Monday, December 05, 2005

Publisher Miriam Hees on Blooming Tree Press

Blooming Tree Press is a relatively new children's book publisher based in Austin, Texas. Could you offer us some insights into how this company came to be? What was the initial inspiration? What were the challenges?

Blooming Tree Press came about for several reasons. First, I had the desire to see different types of books on the shelves than I was seeing...especially for children.

Second, the majority of our authors and illustrators have never been published. I wanted to give talented people a chance that they might not get otherwise get with the big publishers. We all need that first leg up, and I wanted to be a part of that.

Finally, my reason for starting BTP is my love of books. Writing, reading, and publishing books is my passion. You won't find me shopping in a clothes store or shoe store or picking out jewelry for that matter. You will find me at least once a week in a bookstore. It's like a candy shop to me.

I have always had plenty of inspiration to do what I set my mind to do, and having been a business woman for more than 20 years, I had the know-how and street smarts. But just like any small business, a small press is a major challenge. Some people as skeptical and don't think you know what you are doing; others think only the big presses can give an author or illustrator the attention they deserve. Also, just making sure you have all the marketing and sales connections that big guys have is a challenge. It's takes a constant stream of phone calls, emails and personal visits to see it done, but we have risen to the challenge quite nicely. People in the publishing and book world are starting to recognize Blooming Tree Press. But most importantly, authors, illustrators and readers now know we are here.

Also note, you will see that we publish mainly children's books, but we do have an adult press that we're in the process of opening.

Who are the people behind BTP? What are their respective backgrounds? What is the role of each today?

Blooming Tree Press in filled with wonderful people! Let me start by listing the staff and their backgrounds.

Miriam Hees - Publisher:Miriam has been a writer for more than 15 years and business woman for more than 20 years. She has started and ran many businesses in that time period. She began her business plan for Blooming Tree Press almost 10 years ago. Today, her role as publisher is a full-time, seven-day-a-week pursuit. She continues to write in that free time between 3 and 5 a.m. and will release a new guardian angel book as well as a WWII historical fiction middle grade in the next 18 months.

Bradford Hees - Senior Editor - Adult Division: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Bradford Hees is an excellent writer of SciFi/Fantasy as well as graphic novels and Manga. He has studied Japanese, writing, and publishing for many years. He is currently working on opening the adult division of Blooming Tree Press as well as awaiting the release of his first graphic novel/Manga entitled "The Light of Nor."

Madeline Smoot - Senior Editor - Children's Division: Madeline Smoot has been reading children's literature her whole life but has been editing for one year. She has BBA in Marketing from Southern Methodist University and is finishing her MA in Children's Literature from Hollins University. Her first book, Frog on Vacation, is scheduled for release in the fall of 2006.

Meghan Diestche - Associate Editor - Children's Division: Meghan Dietsche graduated from Smith College in 2000. She has worked in publishing for five years, most recently for HarperCollins Children's Books.

Judy Gregerson - Editor - Children's Division: Judy grew up on the eastern end of Long Island and attended SUNY Oswego and Stony Brook with a major in journalism and communications. Once out of college, she worked as a copy editor at The (Syracuse) Post-Standard and then as a copywriter for S.T. Preston & Son's nautical mail order catalog.

While in New York she wrote her first book, a memoir, Save Me! A Young Woman's Journey Through Schizophrenia To Health. Doubleday published the book in 1980 to excellent reviews, and Judy was listed that year in Who's Who in America.

She eventually tired of New York and moved to Seattle, Washington. There, she worked in the housing industry, married, and raised two girls. She gave up writing for eighteen years but took up her keyboard in 1997 and started crafting novels. She came on board as an associate editor at BTP in 2004.

Kay Pluta - Assistant Editor - Children's Division: Kay Pluta is a former middle school Language Arts teacher who graduated from Georgia College with a BA in English. She was on the editorial staff of literary magazines from high school through college. After leaving teaching to raise a family, Kay published dozens of articles and stories for both adults and children in various print and online magazines. She sold her first children's book, There's A Yak In My Bed, to Blooming Tree Press in 2004, and joined the staff a year later.

