Vermont artist Edward Koren’s new book “Koren. In the Wild” is the gold medal winner of the 31st Annual IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for humor. Sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association, the award celebrates excellence in book editorial and design.
Koren, of Brookfield, a frequent contributor to New Yorker magazine, is Vermont’s second cartoonist laureate. His works illustrate the ironies of living in the boonies. His cartoons have Vermonters looking at city folk and city folk looking at them. “In the Wild” was published in December 2018 by Button Street Press, of Newfane, Vermont.
The award not only is a significant achievement for him, but also for Button Street Press. The small company jumped into publishing just three years ago at a time of considerable turmoil in the publishing industry. According to Book Industries Study Group, a book trade association, young Americans 20 to 24 spend only eight minutes a day reading, while they spend 5.9 hours on digital media. At the same time, the internet, especially Amazon, has helped close several prominent bookstores and book chains, including Borders, which was once the second-largest book retailer in the country with 1,100 stores.
Despite the challenges, Button Street Press partners Margot Mayor and Kitty Werner are confident that a small company like theirs can thrive in a difficult business.
“We are very small, yes, but we are nimble and amazingly responsive, and attentive in a way a large publisher cannot be,” Werner said.
Another advantage of being small is the company can spend the time needed to get the job done right.
“We have spent months with writers who have an idea. We start working with the authors before the book is finished. We make suggestions, help with direction. We do market research to be sure the niche exists,” Mayor said.
Small size also helps keeps costs down. “We don’t have a suite in the Chrysler building to maintain and pay for, so our costs reflect that. We also don’t have committees and meetings to slow us down,” Mayor said.
One of the biggest challenges for a small company is marketing their books.
“Being a small publisher, it can be quite difficult to get attention for your books, no matter how good they are,” Mayor said.
Independent bookstores and the internet have been a plus. “We strongly support the independent bookstores. And online sales have helped us sell more books. More sales help the author, no matter where they come from. And we’ve found that engaging in Goodreads and Bookhub has helped get our books out. Social media has been terrific for us,” Mayor said.
The company also distributes its books through Ingram, a national book distributor based in La Vergne, Tennessee.
Plus, winning awards increases visibility.
“Knowing it could lead to excellent publicity, we entered Koren’s “In the Wild” in the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, and it happily won, and we entered, “Don’t Repot That Plant” in the Foreword Indies Book Awards, where it was a finalist in nonfiction. That helps spread the word. Winning an award is terrific press for any book, and we are proud and delighted,” Werner said.
Before starting Button Street Press, Mayor worked in publishing, advertising, marketing and design in New York, Boston and Vermont. In New York she worked for an international agency creating print and broadcast ads. She writes, designs, and has produced television commercials and documentary films, winning several awards for her work. She has taught design and communication at the Cooper Union School for Art and Architecture, the School of Visual Arts in NY and at the University of Vermont.
Mayor is a partner in MarchMedia publishing, with experience in print, ebooks, audiobooks, national marketing campaigns, events and publicity. Button Street Press is a division of MarchMedia. Her husband, Archer Mayor, is the well-known author of the Joe Gunther detective series. Button Books has republished 19 of his paperbacks and created the e-books for the series.
Kitty Werner has worked as a journalist, newspaper editor, publisher, computer trainer, designer of books, newsletters, ads and brochures for various businesses and nonprofits.
She edited six editions of Random House’s “Official Guide to U.S. Flea Markets” and, after the first edition, also designed the interiors.
In 2001, Werner published “The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Owning a Home,” which sold out three printings after quarter-page reviews in Better Homes & Gardens and Country Living magazines.
What is next for Button Street Press?
“We are in deep discussion with a few different writers. One is writing about men’s issues after 50. One is writing a children’s book, and one a photographer with a unique point of view about Vermont,” Mayor said.
The IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards recognize excellence in independent publishing. Books are grouped by genre and judged on merit by industry experts including buyers at wholesale and retail levels, librarians, book critics, design experts and independent publishing consultants. Panels of 162 judges evaluated over 1,500 submissions in 54 categories to create the list of this year’s finalists and winners. The gold and silver winners were recognized at an awards ceremony in Chicago in early April.