A funny thing happened when I was writing my newest book, The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale. I ended up with a publishing company, too!
Okay, I confess that even as I pondered writing about this unique Western celebration, I was thinking to myself “Sneed, no one is going to buy this book.” Never mind that it’s gotten harder and harder to sell any nonfiction book to a trade publisher. Most publishers are located in urban areas and don’t have the faintest clue about regional markets, especially the West.
Nonetheless, after I spent a long weekend interviewing cowboys and kids, watching the raw beauty of rodeo events, and taking almost a thousand photographs, I knew I had to write this book. The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale began in 1951 as a way for local ranchers to get rid of “spoiled” horses that wouldn’t do any work. A couple of enterprising cowboys thought “Hey, why don’t we invite rodeo producers up to Miles City and auction off our unruly stock for rodeos?” Sixty years later, the Sale has evolved into a four-day celebration of Western life, matched only by the Calgary Stampede and Cheyenne Frontier Days.
In writing about the Sale, I not only wanted to give a blow-by-blow of the excitement of the event, but explore its history and the history of eastern Montana. I was correct, however. No mainstream publishers were interested. And that was the spur that I needed. “Time to start my own publishing company,” I told myself. I hired a truly gifted designer here in Montana, struck a distribution deal with another regional publisher, and a few months later, have probably the most beautiful book I’ve ever written.
Just as INK members have taken control of our own marketing, I believe more and more established authors and illustrators also will take control of their own publishing futures. As we all know here, it’s become almost impossible to sell even the best nonfiction ideas to mainstream trade publishers. Yet that doesn’t mean that the demand for high-quality books has disappeared. In fact, I have never had the kind of early response to a book that I’m getting for The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale. Part of that is the novelty of an established writer starting my own company, but a lot of that response stems from a hunger for books about topics that real people can relate to.
It’ll be interesting to see how many of us “buck out” on our own in coming years. For my part, I’m sold that it’s a good idea, and am already climbing up on my next horse.
To learn more about Bucking Horse Books, check out www.buckinghorsebooks.com.
To see the Publisher’s Weekly article featuring Bucking Horse Books, click here: