Small Press Spotlight
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Welcome to Small Press Spotlight, where we are pleased to feature some of the smaller publishers offering romantic reads. In this column, we welcome Corinne Simon-Duneau and Trevor Meldal-Johnsen, of Bamboo Grove Publications. Bamboo Grove has just re-released the classic reincarnation romance Always, and they plan to release other quality out-of-print books in the future. Read on to see how a very special and true-life love story became a new publishing house!

A chat with Corinne Simon-Duneau, publisher:

Tell us how and why your press got started.

I'm afraid this is a rather long answer. You see, I am French and after going through a divorce, I visited the US. A friend of mine here gave me the novel Always to read and I loved it. It's one of the most suspenseful, touching, terrifying, exciting love stories I have ever read.

Then she told me that she knew the author, Trevor Meldal-Johnsen in Los Angeles. I was in Florida at the time but I called him to tell him how much I loved the story.

One thing led to another, which all added up to an enormous telephone bill! I came out to Los Angeles, we met, I went back to France, the phone bill grew even larger! Finally I came back to Los Angeles and, in 1992, we got married.

Now, to answer your specific question, I discovered that Always had been out of print for years. I thought this was a crime! The book had sold more than a million copies and was on bestseller lists in the US and England, had been translated into a number of languages, and nobody was selling it. Readers loved the book. It was a ridiculous situation!

When I talked to Trevor about it, he told me that others of his novels were out of print and, in fact this was not unusual and that thousands of great novels were out of print. And thus the idea behind Bamboo Grove came to fruition. A publishing house that would bring out-of-print books back to life.

Naturally, the first book I decided to publish was Always. There's an entire generation that hasn't read it--and should, because it is a wonderful book.

Did you have a mission in mind when you began producing books?

That's the mission, to bring worthy books back to life.

In what format are your books published?

We are just starting out and feeling our way, so our options are still open. But, for now, we decided to publish Always as a hardcover, a very high-quality hardcover, with each copy signed by the author to make it very special. It is printed on acid-free paper, has a lovely full cloth cover, and a Smythe-sewn binding. This is a book that is made to last, that someone can treasure. Perhaps we will get into e-books, but that is further down the line. I'm not persuaded that the numbers are there in terms of readers. But if anyone has some statistics, I would appreciate hearing them.

Do you do print-on-demand books?

No. Because of the quality we wanted for our first book, print-on-demand couldn't meet that. Which is not to say we won't do that in the future, particularly as the technology improves, which it is rapidly doing.

How are your books distributed? Do you get help from Ingrams or B and T, or are you on your own?

I chose not to sell through bookstores in this case. It was part of making this a very special project. So it is only available through our website at www.bamboogrovebooks.com or direct through a toll-free number. Perhaps the next printing will be sold through the trade, but those books won't be signed by the author and won't be the same high quality.

Tell us how you advertise. Where do the dollars go, primarily?

Well, as a fledgling company, which has no financial backers, except me, print advertising has been minimal. We have primarily spread the word on the web and through press releases to major media, which I am just starting to do. There seems to be a lot of interest because what Bamboo Grove is doing is quite unique.

Who are some of the authors you've contracted with? What releases do you have out or soon out?

Currently, I am negotiating with two other authors. One of the books is a thriller set in the future and the other is an historical adventure set in South Africa. We are still in the talking stage.

What is the price range for your releases?

This will vary. Always is $24.95, although there have been some discount specials, such as for Valentine's Day. At least one of the other books may well be a trade paperback.

How can readers purchase your books?

Through the website, where they can do a secure credit card transaction at

http://www.bamboogrovebooks.com

or in the US there is a toll-free telephone number at 877-877-6814. All the information is on the site, including an address they can mail checks to.

Does your website have more information?

Yes, there is a lot of information about "Always" on the site, but there is also an on-line magazine for readers, writers and booklovers there, called "The Grove." This is just a fun side-project, but it is getting quite a response! It has already been named a hot pick by one newspaper and another influential site--and we're just getting started!

When I started this business, Trevor asked me what I wanted out of it. I replied that I wanted to have fun! And so far that is exactly what is happening. We have a great product and we have great people ordering it and visiting our site. What more can one want?

Trevor Meldal-Johnsen, author of Always, shares his thoughts on Bamboo Grove:

Were you previously published by a mainstream house?

Yes, all my previous novels were published by large New York houses. My novel Always was out of print. About ten years ago I suggested to the original publisher that it be reprinted, because there was an entirely new audience out there and it had been very successful when it first came out. But that isn't the way major publishers operate. They move on and don't like to look back.

What's it like writing for a small press?

It has been delightful. Of course, it helps that my wife runs the small press. But I was able to write a new afterword for Always and get involved in cover design, typesetting and the entire look of the book. I have never been able to do that with any book for a major New York house--and I've published more than 15 novels that way.

The only drawback is that she hasn't sold a million copies--yet.

Do you receive advances and royalties?

I receive many advances from my wife--and she treats me royally! Which is my way of saying that this doesn't really apply under these circumstances. However, Corinne plans to do this on a per project basis. Advances will vary, and probably be quite small, but royalties will be generous. In other words, the risk will be shared, and so will the rewards.

Tell us about your experiences promoting a small-press release.

Up until now, most of the promotion has taken place on-line. I've met some wonderful people. For example, I've joined a message loop with a bunch of Australian and New Zealand romance writers, a number of whom have ordered Always. they are a great group, tremendously supportive of each other, vital and creative and enthusiastic. The Net has enabled writers to create groups like this with instantaneous communication. In fact, the Net has changed many things and, I think, that it will change much about publishing as we have known it. Yes, as some point out, it allows works of lesser quality to be published, but readers are not stupid and they will find and support those books that are worth supporting.

I think it is a tremendously exciting adventure for any writer to be embarking upon!

Corinne and Trevor, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with Bamboo Grove! Readers, we have a review of Always -- don't miss it!

May 31, 1999


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