Renea Winchester, Helping Author’s Make Their Mark
By: Jamie Woody
What started as a love for the written word, has transformed into a passion to help talented southern authors achieve their goal of publication. In 2010, while touring during the release of her memoir In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes (Little Creek Books), Winchester encountered writers who were desperate to sell their books.
“Two ladies in particular are the catalyst for Make Your Mark Publishing: one had invested 20,000 dollars in a beautiful, yet overpriced, book. Another had remortgaged her home after spending 50,000 dollars on books she could not sell. While the books gathered dust in her basement, she lost her home to foreclosure.”
Winchester’s personal journey to publication began almost ten years ago after meeting beloved North Carolina author, Wilma Dykeman. “Wilma and I were at The Swag helping raise money for the Friends of the Smokies when I casually mentioned how much I enjoyed her work. I confided that I dreamed of becoming a published author. Wilma’s encouragement truly was the catalyst to my career as an author.”
In 2006, and 2008, Morehead State University awarded Winchester the Wilma Dykeman Award for essay. More awards followed, as did publication in prestigious magazines. “Winning the awards motivated me to expand my writing from short stories into book-length manuscripts. Both the Wilma Dykeman and Denny Plattner awards (Berea College) were special because the essays reflect my love of the mountains. To me, writing is an extension of your soul… a personal gift from me to you.”
In 2011, a year that saw the closing of many publishing companies and bookstores, Winchester took a calculated risk and published Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author through her company Make Your Mark Publishing LLC.
“After living in Atlanta for ten years and meeting hundreds of readers I know how to network. However, before I embarked on this new journey, (one which included relocating to her hometown of Bryson City, North Carolina), I wanted to understand the behind-the-scenes process of publication before offering my services to emerging authors. I knew I could teach new authors how to market their work; but I needed to prove to myself that I could deliver a quality product. Our books do not look self-published, because they aren’t. Make Your Mark Publishing is a small press specifically designed to represent regional talent. We publish only quality work that captures the heart, soul and voice of the south.”
Another source of pride is that the books are printed in the United States and authors aren’t required to order a large quantity of books.
“I would never encourage a first-time author to purchase 20 to 50 thousand dollars of stock. There are so many unscrupulous businesses out there preying on first-time authors. Fortunately, with my personal experience I know how many copies the average book sells.”
For that reason, Make Your Mark Publishing doesn’t have a warehouse filled with books. Authors order what they believe they can sell with the ability to re-order as often as necessary. In order to keep returns to a minimum, the books are designated as print-on-demand and are distributed through Ingram’s and Baker & Taylor. This means that independent booksellers have the option of ordering through traditional vendors, directly through the publisher, or the author. Regarding the printing process Winchester says: “It is ridiculous that books are being printed overseas. Frankly, that is unacceptable, especially in today’s economy. It is important to me as a writer and a publisher that books published through Make Your Mark Publishing are printed in the United States.”
One of the biggest challenges with forming a company has been time management and explaining the publication process to first-time authors.
“Once I determined to form the company I immediately wanted to announce to the world that I was open for submissions. However, I soon realized that cover artists, editors and those who format the finished product have their own time constraints. There is a reason books take months to create. Quality books are an investment of time and money. This is why many publishers aren’t taking risks with emerging authors. Established authors already have a reader following. My goal is to change that. I want to give emerging authors the opportunity to exceed national sales figures; but first, they should understand the business side of publishing.”
When discussing eBooks versus traditional printed books Winchester has this to say. “The biggest mistake any author can make is to upload an eBook and think that their job is complete. Doing so is a recipe for failure. There are millions of titles available for digital download. Authors must consider how they are going to approach readers. I won’t argue that eBooks reflect a growing market. However, when one delves into the statistics, many books included in the data are free books, with the larger sales going to authors with multiple titles who have built a platform. Contrary to what some believe, the printed word is alive and well. Make Your Mark Publishing’s books are available in electronic format, but I will always encourage that face-to-face personal relationship because I know that is what sells books.”
Tucked away in the mountains of Bryson City, Winchester is currently reviewing several manuscripts slated for a spring release.
“I often look back upon that chance meeting with Wilma Dykeman. Had she told me then that I would pen two books, and form a publishing company she and I would have shared a hearty laugh.”
Make Your Mark Publishing is currently open for submissions. Visit their website www.makeyourmarkpublishing.com or email her directly at email@example.com.
Jamie Woody is a freelance writer who lives in Jonathan Creek. When she’s not writing she’s spending time with her labradoodle.