We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Bartnick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
“How hard could it be?” That was my first mistake. Whenever I ask myself that question, it is followed by an experiment and then a test and another experiment and so on until by sheer tenacity and curiosity, I have myself a new label. And, that is how Capture Books began. A writers group had been meeting in my home for years and years. We were dedicated writers and editors for each other, and we were each other’s publishing champions. “Why don’t you submit to this or that magazine?” “Have you thought about getting yourself an agent yet?” “Your writing always reminds me of such and such author.” Gradually, our conversations about publishing became noticably full of concern for the fallen down traditional publishing houses, the buy-outs and the rumors about any acceptance of any new author being based on their household name brand, i.e. whether a book proposal came from an already well-known public personality. Of the writers meeting at my house, there were no household names. Of the writers meeting at my house, there were none who even knew a famous athelete or musician or politician. Maybe the cousin or grandpa of the teacher who had taught a hot branded personality in grade school – and that was as close as any of us had gotten to fame. So, one day, a teacher we had invited to our group arrived with a story she’d written. She liked us. She came back again and again, probably three times before she proposed an outline of how she’d seen enough and thought that we should start our own publishing company. In fact, she calculated, by the time she came back from a year of teaching overseas, we should have published our first three books. Not only that, but she made a pitch for a name of a writers’ conference in which we would each conduct workshops for the purpose of nurturing unpublished, wide-eyed authors. We were wide-eyed ourselves. During the next writer’s group, after marking up each other’s manuscript chapters and articles, we brainstormed names for our would-be company. Capture Books was voted in. Immediately afterward, we brainstormed what kind of workshops each of us would conduct, and one of the writers was given the task of booking the hotel on a given date. “Now, who will be filing for a trade name and filing our articles of incorporation?’ Tonya looked around the table and I squirmed. I had been a paralegal in a previous life. Everyone else knew that. Sure enough, everyone else’s wide eyes were settled on me. “How hard could it be?” I agreed. Immediately, Tonya Blessing departed for her teaching stint overseas, assuring each of us that she would be in touch. At the time, I was in a place of discontented boredom, so when I lazily began to research how to publish a book, I created an account, then I took a seminar. Then, I invested in a webinar, and finally, I bought a handful of ISBNs. Carefully, I began to attribute Tonya’s novel, Whispering of the Willows, to an ISBN and to create a book description. I did the same with a reference book, The Psalm Hymns, by L. L. Larkins, I tripled my effort with Lynn Byk’s memoir, Mister B: Living with a 98-Year-Old Rocket Scientist. Our first three books claimed real estate in the catalog of the LIbrary of Congress. As our habit had been, we used each other for editing our first three books. It was only later that we reissued these books with more professional editors. I hadn’t the foggiest idea of where to find editors or book designers or graphic artists. I remember creating Tonya’s first cover design in Microsoft Word! I used Create Space to design the Psalm Hymns cover with an image from my niece. I twisted the arm of a friend who designs magazine covers and advertising to design the cover of Mister B. When you ask about my thought process behind starting Capture Books, it was purely a matter of experimentation, discovery, curiosity, hard research, and testing. I did it because I believed in the authors and we felt that there was no other way to achieve our authorpreneurial goals unless we dove into the publishing waters ourselves. And we were right, the world was changing. As quickly as transformers came to invade the movie screen, self-publishing came as the invasive species that brought down traditional brick and mortar publishing houses. But I’ll say this. We succeeded in surviving by forming a hybrid publishing group.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Capture Books is a hybrid publishing company that prides itself in doing more than it promises. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard horror stories about an author getting picked up by a publisher, their book has been published, only to never hear from them again. Occasionally, the story includes getting published under a misspelled name. In every case, the authors are always disappointed that 1) the publishing company does nothing to market their book or publicize them, and 2) they do not understand how to market their new book themselves. This scenario always winds up with a running in the gutter experience, this after the excitement of getting picked up by a publisher. I was always a natural networker and creative in my personal life. If I’m passionate about something or someone, I’m always looking for ways to help them, so this heart became my greatest asset. Creativity is so much more technical and disciplined than the average person would believe. Architects must be mathmaticians of space, height and width. Media artists must learn how to manipulate forms of chemicals and structural media for texture and density for unique outcomes. Musicians learn the biology of forming and maintaining sound, changing it as it flows from their body and interacts with other sounds. I have enjoyed learning to publish children’s picture books and art books for authors. I’ve also learned that timing the release of any book and the preparation for the market beforehand is what helps to launch a new book. Once I hit the “publish” key, it is too late to assess the metadata or edit the back of the book description, line up book clubs to read the book, find endorsements and other reviewers. The formatting and cover design are not the only bits of wonder that go into a book launch. We spend hours setting up book tours, developing book trailers, giving away pre-release copies for first reviewers, and letting people who read this genre know that this book will hit the market soon, so that they can be looking out for it. Then, we help the author prepare tip sheets, sell sheets, coach them on author presentations, whether on the radio or podcast or live. We send out publicity emails and help the author with a minutia of details from formatting professional emails, using email systems, and helping introduce them to content marketing. We vet awards groups on their behalf, and motivate them to write blogs and a sequel even while they are marketing their first book. I introduce them to audiobooks and screenplay writers if it’s applicable. It is a rigorous road to write and publish a book. The point is not just to publish it, but to have those who love the genre read it. All this is in my wheelhouse of creativity.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We have a writer’s retreat suite in our house. When an author comes to visit, I usually take him or her up the mountain for a drive to The Happy Cooker in Georgetown, or The Bistro or Keys on the Green or the Smokehouse in Evergreen, or The Morrison Inn. Closer to home, we love to walk around Johnston Lake and eat at The Lake House anywhere from noon to after sunset. I have some good friends who wake surf who have taken visiting authors on their boat at Chatfield. Restaurants in wonderful settings provide for inspiration and time to discuss book parts and marketing issues. Driving around, we’ve often spied amazing sites in which to take head shots, media shots, or record author interviews.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate the success of Capture Books to our publicity partner, Books For Bonding Hearts, where the authors and editors of our boutique publishing company have found a platform to blog and te sell interesting gift items for readers.
Other: blogs and book bling is found here: https://BooksforBondingHearts.com https://www.facebook.com/BooksforBondingHearts/
Authors, Laura Bartnick, Charmayne Hafen, Tonya Jewel Blessing at 2020 NRB convention