January 2008

A new publishing company wants regional writers

By Connie Gotsch

Dear Author: We have read your manuscript with great interest at Manhattan Press. Unfortunately, it does not suit our needs.

If editors at big publishing houses don’t recognize a writer’s name, a story or an article almost automatically lands in the reject pile.

Untried Four Corners authors may not have to face that problem because two writers with business backgrounds, Roberta Summers and Ron McDonald, got sick of receiving “Dear Author” Xeroxes. Last month, they opened Silverjack Publishing in Farmington, N.M., with music, a ribbon- cutting, and book-signings by local writers.

“What we plan to do is publish regional authors,” says McDonald, a Texas native with a voice that commands attention when he recites his cowboy poems or reads from his novels, “Armstrong’s War” or “Rough Justice,” written under the name Lee Pierce.

He knows how hard unknowns struggle to get into print. He published “Armstrong’s War” in England because no American house would touch the manuscript.

“It’s the chicken-and-the-egg theory,” his Silverjack partner, Summers, says quietly. “You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job.”

Silverjack Publishing will create jobs for authors by developing a line of books on regional subjects, bed and breakfasts, ghosts, outlaws, history, colorful characters, cooking, or mines. About 75 percent of the titles will be nonfiction, the remainder fiction.

“We’re looking for books that we can offer through venues other than the traditional bookstore,” says Summers, who gained a marketing background managing an art gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Between there, Honolulu, and Farmington, she also ran her own public relations and consulting firm, represented artists, and worked as a stockbroker. “[We want] books that can be sold through visitors centers, kitchen stores, or sports stores.”

Silverjack Publishing’s first project, due out in January, fits the plan. McDonald and his daughter, Hollie Henley, have written a cookbook entitled “What Do You Mean the Cook’s Not Mexican?”

The volume results from McDonald’s 30 years in the restaurant business. He owns La Fiesta Grande in Farmington.

“People keep asking me, how can you cook that? You¹re not Mexican,” he laughs.

The question made him realize a lot of people believe they can’t cook ethnic foods. “What Do You Mean the Cook’s Not Mexican?” tries to change their attitude by offering simple recipes from his restaurant’s kitchen and from his Mexican friends.  In addition, the book comes with three ounces of a basic Mexican spice combination that he created. “It’ll give a nice twinge, without having to have two dozen spices in your cabinet.”

Besides the cookbook, Silverjack Publishing plans to produce a CD and book by McDonald under the working title, “Cowboy Poetry and Storytelling.”

The company also hopes to buy the rights to reprint regional author Bob Rosebrough’s “A Guide to Hiking and Camping in the San Juan Mountains.”

Silverjack Publishing will meet all printing costs. “The authors don’t pay a penny,” McDonald asserts. “We¹re a legitimate small publisher. We¹re going to put out as good a product as you'd get from one of the big guys.”

Summers picked the name “Silverjack” because it captures the feeling of the Wild West. “Up near Montrose, Colorado, there’s a Silverjack Lake and a Silverjack Mine.”

Silverjack is also the main character in McDonald’s novel “Rough Justice.” “Silverjack is his alter ego,” Summers grins. “So I asked his permission to use [the name].”

“Being the modest person that I am, I said why not,” Pierce banters back.

Silverjack Publishing will begin production by printing a thousand books at a time to test the market. Successful volumes will be reprinted in runs of 5,000 or more.

As the owners of the company, Summers and McDonald have put up the money to finance Silverjack. They will also use a concept called pre-publishing, offering books at a discount before publication date, to offset the costs of printing.

Summers believes they will spend the next three years developing Silverjack into a viable entity, with help from the Quality Center for Business at San Juan College in Farmington.

Through its Enterprise Center, the QBC provides office space, equipment, computers, phones, and secretarial staff to new businesses until they they are established enough to move into their own quarters.

Business owners can also take seminars at the QBC’s Small Business Development Center to learn about marketing, budgeting, or tax rules.

“Probably the hardest thing was building a web site, and the other hardest thing was I guess I didn’t realize that I was going to have to learn a complete publishing program,” says Summers.

“It’s been like pulling teeth to get the first project out,” admits McDonald. “But it’ll be creative and rewarding.”

Silverjack Publishing has been working with the San Juan College QBC since last July, and both McDonald and Summers have learned a lot about starting a business on a solid base. “I feel like we’re going to have a real quality product,” McDonald says. “I’m excited about Silverjack.”

In addition to its current projects, Silverjack Publishing is considering three novels, and welcomes author submissions. Interested writers should send a query letter to robertasummers@msn.com or go to www.silverjackpublishing.com

“If you have something you feel you want to take a shot at getting published, we’d love to talk to you,’ grins McDonald.

“Consider it an open invitation,” adds Summers.