Why I Started My Own Small Press

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a tight deadline to finish Brave on the Page, a collection of Oregon author interviews and essays, so it can be available at Wordstock, the Portland literary fest coming up in mid-October.

I’m pleased to announce Forest Avenue Press is publishing the collection. It’s my small press, based right here in Portland, and although the name is very Pacific Northwest-sounding, I named it after my childhood street on the East Coast. (New Jersey, to be exact…)

I filled out my DBA, my “doing business as” form, for the city, registering as a business, and then I opened a business bank account. I ordered The Square, a tiny free device that allows you to run credit and debit cards using a smartphone or an iPad. It’s my own personal cash register (coupled with a box of singles and fives in case people bring cash…).

I also had my dear friend Gigi Little design a beautiful logo for Forest Avenue Press. Isn’t it great? The avenue theme also matches my website. You’ll have to wait until next Monday’s launch to see the incredible cover she put together, but in the meantime, go check out Gigi’s website and pop her a note if you’re looking for a cover designer or a logo creator. Gigi also wrote an amazing essay, “Mentor,” for this collection.

I started my own business for a number of reasons:

  • I decided if I was really going to ask people to write essays, and if I was really, really going to publish a book of other people’s work, I needed to do it right.
  • Doing it right, to me, meant splurging for an ISBN, and since you can buy ten for the price of two ($250) from Bowker, that made more sense than buying one for $125.
  • Obviously I would need to publish more than one book to justify buying ten ISBNs.
  • More than one book? I have about thirty interviews on my blog, and I’d love to shape another group of them into a collection. And I have plenty of other ideas.
  • I have a professional background in journalism and copy editing, and I am a freelance manuscript editor, and I love to lay out pages, and I love to promote other authors, and I know a little about marketing, so…
  • Why not do all those things as an editor of a small press?

I plan to publish other people’s novels and memoirs as Forest Avenue Press gets rolling. That part of the plan will have to wait until Brave on the Page is out in the world. As a step in that direction, I’ve launched a blog for Forest Avenue Press. I’ll still post big news, launch excitement and upcoming events here, especially as the October 8 release arrives, but this way I’ll keep this space focused on writing, reading and community.

If you have self-published, did you create your own press? Did you invest in an ISBN? Why or why not?

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1bhaB-NV

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Books, Community, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Why I Started My Own Small Press

  1. Sara Flower says:

    I created my own press when I self published my first book. I got the free ISBN from Amazon, but in Canada they’re free anyway which is crazy.

    • Free in Canada? Really? Wow that’s amazing. Amazon can afford to give them away, because if you buy 1,000 from Bowker, it’s $1,000, which is crazy expensive for a small press, and way too much, but it’s only costing Amazon $1 to give them away.

  2. Kecia Adams says:

    Your new venture really appealed to me, Laura, and I can’t really explain why other than I like seeing these new publishing horizons unfold. Good for writers, good for readers, and good for you! 😉 Best of luck.

    • Thanks, Kecia! This feels very exciting, not just starting my own business, but exactly because of what you’re talking about. There are so many options unfolding, and it’s all of us, writing and publishing in 2012, who are changing the landscape of this business. Would I have started a press if the Espresso Machine didn’t capture my attention because of its distribution network, its position at Powell’s and the idea of an alternative to ebooks? Probably not. I’d even say definitely not. Thanks for commenting!

  3. This is awesome! I admire your ambition. Good luck!

    • Thanks, Emily! I’m so thrilled to be publishing writers I admire. They put together an incredible body of work. Each essay is like an ode to the act of creation. I can’t wait to share the results with other readers!

  4. Emma says:

    Sounds so cool.

  5. Pingback: The Buzz Begins | Forest Avenue Press

  6. laurenwaters says:

    I love the logo! I started my own press when I published my first book and bought the ten ISBNs. You need two ISBNs for each form of publishing (ebook and print) so I knew I’d be using them up soon enough! Congratulations on moving one step closer to your dream 🙂

    • I had heard that about ISBNs for ebooks, and so ten absolutely makes sense. What’s the name of your press, Lauren? I’m wondering about the next ten ISBNs already… I wonder if I’ll feel comfortable buying the next number up–a hundred something, if I remember correctly. Did you know there are sites to generate free bar codes so you don’t have to buy those for $25 each? I tried it and got an error message, so I ended up with the Bowker one, but it could save money. If you want me to send you the link to the service my friend recommended, I’d be happy to.

      • laurenwaters says:

        Yes please! I usually buy the bar code from Bowker but saving $25 is always great! My publishing company is called Rock Castle Publishing. My little sister and I would play in this huge rock formation behind our house and imagine away. I might need to have one of those awesome logos made up!

  7. Looks great, Laura! Good luck… A couple of weeks ago my wife, Teresa, was stopped by a stranger in downtown Portland, who asked her if she ever wanted to write a book. She thought about it for a moment, and then said Yes, I’ve thought about it… to which he replied, Do you want to buy some ISBN’s? He had a big stack of ’em, which he was selling for ten bucks a pop, if I remember correctly. Never know who you are going to run into around here

    • That’s hilarious, David. Thanks so much for sharing the story. I imagine a guy in a trenchcoat walking around saying, “Pssst, wanna buy an ISBN?”

      I wonder what press the numbers were from; it would be odd to publish one’s book under an ISBN not knowing what company the ISBN was registered to. On the other hand, that’s a great price compared to $125 for one through Bowker!

  8. jmmcdowell says:

    I’m going to try for the traditional route first on my current WIP, but I certainly would consider going indie and e-publishing myself. And the advice I see says if you’re serious about it, you should buy the ISBN(s) and set up your own press. Publishing is a business, and we should treat it as one, even if we go solo.

    Best wishes for the success of your press and books!

    • Well said about doing things professionally, jm. I am glad, despite the extra price, to have my ISBNs registered to my press, not CreateSpace or another company. I feel 100 percent in control of the process and whatever projects I choose to publish.

      I am really excited to figure out how to publish other people’s books. The business side will be a lot of questions at first, about royalties and rights and timelines and such, but it’ll be worth it if I can help bring some great books into the world.

  9. 4amWriter says:

    I am trying to go the traditional route of publishing–querying agents and small publishers. My WIP is complete, so it is a matter of finding someone in the biz who loves it enough to give it a home. 🙂

    I love the sound of your small press, and that you are planning on publishing other people’s books. My antennae perked up when I read that, lol. I’m excited to check out your blog for the press, too.

    Wishing you lots of success with this endeavor!

  10. I did not get an ISBN from Lulu when I did A Sane Woman, because I didn’t have any plans to sell it except through Lulu. (It later appeared on Amazon for a while, but that wasn’t my doing.) That’s PoD, by the way, not e-book. I didn’t know e-books required a separate ISBN, so that’s good to know.

  11. Life Normal says:

    Forest Avenue. Hmmm…there’s a Forest Avenue in my neck of the woods. (No pun intended). And that be a well traveled road through Paramus, NJ

  12. Kewl. ^_^ I kinda thought about opening my own small press for my books, but I’ve no idea where/how to begin or even if I have the required skills. It would take a hell of a lot of work, which is not something I can commit to at once, but I’m totally applauding you.
    And looking forward to what else you do with those other ten ISBNs! 🙂

    • Thanks, Ileandra! I’m realizing how suited I am to this press thing as I’m moving forward, since I have background in page design, editing and copy editing, and PR. I’ll probably continue posting about the process of setting up the press and putting this book together over the next few months, so feel free to chime in with any questions! It wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be, although I am–admittedly–struggling to figure out how to do small business accounting. That’ll come, though.

      One ISBN used… nine to go! The possibilities are exciting!

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