Salt Run Publishing is a project that started with a bizarre accident and my stubborn insistence that if I did not admit my foot was fractured, then it wasn’t.
Because I’m bullheaded like that.
It all began in 2008 with my crazysauced idea to buy a boat. I know nothing about boats, have never studied them, and rarely been on one. But for whatever reason, I woke up one morning and thought, “I need a boat.”
Now and then, the squirrels in my head get drunk but they do not go home. They just come up with crazysauced ideas, run around and bounce off the ceiling in my brain, and then pass out.
Again, I know nothing of boats. But my brother does. I picked up the phone.
“I need to buy a boat,” I announced.
“Who is this?”
“Funny guy. I’m serious.”
“Why?” His astonishment was palpable. “You don’t know diddly about boats and you wouldn’t do anything that might break a fingernail.”
“You’re right. I don’t. But you do, and I have a great manicurist. So we’re buying a boat together.”
Silence. Then “Are you drunk?”
“My head-squirrels probably are. But that’s not important right now. I have this overwhelming desire to buy a boat and go to Key West or something, and fish. For tarpon. Or snoop. Or guppies. Hell, I don’t know anything about fish. But you do. You can teach me from our boat when we get it.”
More silence. Then, “You mean snook, not snoop.”
I had him.
A month later, my brother and sister-in-law picked up the HeadHunter, a boat we’d bought on eBay. They took her to Panama City Beach to cuddle with her for a few days before I met them there.
When I arrived, we made a financially crippling stop at West Marine for Everything You Did Not Know You Need When You Buy A Boat before hitting the Gulf of Mexico to rock on the gentle waves under the golden sunshine. None of the three of us were quite able to believe we’d really done it.
Then my sister-in-law accidentally threw the anchor overboard (and not in a good way), and a storm blew in.
And by “storm,” I mean, I thought “so this is how I’m going to die?” (Those are stories for another day.)
But I didn’t care. When we got back to the hotel, I was soaked, shivering, starving, nauseated, and exhilarated.
I called my husband. “You have to come down here and go out on this boat, it’s the most amazing thing ever. You’ll love it.”
“What’s that noise I keep hearing?” he asked.
“That’s my teeth chattering. I’m freezing. Come down here!”
“I saw on the news there was a bad storm on the Gulf this afternoon. Y’all were in before then, right?”
“No. I nearly got blown overboard a couple of times because the Gulf was really rough when we were flying to get in and I wasn’t used to it, but we were following a Sea Tow boat so it was okay. Vickie lost the anchor but it wasn’t her fault. I may or may not have thrown up a couple of times. I’m missing a shoe. I broke a nail. Two guys on Jet-Skis had to help us load the boat because the wind kept trying to push it back out into the Gulf. But it’s all good. COME DOWN HERE!”
“You broke a nail? And you survived that?”
“Shut up and get down here!”
“You know I hate water. And sharks and jellyfish, and fish in general.”
“Of course I know that,” I snapped. “But you love dolphins. And dolphins live here! Seriously, they swim right up to you.”
“I’m on my way.” Click.
When he got there, we took the boat to the marina and made a quick stop for some drinks and snacks. As we were leaving the captain’s store, I miscalculated and plummeted off the 2″ step-down, turned my ankle, and splatted on the pavement with my left leg oddly twisted beneath me.
My husband and my brother helped me up. “This is bad. We have to go to the ER.”
“Shut up and help me into the boat,” I ordered. “If it still hurts when we come back in, I’ll go then. Move it.”
That evening after my husband had had several mindblowing encounters with dolphins, I was sitting in the hotel hot tub with a pina colada, a full and happy heart, and a very painful foot.
My husband studied it. “Do you want to go to the ER now?”
“Are you kidding me? That’ll cost us a fortune. I’ll go see Dr. F when we get home if it still bothers me.”
Silence. Then, “Dr. F is not a podiatrist. He will probably tell you he doesn’t see a problem.”
“I’m counting on it,” I assured him.
Two weeks later, I saw Dr. F. He x-rayed my foot.
“I don’t see a problem.”
“Awesome.” I limped out.
(I know you’re wondering what all this has to do with starting a publishing business. Stay with me. I’m getting there.)
Three months later when the pain was cataclysmic, I saw my podiatrist, Dr. N.
“You have three fractures in your foot and you are going into a cast. You’ll be lucky if you can avoid surgery on this. When did you say it happened again?”
“Umm . . . a couple of weeks ago,” I fibbed.
“You know, the ability to recognize a lie when I hear one is my superpower.” He sent me home in an air boot with pain meds and instructions to stay off the foot and return in two weeks.
TWO WEEKS??? Anyone who knows me knows I cannot stay in one place for two weeks. And have you ever tried lumbering around in an air boot? I was devastated. And in more pain than I have ever experienced in my life. Two weeks later, I got even worse news: I wasn’t coming out of the cast any time soon. (I ended up wearing the abominable thing for nearly six months.)
“Now might be a good time for you to finish that book you started,” my husband advised.
He had a point.
