Tom, publisher and owner of Old Mountain Press, took me to his compact office with a view of the tree tops in his shady front yard. I have known Tom for six or seven years, I think. I know I submitted to his early anthologies and was accepted. He publishes anthologies for poetry and short-short prose.
Some of our best known writers in western North Carolina and other parts of the state are included in these anthologies.
I sent in a poem for Old Things, one of the most recent anthologies. When I received my copy of the book, I was delighted to see poetry by Shelby Stephenson, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, Celia Miles, novelist and successful writer, Nancy Dillingham, poet and co-editor of several anthologies with Celia Miles, local poets, Mary Ricketson, Staci Bell, Brenda Kay Ledford, and Martha O'Quinn as well as many other poets and writers known throughout the state.
I watched Tom at work on his computer and found that even he, who seems to whiz through scanning, cropping and moving text says that changes in technology might tempt him to hang it up. He has been doing this since 1992. He doesn't want to have to buy new expensive equipment and spend hours learning new programs. It would be a shame for Tom to quit what he does so well.
He began publishing when he wrote his first book and decided not to go through traditional publishing protocol. He is a man who wants what he wants when he wants it. He laughed when he showed me his first book with too many mistakes. The mistakes were due to his lack of understanding on how to design a book. Today, his books are professional in appearance. When a novelist would like to keep more of her income from her books, she might decide to send her manuscript to Old Mountain Press instead of a traditional publisher. Tom helps her by designing the book, helping with the cover and choice of paper. He knows what would work on glossy paper and what might be better on matt or another choice. He formats the manuscript so it is ready for the printer and that takes time as well as experience.
He has published 600 page books, and he has published small poetry books. The author must be sure the manuscript is edited and as perfectly polished as it can be because Tom does not do editing.
He takes the manuscript sent to him and he makes it into a book. The author decides how many copies he wants and Tom sends it to one of two printers he prefers.
The author works with the printer on ISBN and barcode issues. Tom has a price for his work and the printer has a price as well. The author deals with both individually.
Tom urges writers to edit, edit and have their work edited until there are no mistakes that anyone can find. Don't send Old Mountain Press a manuscript that is not ready for print. His job is not to correct your writing, and if you want to make changes after the formatting takes place, the author will pay extra for every page that needs a change. This is important to remember.
I have often heard new writers or those who are just learning the craft say, "Don't worry about punctuation. That's what editors are for." WRONG!
Editing is expensive and often an editor will turn down a request because the writing is poorly done and will require far too much time. A writer should learn the craft and work on his manuscript until every sentence is as near perfect as possible. A terrific book to have on hand when you begin to edit your work is Purge Your Prose of Problems by editor, Bobbie Christmas. Another book that is also helpful is Write in Style, also by Bobbie Christmas. I think they are must haves for writers, beginning or experienced.
Tom has stories of writers who have had 600 copies of their book published the first time and when the finished book was in the author's hands, the errors jumped out at him. But then it was too late. To correct those errors required starting over with a cleaned up manuscript or corrections Tom could make in his book design. Those corrections usually cost 2 - 3 dollars a page.
Tom Davis and Polly Davis have both written memoirs about the thirty years Tom served in the U.S. Army.
Both writers have a sense of humor. Any man who has served in the military will relate and enjoy Tom's tales, both serious and funny. I didn't think I would have any interest in a book called, The Most Fun I Ever Had With My Clothes On. I was wrong. While the military jargon was a bit much for me, I found other parts extremely interesting. Tom is from south Georgia, where I grew up, and Polly is from middle Georgia.
"Tom, I just finished your delightful book and my only regret is that it's over. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I love your style of writing. Perhaps it is somewhat because I was a Navy wife for 4 years, but I didn't even mind the military jargon. It made the stories even more creditable. You have a natural born sense of humor, instinct for leadership, daring adventure, as well as writing. Polly's excerpt from her memoirs leaves me wanting more as well."
Polly's memoir theme is the life of a military wife and it is well-written with humor and pathos. Stumbling Toward Enlightenment sets the reader smack into life with a man who travels all over the world as his career requires, the ups and downs, the challenges and the nutty things a wife does to prove she can, like jumping out of airplanes. We see how she has to cope with raising children, her own diagnosis of an illness, and doing much of it alone.
This is an excerpt from Polly's book:
R&R HAWAII: I could feel his eyes taking in those of us left huddled there as if trying to decide how to approach. Shuffling forward, he asked for a young woman by her husband’s name. The one standing next to me leaned into him and slumped. Like the one with the message was The Devil himself, the rest of us backed off. Arms around her shoulders, he led her off to a building nearby. Sure enough, her husband had been one of the unlucky ones. She’d be left to deal with it. I swallowed back tears. And wondered if she had children.
Readers, visit the Old Mountain Press website and read all the information Tom gives for those who want to self-publish. He can save writers from making huge mistakes. Self-Publishing takes work and is not as easy as it seems, but Tom helps make it as stress free as he can.
If you have self-published a book, let me hear from you. What is the title and how did you find the process? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on this site.