When Rebecca Lenzini decided to start Nighthawk Press, she had already accumulated a valuable experience — her 15 years as a publisher for the scholarly and academic markets, with an emphasis on libraries.
Lenzini got the Award for Small Business of the Year from the Denver Chamber of Commerce for a start-up recognized in Doing Business on the Internet in 1994 and is the publisher of The Charleston Advisor, a trade journal serving libraries and publishers, which is read by over 2,000 subscribers worldwide.
“I think my entire venture has been made possible by the advances over the past few years in online-based publishing, which make it possible to create a beautiful printed work in quite small quantities and at a very reasonable price,” she said.
Lenzini founded Nighthawk Press in 2012 with the goal of offering publishing services to qualified emerging and established authors in all genres.
“The idea to start a publishing house in Taos is aimed at working with writers who are serving smaller or niche markets,” she said. “Taos is the perfect place to do so because we have so many creative people here.”
Books, like anything else, need to be promoted in order to be sold.
“I am fortunate that the authors I’m working with have strong connections and are putting them to use in selling their books,” said Lenzini. “Let’s take Bonnie Lee Black, who has her own homepage and a strong Facebook presence. When she publishes a book, she lets all her friends worldwide know about it. Robert J. Silver also contacted his friends at the university level to promote his new book. This has been very helpful.”
Lenzini is now using social media and the Internet as well as more traditional methods like personal contacts and mailing lists to spread the word about her new titles.
“In terms of major promotional work, Nighthawk Press is a small, independent publisher, and as such, does not have the reach of major firms,” said Lenzini. “But we try hard.”
She also plans to reach out to the library market through their most popular suppliers.
“Libraries are a potentially huge, though not very well-known market,” she said. “But I can get my authors into it. That’s what my background is all about.”
The author is always the best promoter of his or her work, she said. That is why Nighthawk Press offers writers a partnership, in which they retain copyright of their work and can reprint it or republish it later with another press if they choose to do so.
“I see myself as someone helping writers that are developing their careers,” she said. “I don’t want to follow the old-fashioned model, but rather, to establish a strong collaboration with the authors.”
Advice for publishers and authors
When asked for her advice to people interested in the publishing business, Lenzini says, “Publishing has moved from being dominated by big firms to being accessible to nearly anyone with a computer and an interest. But the trick remains one of making your titles stand out in a crowded field and producing books worth reading and keeping. That has not changed.”
She also has a piece of advice for prospective authors, “Focus your attention early on the title and cover art for your book. Of course, the content needs to be compelling (and well-written, naturally!) but without a nice looking cover and a title that intrigues the reader, the book may be ‘lost in the shuffle.’”
Authors should make sure that their books are properly edited before sending them to a publisher, she said. They should also have a target market in mind, as well as a list of possible reviewers and a few blurbs, if possible.
Among the titles published by Nighthawk Press are Tributes & Tirades: Taos Life and American Politics by Robert J. Silver; Remarkable Women of Taos, A Year Long Community-wide Celebration Honoring Outstanding Taoseñas by Liz Cunningham; The Story of Saint Sister Angelica by Jerry Walter; and How to Make an African Quilt, The Story of the Patchwork Project of Ségou, Mali by Bonnie Lee Black.
Lenzini also helped with the creation of the cookbook, Storied Recipes — Short-Short (True) Stories and the Recipes that Flavor Them, with Black as editor, which was published by SOMOS.
“They all will be published as eBooks eventually, but we are launching them as printed books first,” Lenzini said.
All Nighthawk Press titles are available for direct order on the website or through Amazon.com.
“We are also making sure all our books are available locally at Moby Dickens,” said Lenzini. “I must add that Bonnie Lee Black really inspired me to reach out to local writers. I would also like to thank my neighbor in Blueberry Hill, Jerry Walter, who allowed me to publish his original novella, The Story of Saint Sister Angelica, as the first work of this new venture.”