Small Business

Village of the Arts gallery owner in Bradenton becomes a publisher

BRADENTON -- With a "gazillion" Florida writers and more joining the ranks every day, author, editor and book gallery owner Dona Lee thinks getting into the publishing business is a smart move.

"Every where I go people say, 'Oh, I know someone who is a writer,'" said Lee, who operates the Village Voices & Eclectic Art Emporium in Village of the Arts. So along with her other literary titles, she has added publisher.

Currently, Lee is working with five writers and helping them publish their works through a combination of editing, formatting and design services.

She calls herself a "subsidy publisher," requiring the author to pay for the cost of publication and using all or some of the services she offers. The cost is $225 for formatting and cover design. Amazon charges authors $5 to $10 per book depending on its length for printing and shipping.

Her company, Published! A Village Voices Affiliate, has just published "The Unraveling of Aggie Layman," written by Ruth Cade, one of the founding members of The Village of the Arts.

When writers can't break into traditional publishing, when companies like Random House purchase the manuscript and cover production costs, they usually turn to subsidy publishers or become self-publishers.

"The average self-published book sells less than 200 copies, you just don't get your money back," Lee said. "It is so unfair because some of them are good, very good."

Lee heads up the Florida Writer's Association Manatee chapter, which meets at her book gallery four times a month. She also is the editor of Sarasota Fiction Writer's newsletter "Plotting Success."

In today's world, writers often find they have to wear many hats before seeing their books in print. When Lee realized that a lot of them don't want to get involved in the actual production and marketing of a book, she decided there was a niche she could fill.

She offers everything from coaching on content, editing, cover design, formatting, book trailers and audio recordings. Lee also is involved in e-books.

Her book and art gallery only handles Florida authors and is filled with works published through traditional, subsidy and self-published methods.

The topics range from poetry and travel books to mysteries and cookbooks.

"We have thousands of writers in this state," said Lee, who thinks the state's enticing climate and favorite spot for retirees are reasons why Florida has so many authors.

Joan Leverone of Bradenton is one of the authors Lee has assisted by editing her short stories, anthology and poems.

"She goes over it with me, I've learned an awful lot from her," said Leverone, who has been writing since 2005.

Leverone publishes her e-books through Amazon for Kindle devices.

"I'm on a fixed income so this is the only way I can afford to get it out there," she said.

Lee also is in the process of writing her own book, "Published -- A Complete Guide to Nontraditional Publishing" which she expects to be out by the end of the month. The book will be available in her shop and electronically.