Publisher is option for local authors
By Catherine Ferguson, SNJM
"You ought to write a book."
That was the message a student gave to Larry Telles, chair of the board of directors for Bitterroot Mountain Publishing House, 20 years ago.
Larry, who worked in graphics for 60 years, taught multi-media courses in the Coeur d'Alene area and was president of the Idaho Writers League, was asked to give a week-long seminar on silent film to Road Scholars, a nonprofit providing educational travel for older adults.
When he learned the seminar was two and a half hours daily for five days, he created a pamphlet for participants to supplement his presentation. The second day, one student said he found the pamphlet so fascinating he stayed up until 1 a.m. reading it.
After many tries, Larry sensed none of the major publishing houses would be interested in a book like his from an unknown author, so he decided to begin his own publishing house.
About that time, Anna Goodwin, a published author from Coeur d'Alene and a psychotherapist with an expertise in post-traumatic stress, heard from the editor at her publisher about changes in the publishing industry.
He said books without the potential for large sales, especially from first-time or unknown authors would rarely be accepted. Even though books contained important information and were well written, big publishing companies were mostly interested in profits.
"I believed some of these books were important for people to read—the stories, especially stories of resilience were things people needed to hear," Anna said, explaining her motivations.
Both Larry and Anna investigated the possibility of finding a publisher for books they felt provided information that benefitted people or on topics interesting for their own sake. Knowing five major publishers would overlook manuscripts from authors in this area, they decided to establish Bitterroot Mountain Publishing House LLC in Hayden, Idaho.
Between its foundation in 2008 and today, the company has published 32 books, about two a year. Its seven-member board of directors—mostly published writers—selects meaningful, well-written manuscripts that represent diverse genres: fiction, non-fiction, and children's books.
The board decides after reading and discussing a synopsis and 30 pages of a manuscript.
Bitterroot Mountain is different from large publishing houses and self-publishing. In large publishing houses, once a manuscript is accepted, an author loses most control over it, but continues to own the rights to it.
At Bitterroot Mountain, authors they accept have exclusive access to publishing and marketing resources of Bitterroot Mountain. Manuscripts are edited and proofread professionally. The book cover, jacket and illustrations are designed professionally. A professional formats the book for print, and as an e-book and an audio book.
Once a book is published, it is added to a catalogue at Ingram, the distributor, and becomes available on Amazon to be printed on demand.
"Amazon has 85 percent of the market so to sell books we need to go there," Larry explained.
People whose books are accepted pay for the services—usually $1,500. Authors pay annual dues of $60 to have their book on the Bitterroot Mountain website. Volunteers mentor authors, serve on the board, do the paperwork for ISBN numbers and other tasks.
Most authors are from the Pacific Northwest but one is from Missouri. Because work is done electronically, authors can be from anywhere, Larry said.
The website shows diversity in the books they have published.
In one case, a Native American man wrote a book about his journey of self-discovery and realization. It included vision quests and stories full of wry humor, wisdom and profound appreciation of the beauty and wonders of the natural world, said Anna.
One Last Time, a Coeur d'Alene organization that grants last wishes to dying people, sponsored Faces of the Rising Sun. Nada, the author, died before it was published. It is listed on Amazon.
Anna wanted to include in her book, How to Cope with Stress after Trauma, a poem by Patrick Overton, a veteran and professor at Columbia College. When she contacted him, she discovered that he had written many insightful essays and poems. She brought his work to Bitterroot Publishing. Today the website features a reissue of his Rebuilding the Front Porch of America.
Another book, a memoir of resilience and perseverance is by Liberian Marsilius Flumo, now a teacher in the Spokane public schools. In A Son's Promise, he tells of his struggle from boyhood to manhood, motivated by his mother's determination to give him a life he could only dream of in rural, tribal Liberia. In return, she told him to write the story of her agony and quest for good lives for her children.
Recently a local police detective wrote a book and wanted to have it published. He died before that happened. Now his daughter is working with Bitterroot Mountain Publishing to have his work published.
One of their biggest challenges is marketing the books.
"Authors often 'don't want to do all that other stuff,' like public speaking, marketing or writing a second book because sometimes the second book sells first," Larry said, adding that, despite all the work, he is having a good time.