I mean, I was stuck on the couch with nothing else to do. I couldn’t work (I was working with horses at the time). All I could do was watch TV (which I loathe) or surf the Internet.
Surfing it was.
The year before, in 2007, Amazon had launched what I thought was the most ridiculous thing ever – an electronic reading device upon which you could “download” and “read” a “book.” It cost something like three hundred bucks.
Absurd. Why would you trade the gloriousness of paper and print for something, when you think about it, that was just flat words on a cold screen? And furthermore, who would PAY that kind of money for it? Ridiculous.
So I put it out of my mind. It wasn’t going to last, right? So why devote any mental energy to it?
I finished the abysmally bad 110,000 word book I’d started writing in 1994, and started looking up publishers.
I’m not new to publishing. I grew up around newspapers, worked in printing and graphics nearly all my life, wrote and published nonfiction articles, served as editor of three magazines, and owned my own graphic design business for fourteen years. I pretty much quit all that when I started working with horses full-time in 2003. So I was kind of out of the publishing loop.
Which explained my incredulity when I realized authors were now mostly “self-publishing,” thanks to the ridiculous and absurd electronic reading device. When I had my graphics business, self-publishing was something you mostly did if you couldn’t get a contract and had the necessary funds. (Selling copies wasn’t a priority.)
So, with nothing else to do, I researched. And I quickly realized that publishing as we knew it was changing, and changing big. In only a few days, I understood the value of the ridiculous electronic reading device – which wasn’t so ridiculous to me anymore.
I switched from looking for a publisher to researching editors and cover designers. I also joined a writer’s group in St Augustine, Florida. Almost instantly I formed what I knew would be lifelong friendships with authors who had twenty-plus years of experience with publishers.
My bonds with those authors-turned-sisters have grown and strengthened over the years, but we did have one agree-to-disagree point, early on.
I thought the “ridiculous electronic reading device” was our future. My new author friends thought it was a bad joke, along with self-publishing. And of course the whole thing would fade away because . . . “self-published? Who would read a self-published book?”
Okay, they had a point. The device made it too easy to pound out fifty thousand words, run a spell-check, upload the whole mess, and call yourself a “published author.” The entire concept had a long way to go before it was polished. But I knew it would shake out to be a game-changer.
I totally got it. I understood that where you worked did not make you an editor. Ability and skill did. I understood that where you worked did not make you a cover artist. An eye for design and combining artistic elements did. I understood metadata and ISBN numbers and formatting. I understood promotion. I got it.
I understood that words are words, no matter how they are read.
And I understood that the device would allow me to carry hundreds (okay, I confess: THOUSANDS) of books with me. Everywhere. All the time.
I wanted to see how it worked.
Several of my friends had titles out of contract and doing nothing but taking up hard drive space. “Why don’t you self-publish those backlist titles?” I asked.
They shuddered. “Self-publish? Absolutely not. All self-published books are crap. Besides, I don’t know how.”
I did. (I also knew all self-published books were not crap.)
“Want me to help you do it?” I asked.
“Thanks, no, I’ll just shop them around and see if another publisher will pick them up,” they said.
A year later, one of my author friends asked if my offer to help her publish was still good.
Of course it was.
“What will you charge me to do it?” she asked. “I can’t let you work for free.”
Charge her? Wow – this opened up a completely new business idea.
Side note: if you have ever worked with horses, you know it’s an outdoors 24-7 job in every kind of weather. No office hours. No staying in because of rain, snow, heat, bugs, or zombie apocalypse. Period. Tons of laundry. Loading and unloading feed and hay. Trips to the vet. Broken nails.
The idea of an air-conditioned/heated job appealed to me.
I could do this. I had everything I needed. I had very little overhead and a team of handpicked professionals I could call in when I needed them. It wouldn’t take much to start a publishing business for backlist titles.
And I loved books. Writing. Authors. Graphics. Words. Sentences. Everything about books, I loved.
Salt Run Publishing was born.
Four years later, we have over twenty titles in print and ebook, with seven more set to release this year, and the 2017 schedule already filling up. We’ve added first runs to our lineup. I work with the best authors in the world, who are also my friends. I’ve taught workshops on social media, self-publishing, building a media kit, and promotion. I’m having the time of my life!
We’ve reopened to submissions and will accept a limited number of titles for 2017 release. If you’d like us to consider your book (whether a new or backlist title), contact me here and tell me a little about yourself. Also, include the back cover description of your book. (If your book is not yet published, give me the description you intend to use for your back cover.) I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
By the way: I have yet to publish a novel of my own. The truth is that I am having too much fun working with other people’s books that I have little interest in taking the time to publish my own. And that’s okay. I enjoy my authors’ successes more than I would my own, anyway.
Update: We still have the Headhunter. After six months in a cast, I was cleared to go back out on her. I don’t go out as much as I’d like because my brother has a daughter now who (is the love of my life and) keeps him and my sister-in-law pretty stationary, and because I don’t like to take the time off work.
But the HeadHunter is waiting for us, when we decide we want to go fishing for snoop. I mean, snook. Or whatever. I still know nothing about fish.