April 2012 • Vol. 23, No. 04 • Download pdf version
Starting Small, But Thinking Large
BY TRISH JENSEN
Once upon a time in a hotel room far, far, away six best-selling authors (Debra Dixon, Deborah Smith, Donna Ball, Sandra Chastain, Virgina Ellis, and Nancy Knight…shortly followed by Martha Shields Crockett) did something not welcomed by all of their Big Six publishers. They got together at a conference and talked. Heaven forbid. This was in 1999.
These authors weren’t unhappy, necessarily; they just weren’t certain their publishers were right. In fact, they were worried that their publishers were short-sighted and ignoring opportunities when it came to wooing readers and helping their authors with discoverability. What to do, what to do? Wait a minute. How about listening to the authors and doing it their way? Although none will admit it, since they didn’t record the conversation (or won’t admit to recording for posterity) some swear one said, “Given the new distribution mechanisms, anyone with half a brain would start a publishing company.”
As they continued to talk, an idea was formed, which became, in 2000, a tiny company called BelleBooks.
They definitely started small, with one book called Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes, that “blew past all of our expectations”, according to CEO and Publisher Debra Dixon and which, incidentally, still sells well more than a decade later. They slowly added more titles, they experimented, and learned publishing their way with their vision.
A funny thing happened on the way to success: they realized early on that e-books were the wave of the
NINC News…. It’s that Time Again...
future, and they were already talking about “discoverability” and “long-tail publishing”—ideas that the Big Six publishers and other industry professionals are just now talking about as if they’re new concepts.
Those first six authors, sitting around talking at a conference, were on to something. And this, folks, is the reason BelleBooks grew and expanded. When I asked Ms. Dixon how the goals changed as the company grew, she said, “Our primary goals have never changed: find readers, sell Continued on page 5