I am a book packager, working with publishers to produce illustrated books—mostly lifestyle, cooking, gardening, art, gift, and children’s books. There are only around 150 people in the United States doing this type of work, and I think that’s a shame because it’s a job that allows a wide range of personal creative freedom, plus it’s a whole lot of fun. I come up with ideas for books, then sell the ideas to publishers and put together the teams to produce them. The work involves a lot of thinking outside the box, and knowing what niche markets and the general reading audience want to buy; a talent and enthusiasm for pitching ideas to others; a great roster of freelancers to illustrate, photograph, write, edit, and index the work; and the amazing freedom to manage all of this within my own time frame.
All this is wonderful but for one thing: I live in Savannah, Georgia, a lovely but relatively small town that’s many hundreds of miles from the heart of publishing. Of course, Savannah may be a long way away from New York, but I have discovered that we have many stories to tell. And, believe me, publishers are always hungry for new stories. For example, when I first researched the children’s book market, I realized that there were not many picture books for African American children. Having lived so long in the South, I knew of black heroes whose stories went under the radar of most northern publishers. I had found a niche for books that would inspire black children and give them pride in their history—and I was happy to bring these stories to the national marketplace.
How did I become a book packager? It was partly serendipity that I found my niche in publishing, but it was also due in part to what I learned in art school: draw what I saw, write what I knew, and always look for the interesting subject.
Now the only thing missing from my Southern world is competition. So this is my call to arms for anyone who has an interest in creating book ideas and seeing their team effort launched on a national scale; for those who love to brainstorm new ideas and pair talent with a tale; or even just for those who just want to learn more about a business that has room for all sorts of talents: consider the verdant field of book packaging. Because there’s always room one more publishing nerd, even in a town as small as Savannah.