“I cannot claim to have had a hard time publishing,” Alice Walker once wrote — a rare claim indeed when it comes to authors trying to find a home for their work.
But help may come for those struggling writers from Sherman-based imprint Emerald Lake Books (ELB). The company coaches authors through the business aspects of writing, after which founder Tara Alemany works with them to manage online reviews, gain support from similar authors or industry leaders and publicize the book.
Alemany said she started ELB in October 2014 after going through the process with a number of other small publishers.
“I had five or six projects that all had different hiccups along the way,” she said. “And at first I didn’t have the knowledge and understanding of self-publishing to try it on my own.”
The Sherman resident’s experiences helped her learn, however, and ELB has slowly grown to the point where it now publishes six books a year, working with such writers as Jack Stetson — who wrote about his family’s legacy as former owners of the Danbury State Fair, aiming to correct public misconceptions about its sale — and Marc Youngquist, who wrote about his experiences with the Connecticut National Guard’s 143rd Military Police Company while training the Iraqi police force.
Such titles underscore what Alemany said are three key points ELB considers when deliberating over working with a new or experienced author. “One, what should the reader get out of it? Two, what impact will it have on the author’s business? Are they looking for speaking opportunities or coaching clients or do they want to inspire the reader to make changes in their life? And three, what is the overall goal for the book’s impact?”
Each prospective author is required to fill out an application, telling about themselves, their experiences and of course what their book is about. If suitably intrigued — positive and inspirational ideas are especially appreciated — ELB then conducts a phone meeting and, if all goes well, moves forward with the project.
Although everything ELB has published to date has been nonfiction, Alemany noted that she’s now working with a new author on a young adult novel. “I’ve known her since she was 12,” she said. “She’s in her mid-20s now. So it was a little easier for me to know who she was, and her idea was a natural fit for us.”
The “us” in the equation includes Mark Gerber, a longtime illustrator and designer of book covers, newsletters and ad campaigns whose work with major publishing houses included titles by Stephen King and Danielle Steele. Originally ELB’s art director, the Brookfield resident became a partner in the business in November 2016. “It was a natural move to make it more formal,” he said.
Gerber further noted that shifting tastes in traditional book publishing had initially led him to ELB’s door. “I needed a different kind of focus,” he said, “and this opportunity was what provided it.”
Alemany said she cautions authors that their work is hardly done once their manuscript is completed. “That’s just the start,” she said. After helping with editing and design — something ELB’s authors are expected to have a voice in, unlike at most major publishers — Alemany, Gerber and an on-call support staff work with its writers on marketing, public relations and branding.
The personal touch is of utmost importance at ELB, Alemany said.
“With first-time authors especially, they’ll meet with someone who’s actually in sales (at a major house), and then they’ll put them together with a project manager and never be seen again. The project manager is usually who you end up working with — he’s between the author and the people who are actually crafting the book, like the editor and the cover designer.”
Such bureaucracy is simply not tolerated at Emerald Lake Books, she said. “We’re looking to be a one-stop shop for the author.”