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Carrie Pauling earned her Bachelor's degree in English with a minor in business from Penn State University and has worked on the editorial staff of Highlights for Children magazine. She has published several short stories, research-related articles and other general-interest articles.

Every now and then a small publisher's find forges its way to the center of attention.

Bunkie Lynn's satirical gem, The Big Girl's Guide to Life.

The Always Prayer Shawl was an unexpected, unsolicited manuscript.

The Biggest Surprises
Come From The Smallest Packages

Small publishers who have launched big books

Most often small publishing houses exist for their audience-their niche carved in a world of publishing giants. Delivering books that inspire, teach, lend humor, commentate, entertain or scare the wits out of readers, small publisher's booklists are typically short and targeted. They thrive on their diverse offerings; a smaller quantity but high quality titles; adherence to their genre. Not often do their titles springboard an author into fame, nor do the publishing houses themselves find great fortune. Every now and then, however, a small publisher's find forges its way to the center of attention as the recipient of prestigious awards, topping national bestseller lists or garnering a host of shining reviews.

Such is the fate of national bestseller The Big Girl's Guide To Life: A Plus-Sized Jaunt Through a Body-Obsessed World by southern humorist, Bunkie Lynn. Described as "sassy" and "witty," a "hilarious retort to today's health and fashion trends," the satire addresses the hurdles a plus-sized woman faces in a society that "caters to women with toothpick arms and zero body fat."

Published by LadyBug Publishing, LLC in Hendersonville, TN, The Big Girl's Guide To Life is one of two books LadyBug has published in the genre of women's humor. According to Monica Wessel, Vice President of Marketing at LadyBug Publishing, promoting the book meant "working closely with our wholesaler, providing them excellent reviews from the media." The company marketed the book heavily to independent booksellers before the launch date in October 2003 and received publicity "you can't buy" via an article, published in the author's hometown newspaper. Picked up by the Gannett Newswire, the article reached more than 50 markets in the US and Canada. Author Bunkie Lynn also takes an active role in promoting her book, making at least one speaking appearance each week to groups or at book festivals.

Mass subject appeal helped drive sales of LadyBug Publishing's The Big Girl's Guide To Life. Women simply connect with its forthright humor. For Boyds Mills Press's The Always Prayer Shawl, by the late Sheldon Oberman, the story's rich cultural and religious focus told in powerful prose landed the book in the hands of esteemed reviewers. The children's picture book won the Sydney Taylor Award (1994) and National Jewish Book Award (1994), among others, and made the ALA Booklist's "Best Books Of The Year" list (1994).

Boyds Mills Press, tucked away in Honesdale, PA, publishes about 50 children's books each year, including picture books, fiction, nonfiction, activity books, poetry and paperback reprints. Citing a goal of publishing "good stories with lasting value," Editorial Director Larry Rosler described the unsolicited manuscript of The Always Prayer Shawl as powerful and simply outstanding. Once the book was ready for release, promotions were targeted to a specific market-religious and cultural communities-using mailers, and the book was included in the company's catalog. "The awards, of course, brought a lot more attention to the picture book once it was released," said Rosler.

"Regardless of our size, we do what all good publishers do-cultivate relationships with our authors," explained Rosler. Following The Always Prayer Shawl, Boyds Mills Press published two more titles by Sheldon Oberman: By The Hanukkah Light and The Wisdom Bird: A Tale of Solomon and Sheba, which also received a Sydney Taylor Award (2000). A collection of Jewish folktales retold by Sheldon Oberman is forthcoming.

Making sure the story comes first, Boyds Mills Press, like many other small publishers, is able to select works that fit their genre rather than fill a market need or succumb to publishing trends. In the end it's the story's value and quality, or simply its hilarity and appeal that propels it to stardom.
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