A novel approach

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Lisa Pomfrey-Talbot self-published a successful children&#8217;s book and was inspired to launch her own collaborative publishing program and book store.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTOS</p><p>A Novel Idea bookstore in Mahone Bay opened temporarily during the Scarecrow Festival and is expected to open full-time within the next few weeks.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>As well as books, A Novel Idea bookstore in Mahone Bay will offer literary-themed gifts such as pendants, bracelets and tins of tea.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>As well as books, A Novel Idea bookstore in Mahone Bay will offer literary-themed gifts such as pendants, bracelets and tins of tea.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>As well as books, A Novel Idea bookstore in Mahone Bay will offer literary-themed gifts such as pendants, bracelets and tins of tea.</p>

Acclaimed children's author, Lisa Pomfrey-Talbot, is writing a new chapter in her life, with a creative literary business model on Main Street in Mahone Bay.

Pushed into writing and self-publishing her first book by her five-and seven-year-old daughters, the former social counsellor is living the dream, with her own unique publishing company and a new bookstore - A Novel Idea.

As such, she's serving as an inspiration to others who may want to take a proverbial page out of her book.

Either through her publishing company, Cathydia Press Inc., or A Novel Idea, Pomfrey-Talbot hopes to support other self-published authors.

"I know how hard it is to get into the stores," she told LighthouseNOW. "Some of my favorite books are written by self-published authors that most people don't even know about. And so to be able to support that community is really, really important to me," she said.

There were a few twists and turns that led the Bridgewater resident to rewrite the story of her life, most notably the call to action by her children and what she describes as a "medical crisis."

A graduate with a sociology degree and a minor in English from Acadia University, Pomfrey-Talbot says she was always enthusiastic about writing. Nonetheless, she spent the bulk of her early working life in "human services," most recently as the part-time coordinator for the Nova Scotia Health Authority's Lunenburg County community health board.

Pomfrey-Talbot recalls the moment about six years ago when she was folding laundry upstairs and her daughters Catherine and Lydia came bounding into the room, "with their cute little long hair and little dresses, hands on their hips.

"'Mommy, you're a liar,'" they charged.

When she asked them why, they responded, "'Because you always tell us when we grow up we can be whatever we want to be. And if that were true, you would be a writer.'"

Wondering first if she should brush them aside with "a lot of adult excuses," Pomfrey-Talbot would tell the girls simply, "'Well, just because it hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it's not going to.'"

Three years later, in 2014, the mother had her first children's book published, Jennie Fowler, Nighttime Prowler. It's an adventure story of a young girl who sleepwalks, inspired, in part, by Pomfrey-Talbot's own daughters' sleepwalking.

The writing was the easy part, and luckily she had a friend, "who was perfectly qualified and very eager to edit it."

The greater challenge was getting it from manuscript form to a book available in stores or online. When working with an existing publisher didn't pan out, Pomfrey-Talbot spent hours and hours researching ways and means of effective self-publishing and marketing.

She learned about ISBNs, legal deposits, meta data, and the ins and outs of distribution contracts. She also used contacts to link herself up with a professional book designer.

Pomfrey-Talbot's book went on to be available through the Indigo/Chapters/Coles chain in Canada and Barnes & Noble in the United States., as well as Amazon. It also received a five-star rating from the Readers' Favorites organization.

Pomfrey-Talbot estimates she's sold 900 to 1,000 copies and sales are still coming in.

Her success attracted the attention of other writers, while friends encouraged her establish her own publishing business.

Todd Leader, a registered psychologist and social worker who had drafted a book about improving the mental health and addiction services system in Canada, was one of these writers.

Pomfrey-Talbot had worked with Leader professionally, and although she initially thought she would restrict any publishing endeavor to children's books and novels, she read his manuscript and was struck by its message.

Coinciding with this, Promfrey-Talbot was dealing with her own "medical crisis." Looking for something positive to focus on, she incorporated Cathydia Press Inc., with the name a combination of her daughters' names, and agreed to take on Leader's book.

Cathydia's website describes the company as "an independent publisher of juvenile and adult fiction and non-fiction written by new and emerging authors."

It refers to a "small-town boutique approach to working with and supporting new authors so we can bring fresh, new voices and perspectives to book-lovers worldwide."

Leader's book, It's Not About Us, was published last October. It was the first publication in what Pomfrey-Talbot calls Cathydia's Collaborative Publishing Program, "which is basically a program that supports people that have an interest in self-publishing."

Under the program, Cathydia offers some of the same services as a traditional publisher, such as orchestrating the design, legal and distribution end and assisting with a marketing plan, while the authors pay what Pomfrey-Talbot maintains is a "realistic" fee.

She insists she'll only take on books she feels have commercial potential. As a self-publisher herself and from an ethical point of view, says Pomfrey-Talbot, "It's incredibly important to me that they can recoup their costs."

The bookstore in Mahone Bay grew out of Pomfrey-Talbot's interest in having a space outside of her family home to develop the publishing business, having something to help sustain it, while indulging in her dream of owning a book store.

"If you're a writer and like books, who doesn't want to be surrounded by books, right?"

She admits friends questioned the logic of opening a bookstore when so many had closed over recent years, and when the arrival of Amazon left people believing "nobody was ever going to read a print book again."

However, she suggests that while it is growing, the market for ebooks is still fairly small in Canada. Moreover, she recalls reading about recent research that indicated the biggest consumers of print books are people aged 18 to 35.

"They're the people who are on devices a lot. And their reasoning for preferring print books is because when they're trying to read on devices they're constantly being interrupted. They're still getting texts, messages and stuff like that," explains Pomfrey-Talbot.

While initially she had hoped to establish a bookstore on Bridgewater's King Street, she couldn't find an affordable, turn-key space, whereas the Main Street location she ultimately chose offered character, a lot of ready-made shelving and a regular flow of walk-by resident and tourist traffic.

Pomfrey-Talbot speculated that the tourist season between May and September, the Scarecrow Festival in the fall and the Christmas period would provide peak selling opportunity, and she could focus on the publishing side of her business in the slower times.

Although she only had half the stock she is hoping to have, she opened temporarily during last month's Scarecrow Festival. Sales and interest were brisk, she reports.

Pomfrey-Talbot drew her initial inventory from the remainder or publisher over-stock book market, allowing her to offer books at a discounted rate.

"Initially it enabled me to, within my budget, fill the store. And people love book deals," said Pomfrey-Talbot.

She has made a point to have a children's section, to cater to young readers directly as well as to the large market of elderly shoppers who are looking for gifts for their grandchildren.

A Novel Idea also offers unique literary-themed gift ware as well as accessories such as scarves and hand bags.

The plan is to carry books from local publishers, as well as other new releases, in a spectrum of price points.

Meanwhile, self-published authors "dropping off samples" have already approached Pomfrey-Talbot.

She's open to taking take them on consignment, describing it as a "win-win" arrangement.

Pomfrey-Talbot doesn't have to pay for the books until they're sold, and the authors get exposure in Mahone Bay, "a world tourist destination," she suggests.

"So it opens up that door to be discovered. .. You never know who's going to walk in and take a look at your book," says Pomfrey-Talbot.

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