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Changing Our Lives (& the World), One Book at a Time
Contributor
Written by
How She Does It
July 2012
Contributor
Written by
How She Does It
July 2012

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.

Patricia:

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.

Alexandra:

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 Many unpublished novels that were really really good.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.

Alikai:

So how do you take control of your writing and publishing destiny?

  1. Find great people to work with. The most important piece for us was a PR group called JK … They had a lot of patience guiding us through the process of starting a press. We had an amazing friend who happened to be a web designer AND was willing to learn how to design books. And we found a great assistant who has a lot of passion for publishing and who ALSO has a lot of patience as we learn. A good lawyer. An SEO guy who knows his stuff.
  2. Find a way to manage the workload around the jobs that pay the rent. This is a huge challenge. And we have very little to offer in the way of advice, except perhaps to suggest you either get up really early (Alexandra) or stay up late (Patricia).
  3. Fit in time with the family. How to drop off the kids at swimming, buy groceries, do laundry and clean the house (or not clean) all while launching a new press? Well, our families would say that it is only because they are so excited for us that they haven’t killed us yet. Time will tell if we all survive.
  4. Blind faith, Deep breathing, and Acting "As If." 'Nuff said.
  5. Take turns being the one who freaks out and the one who stays calm.
  6. Learn how to be humble and ask a lot of really stupid questions. (What is a ‘discount rate’? SEO? What’s that?)
  7. Finally, remind each other why you are doing this. Books really do make a difference, and we believe we can be a part of that, because we have the perspective of being authors.  Because we have years behind us doing jobs where we learned how to create a lot with very little. Because we have the passion.


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.

 

You can find Alikai Press on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AlikaiPress) and Twitter (@AlikaiPress), or contact Alikai via email at [email protected] 

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Comments
  • Kate Campbell

    Thanks for this post. I, too, had the publishing rug pulled out from under me. Five years of work on my first literary novel, the day the contract was going to be worked out, the publisher backed out. After I got over my blinding migraine, I got up at 2 a.m. and went to work creating my own imprint, NutTree Media, and I launched my book mid-June. A year later and a month into the process, sales are underwhelming. Learning to be a good marketer is a challenge. Blind faith, Deep breathing, and Acting "As If." Good advice for those stumbling toward publishing success. Thanks for the reminder that we're at the forefront of a new publishing model and we're not alone as we blaze this new trail.

  • Gerda Govine

    Patricia and Alexandria:

    CongratuIations! I have also taken control of my publishing destiny and plan to publish my first book of poems, "Oh, Where is My Candle Hat?" in English and Spanish with a CD of readings by me and my husband Luis by November 2012. Once the decision was made--everything fell into place.  Luis created art work for the book cover and for each section. We have a great publisher. It is amazing what you can do because of your passion, desire, and commitment to share your work with others.  I was fortunate to get valuable and thoughtful suggestions from friends and other poets/writers; I belong to three writing workshop groups who continue to provide valuable and thoughtful suggestions.  Two groups focus on poetry and the third group consists include writers of novels, short stories, screen plays and plays.   I am in the process of selecting poems for my second book to debut in 2013.   Wishing you continued success.  Take care.

    Gerda

     

  • Huge congrats ladies!!

  • Thank you LeTeisha and Pamela. Your words of support means a lot.

    Congrats Pamela! We know how hard it is to get a book out in the world. And LeTeisha, just keep writing and don't give up and you will get your work out into this world. You are both inspirations to me.

  • Pamela Olson

    Congrats on your new press! That's amazing! I self-published a book last year, and therefore had to manage every single aspect of the process, from interior design (so many elements!) to marketing (a tough job for an introvert...).  It's a tough process, but so rewarding, and I wish you all the very best!

  • LeTeisha Newton

    P.S.

    I've tweeted, shared, liked and Liked (FB) this post. Thanks again!

  • LeTeisha Newton

    WOW!!! Congrats on such a job well done! I will be looking into your Press and be inspired by your story. As a writer looking to break into a publishing House (and out of the Indie scene) it is heartening to know there are some amazing Houses, like your out there!

     

    Thank you again for this story and the inspiration it provides :)