Today we have an interview with Lulu author and publisher Stacey Hope. She is the head of Hope & Plum Book Publishing, a strives to create vibrant, colorful books to bring happiness and smiles to her readers. Hope & Plum used Lulu to publish two of their titles, “Pillow Fight Night” and “A Painter Paints.” Recently, we spoke with Stacey about being an author and publisher, what drives her to be creative, and how she balances the many challenges self-publishing presents.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My professional background is art, entertainment, and media law. I have two business degrees in addition to my doctorate in law. I have always needed to balance my academic side with my creative side. I began writing in grade school and never stopped. I write because I have to; the words are in my head and my heart and need to release.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
It’s a love/hate relationship and I do it because I have to. When the words pour, it’s a race to get them down before they vanish but it’s bliss when it’s done. When the words don’t flow or the editing is difficult, it’s anguish. Seeing a book in print though, makes all the struggle, emotion and effort worthwhile.
What made you want to publish a book?
I became a publisher to give the young writers I know a start in the business and the confidence to continue their passion as a profession. I didn’t have the time to find each one an agent or publisher or the will to subject them to a lot of rejection. I did have the talent to edit their work and engage technical people to create their books. I started by publishing books that I wrote and illustrated so I could make my mistakes and learn the business without hurting their careers. I made so many mistakes but learned from each one. I now know that I’m not going to let an author and/or illustrator down when I publish their work. I know that I am going to help them achieve a dream.
How did you come across Lulu?
My publishing guru, Jean Roberts, recommended Lulu.
How did it feel to publish your first book with Lulu?
It was a huge relief to have it accepted after many failed attempts at formatting. Seeing it in print though, put all of the worry to bed. Such an exciting moment.
What made you decide to start hope & plum?
I want to take dreamers and hopers and turn them into doers. I want to encourage talent and help them turn that talent into a sustainable business and career. Writers need to write, artists need to create. Both need support, encouragement and guidance. I try to provide that so that they can find an audience and engage with them. Books for book lovers. Careers for creatives.
Is there a genre you’re most interested in publishing?
I love children’s illustrated books because they stay with you for a lifetime. They spark imagination, quiet qualms, answer questions, introduce ideas and elegantly entertain. I also love, love, love cookbooks. So many cookbooks coming, in time.
Was the transition from author to publisher easy?
No, not even a little.
How are you using Lulu as part of your business?
I hope to transfer all of my distribution to Lulu as soon as I can crack the formatting. I quickly found out that creating the book is only the first hurdle, making it reliably available to the public at a reasonable price point is even harder.
What are some challenges you face as a small publisher?
Formatting, marketing, and pricing. The cost of having the book professionally formatted eats into the marketing budget and the high cost of print on demand means that there is no true profit. The margin is so thin on this scale that without the passion to start and build the careers of the creatives I love, it wouldn’t happen.
What are the benefits of using Lulu as a publishing partner?
Hopefully the reliability of distribution. Definitely the encouragement and support of everyone at Lulu.
What kind of impact do hope your books will have on the people that read them?
Every book has an element of wonder, awe or inspiration. I want each book to teach by entertaining. In “Pillow Fight Night” Jack teaches kids about friendship and forgiveness, about expressing feelings and correcting situations in a lovely heart-warming story. Emma’s illustrations add humor and subtly emphasize the messages. In “A Painter Paints” creative little minds learn that they are already artists because they are already creating.
Has writing and publishing books provided you with opportunities that you would not have expected?
Absolutely. I do a lot of pro bono legal work for aspiring musicians, but I don’t have to make their work tangible for them; they can record and upload from their bedrooms. Authors don’t have that ease of access to the book industry. The satisfaction I get from meeting new writers, illustrators and photographers have been a lovely spiral into Wonderland.
What advice would you give to others out there that may be interested in writing a book, but are afraid to give it a chance?
Just do it. The first catharsis comes from completing the first draft. That’s a reward in itself. If you’re then brave enough to let someone else read it, you may find that you’ve given them something to enjoy and the feedback will bring another wave of happiness. You’ll find greater personal satisfaction from being creative and you may find that your life improves immensely.
What’s next for Hope and Plum?
Cookbooks! “A Gefilte Fish Out Of Water” (highlighting the differences between Jewish food in London and New York) and “Sex, Food & Rock n Roll” (recipes and anecdotes from tours and tour riders of bands and musicians).
Other observations/comments about you and your road to becoming a publisher?
Book publishing was the hardest thing I’ve ever done second only to parenting. It’s incredible to me that Lulu is able to cut it down to bitesize chunks, so the process doesn’t overwhelm. I love that Lulu then supports the author/book so the effort has worth. I cannot emphasize enough what a turning point this has been for me and for Hope & Plum. Thank you Lulu!