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A Prize Winning Press Built With Mysteries

Death by HitchcockAmong the publishers recently honored with Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards is Cozy Cat Press, the post-retirement project of a college professor. And what a project it is:
Established in the Chicago suburb of Aurora in 2010, when Patricia Rockwell couldn’t find a satisfactory publisher for her first novel, the press specializes in cozies, which she describes as “gentle” mysteries. (Other sources define this sub-genre of crime fiction as one “in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community” and where the plot involves “a bloodless crime,” with the criminal being punished and order being restored to the community.)

With an in-house staff of one—herself—Rockwell has streamlined traditional publishing to ensure that she isn’t working 8 to 5 every single day, although she admits that if each of her 40 current authors submits only one manuscript, she might be overwhelmed.
Here’s how she manages:
Each title is issued print on demand and in Kindle format.
Cozy Cat covers all production expenses in return for all print book revenue. Authors receive all revenue from the digital editions in lieu of royalties. “This makes bookkeeping much easier,” Rockwell points out, adding, “I believe that the authors get the better end of this bargain—at least I have yet to hear any of them complain.”

  • Storefront bookstores can order direct from Cozy Cat, and they receive quantity discounts. All wholesale sales are nonreturnable.
  • Cozy Cat does no retailing; all customers are referred to Amazon.com.
  • All design is handled by freelancers who work remotely. In fact, Rockwell confides that she has never met any of them.
  • A Facebook forum allows the publisher and authors to communicate frequently from wherever they are. “Our online community is also a wonderful sounding board for new authors who have questions,” Rockwell says. “There is always an experienced author there to help.”

Cash Kills: An Angelina Bonaparte Mystery is the Cozy Cat title that won a Benjamin Franklin Digital Award. Like most of the company’s titles, it’s one in a series about amateur sleuths, in this case a librarian turned PI. Issued last fall, it’s scheduled to have a sequel this year. Like Rockwell, author Nanci Rathbun has enjoyed multiple careers, having transitioned from IT management to the Congregational ministry and now to retirement and writing.
Many of her authors are retirees, Rockwell says, and many use their considerable social media savvy to promote their books. Do a Google search for any of their names or book titles and up come dozens of references for each, often with announcements of the Kindle promotions the authors are running, or the rave reviews on sites such as Goodreads.

Three Rights Sales For A Trilogy

Billyfish Books has sold German rights for Jason Lewis’s The Expedition Trilogy—Dark Waters, The Seed Buried Deep, and To the Brink—to Piper Verlag in Munich. And the publisher has also sold Chinese rights for Taiwan to Sunflower Media Co. in Yilan County, Taiwan, and to Sunnbook Culture & Art Co. of Beijing. The German edition is expected to be released in 2015, and the Chinese editions are planned for 2016.

Notable Media Mentions

La Belle Creole by Alina Garcia Lapuerta from Chicago Review Press got a lengthy review entitled “The Cuban Countess” in a late December issue of The Wall Street Journal, which called it “a welcome book, one that adds a colorful brush stroke or two to our image of the early and mid-19th century.”
“Raising Beef Is Good for the Earth” is how The Wall Street Journal headlined another December review, this one of Chelsea Green’s Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, by Nicolette Hahn Niman. Defending Beef was also recently reviewed in the Los Angeles Times and Publishers Weekly. It was the only indie-published title to be included on the Mother Jones list of best food books of 2014.

Another Chicago Review title, Zoology for Kids: Understanding and Working With Animals, by John and Bethany Hestermann, was included in the Publishers Weekly feature “Science From the Ground Up,” which described it as an “accessible introduction to zoology, filled with vivid photographs and written in lively, enthusiastic prose.”

“Chelsea Green: Sustainability at 30” is how PW headlined a page-long feature on the publisher’s 30th anniversary. The story tells how selling books at conferences and having authors attend these events has been an important Chelsea Green marketing initiative and also reports that 24 booksellers are now participating in the publisher’s consignment programs with dedicated shelf space.

Kat Engh, the communications manager at Berrett-Koehler Publishers, was among the people quoted at length in PW’s “African-American Publishing: Got Diversity?” She cited social media as helping Berrett-Koehler network with “more diverse people so that when we are hiring, we have a larger pool.”
Sourcebooks author Chellie Campbell and her new title, From Worry to Wealthy: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Success Without the Stress, were mentioned in PW’s “Personal Finance: Start Me Up” feature.

Satans-Lullaby-178x276A Poisoned Pen Press book—Satan’s Lullaby: A Medieval Mystery by Priscilla Royal—received a starred review in PW, which said, “Clever plot that elevates her work to the top rank of historical mystery writers.”

Just in Time for a Highlander, by Gwyn Cready from Sourcebooks Casablanca also received a starred review. PW called it “a gripping, passionate tale full of magic and yearning.”
Another Sourcebooks title, Seven Letters From Paris, by Samantha Verant, was included in Library Journal’s recent article, “With a Bang and No Whimpers: Memoir,” which described it as a “charming, conversational account of a second chance at a lost love.”

Other titles recently reviewed in Library Journal include:

Berrett-Koehler’s Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better by Maya Schenwar.

Cooperative Press’s Sock Architecture: Heels, Toes, & Techniques for Knitting Awesome Socks by Lara Neel

It wasn't your fault Two Interweave titles, Twigg Stitch: A New Twist on Reversible Knitting by Vicki Twigg, and First Frost: Cozy Folk Knitting by Lucinda Guy

ShapeNew Harbinger’s It Wasn’t Your Fault: Freeing Yourself From the Shame of Childhood Abuse With the Power of Self-Compassion by Beverly Engel

Poisoned Pen’s The Magician’s Daughter: A Valentine Hill Mystery by Judith Janeway

Two Sourcebooks Casablanca romances, Playing Doctor by Kate Allure, and Cowboy Heaven by Cheryl Brooks

Two Square One titles, Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way by Stewart Lane and The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle: A Journey Into Madness & Mayhem, by Daniel Friedman and Eugene Friedman.

Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com) writes for the Independent from Seattle.

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