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The Publisher’s Life #2

I left off Part One with deciding I would submit my newly thought-of newsletter Sycamore Roots to a variety of readers. The easiest part of becoming a publisher is actually saying you’re going to do it.

The hard part, as it is with anything, is following through. Well, I decided that if I wanted to knock off two goals with one stone the smartest thing I could do was send my newsletter/journal to five-to-six, well-known authors in my field of interest. These were people like Barry Lopez, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Gene Logsdon and the like. I was into how we can best live where we do. Environmental, outdoor life, and ethics. I still remember the day in late fall of 1993, I had copied 75 copies of Sycamore Roots on my way home from work, went home, folded everything up nicely, stapled the pages shut, applied postage stamps, and took a late night drive to the nearby post office drop box. It was like many plunges we all take in life: I dropped the mail into the postal box and knew that there was no turning back. I was nervous and excited all at once. I thought my friends will think I’ve lost my mind, the well-known authors I’d sent to would surely break out laughing: who is this joker that sent me this odd Sycamore Roots mailing?

A few days passed by and I started putting together the next issue when I got a letter from not one, but three of my writing idols, they liked what I’d sent them, heck, they even sent me subscription money. Out of my first twenty subscribers one was a Pulitzer-prize winner, one was a National Book Award Winner, and another was a MacArthur Genius winner. Instead of feeling I’d done something absurd I felt nearly euphoric. I learned early on that if you approach people with passion and professionalism that you won’t be laughed at, or made fun of. But, most importantly, you will be rewarded with confidence. I can honestly say that without the positive feedback I did get from writers I greatly respected I wouldn’t have gone on to be a book publisher. I think this is what any author, or any publisher, or any one wanting to be in business for themselves needs, you must get feedback from people you admire. You must know that your ideas DO have roots and meaning beyond your own thoughts and friends. When you putting your heart and soul into what you want it shows. I always tell anyone starting out as an author, or starting a business, then, to pick the five people living that you would most like to share your ideas with and then share something with them by mail. This should be a “dream list” not in the least practical. Go for broke. The feedback you get will be much more worthwhile than any business plan you research. It’s real, heartfelt commerce that profits your soul. If you hear nothing you’ve not lost anything you hadn’t heard from them before. Try another dream list. Publishing, like any business is one of sharing what you have with those that need and want to hear it.