October 15, 2010
Greetings from Oak Tree Press planetary
headquarters! Can you believe how fast the summer flashed by? I'm still busy
prepping titles to go to the printer, still stretching to meet that goal of 24
new novels and other tradepaper books in 2010, and at the same time we are
ramping up our 2011 year. Our judges are busily working on the entries to
the Dark Oak Mystery contest, as well as the Timeless Love and CopTales
competitions, and we hope to make an announcement by Thanksgiving.
This has been a big year for travel, and I have two
more trips trip to make...I'll be meeting W. S. Gager at
Magna cum Murder in a couple of weeks.
The ads in the conference program were a great bargain, so I took to the drawing
board and gave Mitch Malone some promo. Both of Gager's books will be available
in the Dealer's Room, thanks to Helen Simpson from
Big Sleep Books. Then, in less
than a month from today, the MYSTERY CRUISE down the Mexican Riviera! Just
picture it...Sunny Frazier, Marilyn Meredith, Denny Griffin, and many other OTP
authors and friends of Oak Tree Press lolling along the coast of Baja
California, sipping cocktails, trading tall tales and sharp ideas aboard ship.
For next year, we've penciled in
Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe
where Mike Orenduff's fourth in series, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier,
will debut, and of course, EPICON
in Williamsburg, VA. OTP submitted a number of titles to the competition,
so we need to represent! In June, Sunny and I are contemplating DEADLY INK
in New Jersey. PSWA is in July
this year, so we could make it work, you never know. And another trip to
Killer Nashville is not out of the
question...that was a fabulous conference.
Bouchercon 2011 is in St. Louis,
just a scant 100 mile road trip, so that is a possible venue also, but if the
Spirits of St. Louis is on your travel goal list, be sharp! The conference is in
September, almost a full month ahead of its usual date.
What are you planning? It's not too early to be
thinking about where your book-promoting adventures might take you in
2011...this is when plans are being firmed up, speaker panels are being set up,
chances to be in the conference program are available and affordable. Why wait?
BTW, we've been getting some great compliments
about the formatting of our KINDLES...this is due to the fine layout and
conversion skills of Jim at LL Publications, who is also doing the formatting of
our other eBook formats. We're working through the Oak Tree Press catalog as
fast as we can, and I hope to have 25 titles in eBook formats before the
While in California, I took a number of meetings
with authors of children's books and YA books. We are looking very seriously at
launching, at long last, that Children's line of books. JETTA'S
debut was a huge success at the San Luis Obispo Book Festival. A great
community, very supportive of the creative arts. I always manage to pack a
lot into a visit to the West Coast...and this year was no exception. From SLO, I
took Amtrak's Starlight Express up to Jack London Square and spent a too-short
couple of days with my pal, Judy, then winged my way on up to Portland OR for a
long weekend with my daughter, and a few more meetings with potential clients.
Portland is another city where creative arts are supported. All things
considered, it was really hard to say goodbye!
Here in Taylorville, the leaves are turning and
falling and that crisp autumn feeling is in the air. My garden is way past
its prime, although those knockout roses are still lush and vibrant. Now when
Frida Kahlo Kat and Lovey dash in and hop up on my desk, their little ears are
cold! And we all know what is coming....BRRRR!
Billie Johnson, Publisher
September 15, 2010
It's been a really busy summer...we are about to
send the last of the summer titles to the printer, and I am packing my bags to
head out to San Luis Obispo for their Book Festival on Sunday where we will be
debuting JETTA'S JOURNEY. I am always excited to be going back to California,
where I feel much more at home than I do here in what is technically my home
town, and this trip has a lot of bonuses. JETTA'S illustrations were done by the
mother of my dear friend, Barbara, which makes that project all the sweeter.
Also, OTP authors Marilyn Meredith and Sunny Frazier will be there to exhibit,
so we'll have a chance to catch up on things as well as make plans for the
future. Additionally, Sue McGinty and a few other authors we know and adore will
be there. Bonanza!
Speaking of Sunny...she is back in the Acquisitions
driver seat! And this is a very good thing! We both attended Killer
Nashville in August, and when the conference (fabulous BTW) was over, we sat
down and finished our 2010 list, and started talking about 2011. Sunny selects
the material for Dark Oak Mysteries, Wild Oaks Westerns, plus we are talking
about a couple new imprints, one going toward the paranormal.
