Meet The Publisher: Bright Sky Press

8 Mar

I often point out to people that I came into book publishing rather late in life after spending 10 years teaching college English. One day I was finishing grading final exams for an American literature class, the next day I was moving all my cubicle belongings to an old conference room on the far side of the campus to begin setting up TSTC Publishing. Initially I read and read (and then read some more) books about publishing—many of which are on our Recommended Publishing Resources page—to figure out what needed to be done. Books, however, will only take you so far and after while I began to feel like I was operating in a vacuum trying to figure out what the best next steps would be to keep moving us forward.

After a while, it dawned of me that I might talk to other publishers, especially those I might chat with as I traveled around to the various TSTC colleges. Last month I was out in West Texas and was fortunate enough to meet with Rue Judd, the founder and driving force behind Bright Sky Press in Albany, Texas. I just kind of showed up out of the blue on Friday morning as I was driving from Sweetwater to Breckenridge to see if someone might be around their office to talk. Given that, I was extraordinarily fortunate to be a recipient of Ms. Judd’s generosity as she spent three hours talking to me about publishing in general, her publishing background and Bright Sky Press in particular, and took me to the weekly Albany Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Rue started her publishing career in the late ‘70s while living in Washington D.C. as her husband was a lawyer there. At that time, she told me, there weren’t really any good desk calendars that were focused on the nation’s capitol. So, she worked with a couple of different photographers who took pictures of the city during its different seasons and she was able to put together a 52-week calendar that had a different picture for each week. By the time she went to print she had pre-sold 10,000 copies and away she went on her publishing career. First she did museum posters, calendars, and postcards and later on moved into book publishing.

In the last ‘90s her husband retired and they moved back to his hometown of Albany, Texas. Some people in the community wanted to publish a book about the county courthouse there—Shackelford County, I believe—and it was a natural thing for her to help out with it. Then, the next thing you know, she started Bright Sky Press and is publishing 15-20 books a year: coffee table books, cookbooks, sports books, and a whole slew of titles related (usually) to Texas.

She was kind enough to give me a copy of one of her recent publications, Revealing Character: Texas Tintypes. It is a collection of photographs of modern-day working cowboys taken by Robb Kendrick utilizing 19th century tintype photographic processes. I just saw an ad in the new issue of Texas Monthly stating that photographs from the book will be on display at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas, through April before moving on to other locations after that.) It is an absolutely gorgeous book, very well put together, and I would highly recommend it. On the business side of things, I was also interested to discover how she had kept a low retail price ($34.95) through her printing connections and how, as well, that Frost Bank had underwritten/sponsored the book which made it economically viable from the get go.

As I said, Rue let me tag along with her the weekly Albany Chamber of Commerce luncheon—a very interesting introduction to the local business scene—and over the course of the time I spent with her she passed on much sage advice about getting print runs (and sales) up, keeping printing costs down, and various distribution/marketing issues.

All in all, it was a highly productive and enjoyable way to spend three hours. For having shown up more or less out of the blue, I couldn’t have asked for anyone to have been more generous than Rue Judd. And I would certainly recommend visiting Bright Sky Press online; there are a variety of books on a variety of subjects and there’s bound to be something for almost anyone.

Mark

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