Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Apr 16th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Pantheon Collective

ae_pantheonLocal publishing company brings a spirit of entrepreneurship and creative collaboration to the book industry
It seems an auspicious sign of the times that it started with a text message. A single question was relayed across the honeycombed cellular network from New Jersey to Santa Cruz in December of 2009: “What if [we] joined forces and created our own publishing company?”

Now, a mere year and a half later, the company is an entity, the first two books have been published and several more are slated to go to press in the next couple years. Stephanie Casher calls it the multiplier effect.

Casher, part owner in the Santa Cruz-based publishing company, Pantheon Collective, met her partners James W. Lewis and Omar Luqmaan-Harris in 2006 at the Black Writers’ Conference in Dallas, Texas. At the time, the three authors were in the process of shopping their unpublished manuscripts to agents and publishers.

 

“We had all been trying to get our books published for the longest time,” says Casher. “Over the years, we saw the industry change. As the economy tanks, publishers are less likely to invest in the untested or unknown.”

ae_pantheon2Among the trio’s frustrations with the traditional book publishing route was how long the process takes. Responses from editors and agents can take months—and, in one case, Stephanie received a response two years after she’d submitted a query.

Another problem that Casher encountered was that her book didn’t seem to fit neatly into a single marketing category. Slanted toward a college-age readership, her fiction is multicultural romance—but not with the fairy tale happy ending that formulaic romance requires.

“Editors would say, ‘it’s really great, but it doesn’t fit with our list,’” says the author. One editor even requested that she change her character’s race.

The three aspiring authors stayed in touch after that initial meeting in 2006 and met again a year later at a book expo in New York City. Over dinner in Times Square, they made a pact: If none of them had secured a book deal by 2010, they would come together to start their own publishing company. Casher received the text message from Luqmaan-Harris in December of 2009, just before the New Year.

“Do-it-yourself publishing and print-on-demand technology had started rising and we really started looking at it,” says Casher. “Why wait for someone else rather than be in charge from start to finish and maintain our creative control?”

And thus began Pantheon Collective. The first two books were published last year, “When Love isn’t Enough” by Casher, and “Sellout” by Lewis.

“We wanted to do it as an experiment,” said Casher. “We’re an author collective. By combining our resources, skills and knowledge, we have three times the promotion power, three times the creativity, three times the inspiration. We’ve always been very big on the multiplier effect.”

While Casher’s debut novel is a romance, Lewis’ can be considered African-American fiction and Luqmaan-Harris’ upcoming novel is a supernatural suspense, the partners hesitate to categorize the company as publishing a certain “type” of book.

“We don’t want to limit ourselves,” says Casher. “We’re more about the quality. At the beginning, we’ll have our key areas, but as we build our list we’ll diversify. Our themes are positive, multicultural fiction that is more genre-oriented than literary. We like the quick, easy, summer read.”

When the company first started, they received a question from an interested reader:

Do you only publish ‘Black books?’ Luqmaan-Harris was quick to respond, “No, we publish good books.”

ae_WLCoverFinalThough they have plans to open the company up to submissions in the near future, Casher says they began with their own books to “get the kinks out” as they learned the process of entering the book publishing industry.

“Before we open up the flood gates, we want to make sure everything is stable,” Casher explains. “Quality is the first thing. We’re trying to establish ourselves in the industry. It’s about longevity.” She adds that aspiring authors can sign up on their mailing list (pantheoncollective.com) so they will be among the first to know when the company is accepting manuscript submissions.

“We’re ambitious dreamers who are willing to work hard,” says Casher. “When we bring other authors on, it will be as much about the book as it will be about the spirit they bring to the process.”

When asked how a small, independent publishing company can hope to make it in this harsh economic climate—at a time when the publishing industry in general is hurting—Casher’s response is optimistic.

“The key to survival is flexibility. The reason the big publishers are having trouble is that they have been too slow to adjust their model to the e-book revolution. Kindle sales are outpacing everything else right now. Because we’re small, we can change with the market much more effectively than a large entity can. And we’re open to change because we started with the trial-and-error spirit of adventure.”

The partners have been writing about their adventures in the industry on their blog, which they tout as a literary reality show that is designed to take readers along during the trials and tribulations of building an independent publishing company from the ground up. One of their upcoming books slated for publication will be a non-fiction “How-To” book on starting your own publishing company, with the working title “From Authors to Entrepreneurs: TPC Presents ‘The Independent Publishing Plan.’”

Casher says their message is, “Yes, people of color can be successful authors and entrepreneurs. We went through a trend where the only ‘Black books’ being published were urban fiction, which perpetuates stereotypes. We’re very pro-positive imagery. We’re about being a model and inspiration for other small business owners, people of color and authors of color.”

Comments (4)Add Comment
...
written by Geraldine Solon, May 25, 2011
Great article!
Publishing Entrepreneurs
written by Dera, May 23, 2011
Congratulations on stepping out and taking a chance. I know you will be successful because you have the drive to make it work.
Self-Pubbed Authors Buck the Traditional Standards
written by Chanta Rand , May 21, 2011
Great article! I like the part about the key to survival being flexibility. There used to be a time when authors had to conform to the publisher's rules. Now, the rules have changed and more authors find themselves calling the shots and successfully marketing to a once largely ignored demographic. Thanks for sharing this article. It was very insightful.
Chanta Rand
Author of The Highest Bidder, Pharaoh's Desire, and Dirty Laundry
www.ChantaRand.com
A Brave New World
written by Alon Shalev, May 19, 2011
With the publishing industry going through such turmoil, these are brave people. Instead of sitting back and complaining as so many writers do, they are creating an exciting model. Good luck to them.
Alon Shalev

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.