Last week, I got the materials out to our judge
panelists for the contests, so we are one step closer to knowing who will take
the top prizes!
And we have a new person in the office...Dawn! She
is taking on our Kindle program, catching up the arrears and getting everything
whipped into shape, including me!
After a couple of hours of website maintenance, our
BOOKSTORE is almost up to date, and displays
our newest titles. So, try out the BUY buttons...our new books there are
priced to offer great value, and less-than-perfect copies are really a steal!
Billie Johnson, Publisher
June 24, 2010
I'm just back from Las Vegas and the fabulous PSWA
conference...if you are not up to speed on this event, check them out at
POLICEWRITER.com and begin making
plans for next year...I know I am!
We released five new titles there in Vegas, which
was a first for OTP, and a thrill...however, now that I am back at planetary
headquarters (okay...so it is really a small town in central IL...allow me
some illusion!) it is time to get my feet back on the ground and get busy on the
next batch of books...FAIRY TALES ARE FRAGILE, SEX AND DEATH, I SUPPOSE, THE
LAST OF THE RAILROAD POLICE and NO EVIDENCE OF A CRIME, plus finishing up
In further news, we have a change in our
Acquisitions Department...Sunny Frazier is no longer reviewing submissions for
OTP. The email link for our queries remains the same...we simply did one of
those high-techie things and re-directed it back to an OTP mailbox monitored in
this office, essentially the reverse of the thing that was done to fold
Sunny into our submissions loop. This should be seamless, but in the event it is
not, please contact me directly at
Summertime is great for vacation reading and there
are some great choices and great savings in our bookstore... check it out at
Billie Johnson, Publisher
February 12, 2009
A Personal Comment
Last Friday, February 6, I was involved in a
serious auto accident. As my sister and I drove through Springfield, a driver in
the opposing lane smashed into the car ahead of him and hurled it across the
street and into us. My sister was driving -- she always drives when we go to
Springfield, insisting she knows the streets better, but I think she just loved
driving my Scion, known in the family as the Beanie Mobile. She did an amazing
job of almost avoiding the collision, but nonetheless, the other car hit our
driver's rear, and we spun around and eventually rolled onto the passenger side
and slid for what seemed like forever. Amazingly enough, we were not
seriously injured, so far as broken bones -- just lots of bruises, bumps and
sore spots. But my beloved little car will most likely be totaled out.
Now, a week later, I am still feeling sad, and
stunned with the reality of how dramatically things can change in an instant.
And I am also trying to not be bitter that I lost my car, the pregnant
lady in the other car might lose her baby, and the guy who started the chain
reaction got a $75 ticket for failure to reduce speed. Wild!
Not that I am vengeful or anything, but anyone who
writes a novel with the Ram truck driver as the bad guy who really gets in the
end -- send it to me...I can guarantee special consideration!
Billie Johnson, Publisher
January 24, 2009
Now that the holidays are past, we are back to the
business of bringing out books! In the next few days, I will send Marilyn
Meredith's NO SANCTUARY to the printer. THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS
will be right behind it.
Sunny Frazier's WHERE ANGELS FEAR is set for the
end of February, just before she wheels her rollie-bag onto a Hawaii-bound jet
to attend Left Coast Crime. Then we have THE JELLY BEAN PRINCIPLE and AUTO
REPAIR: The Consumer's Crash Course.
Spring 2009 will see the latest Passenger to
Paradise novel from Monti Sikes, and a bit after that, Holli Castillo's GUMBO
Late summer and early fall, we will bring out our
contest winners from 2009...
Timeless Love winner:
IN FRANKLIN'S HOUSE by Beverly Lauderdale
DAYS ON THE BEACH by John Taylor
Dark Oak winner
INFATUATION by Wendy Sinicki
Looks like a full plate, huh? We think so too, so
we are declaring out 2009 lists full. Later in the spring, we will begin
making some decisions about the 2010 list.
The 2009 contests are open now! I'm looking forward
to seeing what's "out there" in the new manuscript area.
On other issues, I've received many favorable
comments about our company blog and it
is attracting a nice following. Plus my
TWITTER addiction shows no signs
of diminishing. Love that social networking.