Kelly Bell - Layout and Design: Kelly Bell has 20 years (print) 10 years (web) of design, development and production experience in all phases of traditional (print) and new (web) media, from concept through delivery. Her skills include human-computer interface design, concepting, layout, design, scanning, photo retouching and montage, illustration. She is currently working for Blooming Tree Press as Art Director. Her responsibility is for all company marketing communications products, book design and production, Interactive (Audiobooks, Mediabooks) media, web site design and maintenance for this small but growing children's book publisher.

What is your target market? Direct sales, institutional (school/library sales), bookstores, catalogs/specialty, a combination of several? As a new, small press, how are you gaining awareness and competing with larger, more established publishers?

We target multiple markets. Bookstores, obviously are a big market. We are with Baker & Taylor, the second biggest distributor in the world. This allows to have our books stocked in any bookstore worldwide. We also love librarians! We are members of the Texas Library Association and will be at the TLA annual conference in 2006, will be listed in the 2007 Children's Writers and Illustrators Market (CWIM)(Writer's Digest Books), are members of the national and local Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators as well as local writers leagues.

We offer two catalogs a year that are mailed to all markets announcing upcoming titles. Word of mouth, the Internet and personal visits all help us get our name out there.

Also, all of our authors are provided, shortly after their publication, with a marketing and publicity binder. These binders are personalized with data of local stores, schools, libraries, book awards, specialty stores and reviewers that will help us and them make their book a great success.

What is the scope of your publishing program? Do you publish picture books, chapter books, middle grade and/or young adult novels? Do you specialize in any particular genres? Are there areas you avoid?

We currently publish five-to-seven titles a year. We publish picture books (personally requested only at this time), early readers, chapter books, middle grade, young adult and adult. We do mainly fiction but will look at non-fiction. We don't accept any subjects having to do with horror, the occult or explicit sex.

What are your submission guidelines for writers, for illustrators? What are you especially looking for? Do you have an interest in new voices, and in the case of illustrators, visions?

We are always looking for new voices. As I said earlier, most of our authors and illustrators were unpublished before they came to us. Guidelines for submission are listed on the website. But here they are are:

For children's division, please send a query to:

Blooming Tree Press
Children's Submissions
P.O. Box 140934
Austin, Texas 78714

If we like what we see we will immediately ask for more.

For the adult division, we ask for synopsis and first three chapters to same address only - Adult Submissions.

For illustrators send samples to same address, only specify Art Department. Also note we do take worldwide submissions. One of our newest books in written by Leslie Carmichael, who hails from Canada.

I noticed that you're sponsoring a short story competition in conjunction with SmartWriters.com. What inspired this decision? Why is it a good opportunity for writers?

I received a call from Roxyanne Young of SmartWriters.com, who was ecstatic about their latest short story competition. She wanted to be able to offer winners and runners up of the competition a publishing avenue. She asked if I would be interested in using these stories for a published anthology.

Well, of course! Writing competition winners tend be the highest quality work and that, combined with the opportunity to work with Roxyanne, was a win-win situation for me.

This is an excellent opportunity for writers to get their foot in the "publishing" door. Having a writing credit can catch the attention of many an editor. When an author/illustrator is published in any form or fashion alerts an editor to the fact that this writer is able to edit and revise. A big key to a "yes" or "no" of an acceptance of a manuscript is can an author revise.

[note: see link below to Smart Writers announcement of the winners]

Could you tell us a little about your new books for fall 2005?

We have a great lineup for this fall:

1.) Callie and the Stepmother by Susan A. Meyers, illustrated by Rose Gauss. An easy reader in paperback (ISBN 0-9718348-0-6).

When Callie's father remarries, Callie knows exactly what her life will be like. After all, she's read all the books. She's going to be stuck cleaning floors, expected to sweep the fireplace, forced to eat poisoned apples and most likely abandoned in the woods. And there's not just the new stepmother, Pam to worry about. There's also an annoying stepbrother and an evil stepsister.

