Author Angela Jackson-Brown, curious about her publisher WiDo Publishing™, requested an interview with WiDo’s managing editor, Karen Jones Gowen. The interview originally appeared on Angela’s website. We thought it would be informative to post a segment here on our blog.
Angela Jackson- Brown: What motivated your family to get into the publishing industry?
Karen Jones Gowen: I had absolutely no idea of getting into the publishing industry, but I always wanted to be a writer. The story behind how all this came about is in a post called “The Truth about Farm Girl” on my blog. We like to say that while some publishing companies launch a book, in WiDo’s case it was a book that launched a publishing company.
That book was Farm Girl, a folklore history I wrote to honor my mother on her 90th birthday. I had no idea it would lead to the creation of a book publishing company that has released over 40 books.
Brown: Your son William Gowen, is the CEO of WiDo Publishing, and your husband Bruce is the business manager, while you are managing editor. What is it like to work with your family?
Gowen: The first few years of WiDo’s existence consisted of numerous family members working together to implement this huge idea, along with the financial support of our generous and anonymous investor. Our son Don did the typesetting and covers; our daughter Liesel was an editor; William (we call him Billy) was an insightful decision-maker as well as an excellent editor; and other family was involved as well in various capacities. It wasn’t until early 2012 that we branched out from using only family, who really needed to devote more time to their own jobs and interests, to hiring freelancers.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my husband and children to build something that has made so many writers’ dreams come true. Being a family of readers and book-fanatics, it’s incredibly rewarding that we have had this opportunity to publish so many wonderful books.
Brown: What are some of your dreams for the future of the publishing house?
Gowen: Next year, 2014, we will reach the huge milestone of having published 50 books. It hardly seems possible since we went from 2007 – 2010 basically learning the ropes while publishing only a few books. We are forever grateful for the authors who took a chance on us early on, like William Everett Prusso (Ghost Waves, 2009), David J. West (Heroes of the Fallen, 2010), and Tamara Hart Heiner (Perilous, 2010). We barely knew what we were doing back then, yet these writers stuck with us during the extremely long editing and publishing process. Our time now from submissions to release is cut by about half what these good people had to endure.
In addition, since 2009 the entire publishing industry was going through a tremendous overhaul: from POD to ebooks to bookstores closing to the rise of self-publishing and of social media marketing. Many publishers, large and small, went out of business during that time, and I can hardly believe our little company survived it all and has even thrived. We are getting more submissions than ever and look forward to the 100 books released milestone.
We see our immediate future being to continue the current pace of publishing an average of 12-15 books a year, supporting our authors along the way from editing to book release and beyond. Within the next five years, we’d like to double our yearly output to releasing 24-30 books a year. We also plan to integrate more aggressive online marketing campaigns for all of our books.
Brown: At this moment, what type of authors are you seeking?
Gowen: We really love the enthusiastic authors who are excited about learning everything they can about navigating this great new world of online book marketing. In today’s bookselling world, it is the writer who is the face of the book. Readers could care less who the publisher is; instead, they’re often attracted to a book by who the author is.
Writers can no longer stay in the background, quietly and anonymously writing. They’ve got to get out there and pull in their readership. It can be difficult since most writers are introverted, even reclusive, but the good news is that social media is the ideal vehicle for the reclusive writer to build a platform that also builds relationships with potential readers.
For some of our authors, it comes easily and when they submit to us they have a solid platform already in place. For others, it’s brand new, with a definite learning curve until they can comfortably navigate social media. We like people willing to learn, to give their books the best chance of success by putting themselves out there, whether in person or online. And we will guide them and support and assist them along the way, because both publisher and author have the same goals: to put out a quality product that will attract readers and sales.
We also like writers who are flexible and willing to work with their editors, willing to accept certain changes in their work or their ideas of what the cover or title should be in order to make the book more marketable. We try to be flexible too; because we want our authors to love their books as much when they’re published as they did when they finished the last draft and sent it off to submissions.
Brown: What is one piece of advice you would give up-and-coming writers whose goal is to be a published author?
Gowen: Write, write and write some more. Write everything, not just books. Write like your life depended on it, because you won’t have a career as a writer if you don’t. You’ve got to love the whole idea and process of writing, despite the no money and the bad prose and the rejection and failure and discouragement. The more you write the better you will be, until one day you have the completed manuscript that someone outside your family and friends will love and want to invest in.
Angela Jackson-Brown was born in Montgomery, Alabama and grew up in Ariton, Alabama. She is an English Professor at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. She graduated from Troy University in Troy, AL (B.S. in Business Administration); Auburn University in Auburn, AL (M.A. in English); and Spalding University in Louisville, KY (MFA in Creative Writing).
Her work has appeared in literary journals, such as: Pet Milk, Uptown Mosaic Magazine, New Southerner Literary Magazine, The Louisville Review,Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, Blue Lake Review, Identify Theory, Toe Good Poetry, and94 Creations. Her short story, “Something in the Wash” was awarded the 2009 fiction prize by New Southerner Literary Magazine and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Fiction. Her play, Wade in the Water, was professionally read at The University of Louisville in the summer of 2012.