Billie Johnson, Publisher
October 12, 2008
After lagging behind schedule for the summer
months, we broke through our log-jam and brought out four books in September!
This is the first time ever that Oak Tree Press released four books in the same
month...LAKE MEADE, EASY MONEY, THE LAST STOP, and THE ADDICTION MONSTER AND THE
SQUARE CAT...zowie! Plus, a fifth, VEGAS VIXEN is almost finished, and
this week I will be sending the printer another title, SPANGLED STAR BANTER, our
first entry in the world of poetry. Finishing shortly will be the AUTO
REPAIR how-to book, and the POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS.
I am currently putting together the Spring 2009
list, which must be complete before Oct 24th so I can zip it over to Publisher's
Weekly for the Announcement Issue set for January 26, 2009. It's shaping up to
be an exciting list. Marilyn Meredith's NO SANCTUARY and Sunny Frazier's WHERE
ANGELS FEAR will lead off 2009, plus a follow-up novel from Patricia Sheehy and
another entry to the Passenger to Paradise series from Monti Sikes.
We also have Holli Castillo's GUMBO JUSTICE, the
release of which has been pushed out to allow Holli time to recuperate from
injuries sustained in an auto accident. Plus, in the last few days, I made the
decision on the winner of Timeless Love 2008 contest -- IN FRANKLIN'S HOUSE by
Beverly Lauderdale. I am still waiting to hear from the CopTales entrant I
selected, and I am about 99% sure of my choices on Dark Oak.
Mid-July saw two new features add in to the Oak
Tree menu...I established a company blog.
OTPBlog.blogspot.com invites (urges?
nags? pressures?) OTP authors to post frequently and comment on other
posts. Frequent and fresh posts are hors d'oeuvres for the webcrawlers...and
when they come snacking on our phrases and names and links and key words, higher
and more frequent rankings in the search engines result. This builds name
recognition and exposure for OTP titles, which is a very good thing for all
concerned. To buttress this, I have become a
TWITTER devotee, and try to tweet several
times per day. Plus I have begun to post comments on other blogs, and have
become a contributor to BLOOD RED
PENCIL which focuses on writing issues, especially editing.
The other new development is the launch of
COLOPHON, the newsletter for OTP authors and special writer friends. My goal is
to issue COLOPHON mid-month, each month, and its mission is to be a
nuts-and-bolts discussion between OTP and its authors. The subject matter will
focus on the book business with a special emphasis on promotion and marketing.
I've received many positive comments about the newsletter, which is gratifying,
but my greatest wish is that it provides information and inspiration to amp up
book promotion efforts...mine in concert with the authors. So, the July,
August and September issues are history, and I am currently working on the
While we've been busy with all the above things,
summer has faded away and autumn has set in. My patio is covered with crisp, dry
leaves, what used to be the blooms on the hostas are now raggedy sticks, and the
salvia blossoms have turned a parched indigo. The knock-out roses are still
lovely, and the side-bed filled with Impatiens hasn't gotten the word that it's
all over for this season. I am happy they are lingering. My tomato vines
are still loaded with fruit, about half of them still green as apples, but I
dash out each evening to tent over the vines with plastic sheeting, a
semi-successful effort to extend the season.
Best wishes on your autumn-inspired writing!
Billie Johnson, Publisher
July 6, 2008
In the spring, gardening is the biggest rival Oak Tree Press has for my time,
attention and energy. Here in Central Illinois, we've had wonderful gardening
weather through June and I've enjoyed lots of digging, planting, trimming hours,
plus, of course, hours of sitting on my patio, savoring the scene. The weather
was pleasant enough that several days, I even took my laptop out to the patio
and combined some book biz with garden-sitting. Check out my Garden photo album
at My Space (http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewAlbums&friendID=214859060)!
But today, the mercury is headed toward 90, so I am staying inside, and having
an Internet and website update day. Tedious, yes, but the thing that most
writers and small presses know is that the Internet is the great leveler of the
playing field in this business, perhaps the most influential thing that keeps us
in the game, and gives us the opportunity to shine, and reduces the big-house,
big-name author domination of the biz. So, I keep my grumbling to a minimum.