What's Daddy's Little Princess to do? In this delightful rendition of a modern day Cinderella, Callie learns not all stepmothers are wicked and every fairytale has a unique ending.

2.) Lyranel's Song by Leslie Carmichael, illustrated by Elsbet Vance. An upper middle grade hardcover (ISBN 0-9718348-5-7).

Lyranel has never thought much about Singing. Her mother had been a famous Singer years ago, but she died when Lyranel was very young. Since then, Lyranel's father, the Duke of Trioste, has banned all Singers from his Duchy. Those that remain live in secret, Singing their Songs of healing and life.

When Lyranel awakens upon her twelfth birthday bursting with Song, she is horrified and tries to hide her new gift from her father. Worse still, a terrible plague threatens her land and the Singers that remain. Lyranel must learn to come terms with her new talent. If not, her land and her people may not survive.

3.) Little Bunny Kung Fu by Regan Johnson. A picture book illustrated in black and white (ISBN 0-9769417-8-3).

Regan Johnson takes the classic children's nursery rhyme and provides it with a new twist. Set in China, this bunny doesn't like to play with field mice. Instead, he prefers chopping down bamboo. Unfortunately for Little Bunny Kung Fu, many creatures in the forest rely on the bamboo. Eventually, Great Dragon must come down and set Little Bunny Kung Fu straight. Join Little Bunny Kung Fu in his romp through the Chinese forest.

An exciting note for Regan and for us is that Barnes & Noble is considering releasing Little Bunny Kung Fu nationally!

4.) One-Eyed Jack by Paula Miller, illustrated by Chris Forrest. A hardcover middle grade (ISBN 0-9718348-8-1).

The first in the Faces of History Series, this story tells the tale of a boy, Nate, on a cattle ranch in 1880's Montana. Nate has always wanted a dog, but his Pa does not. Only grudgingly does Pa allow Nate to keep the nearly dying puppy he finds. Nate must struggle to control his new dog and allow the Lord the time to sway Pa's heart.

Faces in History is a series dedicated to showing children and teens of faith during different periods of history. The hero of each tale must overcome personal obstacles with perseverance and faith in the Lord. Written to entertain, these books also serve as an inspirational tool for any child of faith.

We have seven titles slated for next year which include: Jessica McBean, Tap Dance Queen; Summer Shorts Anthology; There's a Yak in My Bed; Robo Rescue; Frog on Vacation; and The Light of Nor.

You're a writer and publisher! What is it like, wearing two hats? Was it a natural progression?

It really was a natural progression and one I feel that is an advantage for all involved in the company. When you have been a writer for many years, sending submissions and playing the game, you know how the writers submitting manuscripts to you you feel. Their hopes, dreams, fears and concerns are easy to understand. I feel I have more compassion and I try to show extra respect because of it.

Could you tell us a little about your own titles?

Angel Eyes and Angel on my Shoulder are from my guardian angel series. This is a wonderful series about girls and their guardian angels.

Noises in the Attic is a mystery adventure. Just plain fun and excitement as a brother and sister solve a mystery.

I always wanted to write fun, exciting, and wholesome reading for kids. There is so much bad out there that kids have to deal with every day. I wanted something for them to read where they might escape...if just for a little while.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I just want all writers and illustrators to remember that the publishing business is a tough one whether you are a publisher, editor, writer or illustrator. If it is your passion, don't ever give up. You will find your place. I guarantee it. Just keep your dream alive!

Cynsational News & Links

Smart Writers Journal December 2005 features include: "The Day After" by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon on marketing your book after its release; announcements of literary agents seeking writer clients; announcement of winners of the short story contest in conjunction with Blooming Tree Press (see above); "Short Story Tips from a Judge" by Marilyn Singer; and a listing of upcoming writers' retreats and conferences from Margot Finke. Congratulations to Debbi Michiko Florence who received an "honorable mention" in the young readers division for her story, "Megumi's Gift!"

Congratulations also to Sarah Aronson on the sale of her debut novel to Deborah Brodie at Roaring Brook Press!

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