Michael Amos, welcome to Bobbing Around. Please say a few words about the publishing company you and your sister run
Hello! I greatly appreciate the opportunity to answer some questions for you.
The creation of the publishing company has very much been an ongoing process. While I started initially working at a publishing house, I moved to working as a freelance illustrator, editor, and publisher for self-publishing authors before getting any ideas about a publishing company of my own. As time progressed, I really wanted to be able to offer more to my customers.
Around the same time, my sister decided she wanted to publish a poetry book. We then decided to create a publishing company, as we did not feel that what we were looking for was out there. Additionally, I had many books I wanted to publish myself. We really wanted to focus on the relationship between author and publisher, to be able to give each writer as much power and freedom as possible, while creating an engaged and ambitious community of authors who feel they are supported by our company. Each book project would then be personalised fully to the author, so that they feel comfortable with the process and can fully appreciate the final product that reaches the hands of their readers.
So far, it has been a tremendous success, as we feel we have managed to find the perfect collaborators to work on each book, and each author has been overjoyed with the result.
Sounds great, Michael. How long has Sleepy Lion been going? How many books have you published? And it would be interesting to my readers to be able to access a few testimonials from your writers
We have been active for nearly two years; although our first book was released about one year into the company’s registration. We spent a long time working on our website, logo (especially), and putting together all the resources needed.
Additionally, we started working on our latest released book, Awakening to a New Reality: Conscious Conversation across the Horizon of Death by Janice Dolley with Ursula Burton more than a year and a half ago. As the author had spent more than twenty years working on its writing, we really wanted to make sure that the work published was as perfect as it could be. Additionally, we tried our best to plan a time that would be intuitive. Despite initially scheduling to publish the book more than a year ago, the timing was never right, and we ended up feeling that April this year was the best time. Coincidentally, this was just at the time everyone was going into lockdown. So, we do hope that this book might help relieve worry in people’s lives.
Our first children’s book, Down on the Lake by Patrick Mooney, was released in November last year.
This means that in total, we have only published three books (including my sister’s poetry book, Hello? Poems on Fear). Up to this point, we have not asked for any testimonials, since we were waiting to have a few more authors before doing so, but I have now asked them both to send me a few sentences this weekend. I should then be able to send you their words as soon as I receive them.
Here is the requested testimonial from Janice Dolley:
Fortunate is any author to discover Sleepy Lion Publishing. They are a young company working in collaborative ways that our planet needs to adopt if we are to move into a sustainable and life enhancing future. Holding to essential core values, Sleepy Lion works in a collaborative partnership with each author until both are fully satisfied with the final publication. Having worked with several publishers over a period of time, I am delighted to give them the highest possible recommendation.
I am intrigued by the name, “Sleepy Lion.” Can you say something about it? My immediate reaction was of course “Narnia!”
It took us quite a long time to find the right name. After many months of contemplation, we eventually knew that it would need to be represented by a lion. We felt that the overall symbol of the sleepy lion was perfect, as we wanted to focus on two things. The first was our goal to help give power, freedom and transparency back to authors. We wanted to give each of our writers as much choice as possible in their editing, illustration, formatting and publishing of their book. We also wanted to reinforce a sense of collaboration and community, where we can meet with them, and get to know them personality to better identify their envisioned book, as mentioned before. Secondly, it was to encourage the overall awakening of humanity in our readers. We want each of our books to bring positivity, lucidity, inner strength, and a dreamlike beauty to the world. While we never had directly received any inspiration from Narnia, maybe indirectly we were influenced, as we are based where C. S. Lewis first got his vision for the lamp, and where he later attended school. In a way, much as Aslan’s presence in the Narnia books, all good change comes to us as we individually and collectively shift for the better.
The most difficult part of publishing is marketing/promotion. What have you done in that line? Has it been successful?
Well, it does depend on the book and the goals of each writer. For example, with Patrick Mooney, the children’s book author of Down on the Lake, we mostly focused on local and physical marketing. Our first marketing event was of course his book launch. This went superbly well. He wanted to have it at a local art studio, Apple Store Gallery, where he works. We made arrangements with the owners and together planned a day of fun activities for children, such as colouring and short story writing, with the addition of book reading and signing, drinks and nibbles. Despite our small company size, the venue was packed the whole day!
On the other hand, for the release of Janice’s book, we mostly focused our time online. While we also used flyers for people to hand to each other, Janice had a huge list of connections to draw from. We also planned a bigger book launch, with invitations sent out months ahead. However, this all fell apart when the country went into lockdown. Furthermore, another children’s book event for Patrick had to be cancelled, and Janice’s book tour this summer had to be postponed. Nevertheless, we were able to send copies to all the would be-attendees of Janice’s postponed book launch, and we have already received great reviews about the book. Currently, as you are aware, we are helping spread the word online by getting in contact with reviewers, magazines and anyone who might be interested.
In terms of marketing for the company itself, this was never really something we had to put any effort into. While our publishing capacity is small each year, this does allow us to focus on a few authors that we feel the most connection to. However, as soon as we started working, we received plenty of suitable writers who wanted to work with us for the publication of their books. We have yet to find a time when there isn’t a great book we could be working on! Word of mouth spread quite quickly in the area, and many writers resonated with our goals. Additionally, both of our currently published authors are already working with us on their next book, so we feel confident in the growing number of clients each year.
Any small business is likely to take some years to be financially self-sustaining, and of course the lockdown doesn’t help. I know dedicated small publishers who use a day job to subsidise their publishing house, simply because they believe in it. OK, has Sleepy Lion been able to turn a profit yet? If not, when do you hope to achieve that, and how do you keep going?
Since we only released our first book late last year, and since we have only published one other book (apart from my sister’s poetry book), we have yet to have a year of profits. Nevertheless, we are definitely expecting this year to start seeing more money coming in, as we are now actively publishing more books. This means that it should now be able to cover our costs, and to start becoming self-sufficient. Additionally, we took the first year and a half to set up all our resources, the website, our licensing etc. We can now focus on increasing our products and generating more services for our customers. This means that I have needed to work on the side, to finance all the costs involved to support the company. This is definitely worth it, as we thoroughly believe in bringing this more personal publishing process to authors. On the side, I work as a special educational needs teacher, and additionally, do some design, writing and art work. My sister also works in acting, music and writing.
What are your plans? My readers may be interested in offering advance reviews for coming books, because that’s good publicity for both parties.
In terms of our future projects, we have quite a lot on the horizon. We have another five potential books we are working on. A delightful poetry book by Patrick Mooney will be released in September. We are also expecting to publish a beautiful children’s fairytale story in December. We then have another book with Janice Dolley, being published next year. Finally, we have 3 new potential authors we might work with, so we are very excited. Most of these books will most likely be published next year.
If you believe your readers might be interested in either a poetry book themed around the seasons and exploring the author’s life, or a fairytale children’s book about love, goodness and greed, then do let me know.
Finally, we also have many plans for the company itself. We are looking to expand services on our website, to soon include more in-depth articles, premade high quality book covers and literary essays. These are to be expected in the summer term. We are already building our own content, but we also highly encourage illustrators and content writers to get in touch, so we can help advertise their work and provide a source of income for them in these times. Ideally, we would also want to have a dedicated illustrator page, where our authors can look at the different artists and styles on offer, in order to make a more personal choice. This is more likely to become available next year, along with many other exciting plans.