The Ann Arbor Public Library provides books and other media to AAPL cardholders like other libraries around the country. Beginning last year it initiated a unique program: it launched its own imprint, Fifth Avenue Press. That’s right, AAPL is now a publishing house dedicated to bringing out the work of Washtenaw County first-time authors— maybe even you, maybe even your child. And it does all of this free to the authors.
A unique labor of love
“It’s your taxes at work,” AADL Director Josie Parker said. But all libraries are supported by taxes, and this is a unique labor of love by the district library staff. “Attendance at our creative writing workshops had always been strong,” she says. That means that tweens and teens who want to write more than just term papers and book reports can attend the library’s monthly writing workshops (free for the whole family) to hone their styles and talents.
“We knew Ann Arbor was full of aspiring writers looking for the opportunity to publish their work,” Parker said. “Fifth Avenue Press gives these authors a chance to take their ideas and publish an actual book by pairing them with a skilled editor and offering copy editing, graphic design and layout.”
Community reaction has been “overwhelmingly positive,” the director said. “From the authors themselves to patrons excited that the library would offer this service in a town so in love with books. We’re excited about the next batch of Fifth Avenue Press authors and eager to see what great work we can help them create.”
Open call for manuscripts
The AADL is now accepting manuscripts on a roll-out basis, so you and your family can submit yours whenever you feel it’s pretty-much completed. Fiction and nonfiction, for children, teens and adults, any topic, far afield or the culture and history of the Ann Arbor area. Fifth Avenue does what any traditional publisher would do to streamline a book, but at no charge. Editing, proofreading, formatting and layout, cover art, the whole bit. The finished, polished work is then ready for both e-book publishing and “on demand” print publishing. In on-demand publishing the author (or the author’s parents) pays a printing house to put out as many hard or soft cover books as the author wants. If the book is selling, have a bunch more printed up. Most important, authors retain the copyright and all profits from their work.
Flora and fauna
The books are beautifully presented and, more important, beautifully written and, in some cases, beautifully illustrated or photographed. Two are intended especially for kids. Meg Gower’s work, Michigan Moon, is a sumptuous display of flora and fauna in Michigan, intended to teach kids about nature with rhyming verses. Gower did the photography and the poetry, originally based on the lullabies her mother sang to her. “The main thing Fifth Avenue Press has given me is Confidence, with a capital C,” Gower said. “I’d been writing stories for about seven years, but I was too afraid to send things out. Fear of rejection. Fear of failure. My advice to other aspiring authors is to take the plunge.”
The local monster now in print
Emily Siwek, author of A Monster on Main Street, wrote and illustrated this already skyrocketing book based on a real local character, Violin Monster, the celebrity busker who dresses in a wolf mask and plays violin for tips on our downtown street corners. He works during the warm weather months and is a favorite with local kids because whenever he gets a tip in his tip pumpkin he tosses his head back and howls to the delight of kids and parents alike.
“This book has given me a new appreciation for the time and collaboration that goes into every page. It’s so much more work than I could have imagined but also very gratifying,” Siwek said. “Seeing my book on the library’s website is pretty cool, too. I’m so grateful for the encouraging staff at the Fifth Avenue Press (and the Violin Monster!) for supporting the idea as well. If you’re thinking about writing a book, definitely go for it!”