My biggest focus today is getting the word out that the entry period for our
three contests is drawing to a close. July 31 is the last day writers can send
their manuscript to OTP in the hopes of taking the grand prize -- an offer to
2008 marks the tenth annual
Dark Oak Mystery Contest, and is open to all amateur sleuth,
PI and hard-boiled detective stories.
is the contest for you if your novel is romance or romantic suspense.
Plus a touch of the supernatural in these stories is just fine with us. This is
our sixth annual romance novel contest.
For real-life cop stories (and other law enforcement professionals)
COPTALES is the contest for your
story. We love these true-life stories, especially when they are like last
year's winner CODE TWO 'n' a HALF, which is still popular, sales-wise.
For the first time this year, we are accepting digital files attached to
email...save some money, save some space in OTP's office, and save some trees!
Check our website for more details, and don't let this opportunity pass you by.
Most of the winners -- and many of the runners-up -- have gone on to publish
other novels. OTP is delighted to have been on the launching end of these
Also in the Work In Progress mix is the finalizing of plans for our second
annual writing conference, PROSE IN THE PARK, set for Sep 19-21 here in
Plus, talk is being bandied about concerning a meet-up of OTP authors in
Philadelphia in October to do some group promo events! It's a wild idea...but
you never know...sometimes those crazy ones work out great!
And there are the books, of course. The auto
repair shop guidebook galley is with the author. Heather Mosko,
LAKE MEADE's author, has already returned her
first round of edits, and they are almost completed, and the same is true of
Norm Maher's EASY MONEY. Alan Bower is
putting the finishing touches on THE LAST STOP, LINCOLN
IN CHRISTIAN COUNTY...all of these coming this summer and early fall.
Oh, and don't forget
THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS
the 2007 Dark Oak Winner....it will be
right along also.
More books are on the horizon too...Patricia Sheehy is working on
Whispers, the followup to her Best Seller, FIELD OF DESTINY...Monti
Sikes is working on
the next in her Passenger to Paradise
series. I just got a manuscript from Dennis Griffin,
Vegas Vixen, another suspenseful take set in that desert playground,
and Sunny Frazier has promised us the followup novel to her hit, FOOLS RUSH
Lots and lots of stuff going on under our tree...check back soon and get an
update on our progress!
Billie Johnson, Publisher
April 21, 2008
How embarrassing that I haven't updated this page in almost a year...Yikes!
If only technology could come up with a way to just think the update and have it
appear, that would be great. We could call it thought projection or something.
2008 has been just as busy, so far, as 2007 was. Several titles originally
set for the last months of 2007 ended up being carried over into the new year,
but we now have all of them "out there" and happily so, judging by the interest.
Prose in the Park, our first writers
conference, was quite the heady experience. Not everything went according to
plan, but most likely I was the only one who realized it. Several Oak Tree
writers came from great distances to attend, California, Virginia and
Connecticut, which was seriously touching. Taylorville is quite the "off the
beaten track" location, so it takes some determination to travel here. Our
speakers were wonderful, the food was yummy, and the park was lovely, just
edging into its fall wardrobe. I basked in it for a few days, then immediately
started planning the "second annual" taking into account all the lessons learned
doing the first one.
One of the conference highlights was announcing the winners of our Dark Oak
Mystery Contest and Timeless Love Novel Contest. In the mystery category, we
chose The Pot Thief Who Studies Pythagoras, a delightfully funny and sly
story set in Old Albuquerque. A "keeps ya guessing" romantic suspense took the
big prize in the Timeless Love competition. Lake Meade is set on a peaceful lake
in Maryland...peaceful, that is, until the remains the protagonist's high school
flame floats up near her charming B&B. Look for these great novels later this
In keeping with our tradition of taking a hard look at the runners up in the
contests, we are currently working with the authors of Easy Money (Dark Oak
second place) and Love's Invisible Circle (Timeless Love second place) to see if
we can proceed with those titles also. Stay Tuned.
Gumbo Justice, a novel set in New Orleans, will be coming out later this year
also. Plus we are working with a Las Vegas author to launch a couple of his
suspenseful cop tales set in the desert playground. And, needless to say,
I have my eye on a several others.
The contests are open, and we have been shipping flyers and announcements all
Tomorrow I point the my Scion toward Las Vegas, where I will be attending and
speaking and otherwise participating in a writers conference there...always
exciting. I decided to drive this year so that I can visit Sedona AZ on the way
home. Oak Tree has a fair number of titles which I believe have great appeal to
the New Age market, plus Monti Sikes' EAGLE RISING is set there...PLUS, I've
never been to Sedona, and that just might be the best reason of all!
