MFA thirteen years ago, and have been teaching writing for fifteen.
So I have read many novels-in-progress. Many unpublished novels that were really really good. And I’ve watched writers struggle to find homes for these novels. Stories that were different, or from the edges of our culture, or points of view not heard in the center.
When Westside went on the market and Patricia’s wonderful book was homeless, she came to my house and we stared at each other in disbelief. That very weekend she had signed the contract for the book. We even took pictures!
In our agitation we could not sit still so I grabbed Jack the dog and we went for a long walk in my neighborhood and talked. And talked,and talked. And by the time we helped an exhausted Jack (he’s 15 years old after all) up the stairs to the house, it was settled. We were going to publish Rebels by Accident, and while we were at it, we had three other amazing books we knew needed a home (or possibly 5, even 6).
All that was left now, was to just do it.
So how do you take control of your writing and publishing destiny?
Readers and writers are the most important part of this process. We want to be at the forefront of a new model for publishing. Split net receipts 50/50 with writers. Give each book a ton of attention, get the book right, then spend a lot of time and money making sure people know about it—buy it—then have the pleasure of reading it.
Everything we’ve done up to now has brought us to this place. The disappointment around Westside gave us the nudge we needed, but we can see now that we had been heading this way for a long time.
Which is to say: Having the honor and pleasure of changing the world, one book at a time.