Check back often to see what's going on under our tree...and keep writing!
Billie Johnson, Publisher
June 6 2007
Whew! This has been a hectic spring! Our fifth book this year,
Giving with Meaning,
is at the printer, and marks a first for Oak Tree...doing two beautiful color
books back to back! It's been a wild ride, and I've certainly had some of those
"never again" moments. But, as that one commercial on TV says, you don't get to
pick your opportunities, sometimes they just roll in at you and the only thing
to do is to seize them. So has it been with
Giving with Meaning
and Roadside Wildflowers of Christian County
...when amazing opportunities opened up, getting the books ready to plug
in was the only sensible choice.
We still have five titles to go to complete our 2007 list, plus we are
looking at some additions. I'm delighted to say that we are in serious
discussions with Monti Sikes to bring out
her latest paranormal romance whose title is still being debated. This will be
Monti's third title with Oak Tree Press, following the classic
Hotels to Remember
Hearts Across Forever,
the novel that launched our Timeless Love imprint.
There's something really validating about doing repeat books with
authors...one of the best "actions speak louder than words" compliments I can
imagine. Monti joins four other authors who have done repeat titles with us,
including Patrica Sheehy (three titles), Paulette Crain and Peter Spring (two
each) and Robert Cohen (number two will be a fall release).
Here's our Oak Tree Press lineup: Next is Gus Cilione's A Lesson in Murder,
followed by Bernadette Steele's The Poetry of Murder, two very intriguing
mysteries. Following these will be Robert Cohen and friends in their anthology
of high seas adventures,
Scurvy Dogs, Green Water and Gunsmoke: Fifty
Years in U.S. Navy Destroyers.
Our end of the year entries will be a
Boston whodunnit, Media Blitz by Joe Nowlan, and a non-fiction book to
take the mystery out of car repairs, Dealing with
Auto Repair Shops: The Consumer's Crash Course. Ideally, Monti's
new romance will come in mid summer, between Gus and Bernadette's mysteries.
Media Blitz marks the third OTP book set
in Boston, following Peter Spring's two Chris Parson's mysteries, and Burning
Questions marks the third time we've featured a story set in Portland OR.
The Hunt by Christie Rose and City of Suspects by Katy King both take place in
the City of Roses.
Contest entries are already coming in...adding seriously to my TBR pile,
which is an impressive pile. Throughout the spring, any moment that could be
spared from Oak Tree duties and Tourism Council work was spent in my garden, now
in its second year and looking quite nice, if I must say so myself.
However, by July Fourth, if not sooner, the oppressive heat the Midwest is
famous for will drive me into air-conditioned environs and reading will replace
digging, planting and trimming, and we'll see if I can make this big pile into a
Plans are shaping up for
Prose in the Park
,as well, and it looks to be a
terrific first conference. I am trying to persuade a rep from Amazon.com
to be a speaker, although he would prefer to speak via teleconferencing.
This is somewhat disappointing, but we will see. I think Amazon.com is a
major force in selling books, and one of the few places where the playing field
is leveled for small press titles, as well as those from previous seasons. It's
always exciting to hear the latest plans from this Internet powerhouse.
In May, Oak Tree books were exhibited at several
Library Association Conference and Book Fairs.
Industry stats say that nearly one third of the money spent on books is spent by
libraries, so I think it is a plus to show Oak Tree titles at these venues
whenever possible. And, even more exciting exhibit news is this: Oak Tree will
be displaying books at the famed Printers Row
Book Festival this upcoming weekend. This long-standing book
festival takes over the streets of Chicago's Loop for a weekend and celebrates
books, authors, publishers and most importantly, readers! Usually events like
this are out of reach, cost-wise, but this year the National Federation of Press
Women, of which Oak Tree is a member, contracted for a huge tent then "sub-let"
to members. So Friday night, my sister, niece and I will head north on I-55
toward the Windy City, with the cargo area of my Scion loaded with books and
literature...and a cooler filled with snacks, of course!
Thanks for visiting our site...check back soon!
Billie Johnson, Publisher
Publisher's Q & A