For those most closely involved with the spring 2013 picture book BeeBear, its very existence is simply the result of author and publisher being in the right place at the right time. Just as author Ross C. Follett began his search for a publisher for his collection of short rhymes celebrating the friendship between a bear and a bee, Michael Johnson, a publisher for the past three years of what he calls “experimental” books in Wisconsin, was contemplating launching a more conventional imprint.
“I’d worked with Michael at Follett,” explained the author, who, until he retired in 2006, was president and CEO of the Follett Library Resources division of Illinois-based Follett Corporation. Founded in 1873, Follett Corp. distributes books and other educational products to schools, colleges and public libraries through its five subsidiaries. “When I heard he’d launched a publishing company, I approached him.”
Johnson began his career with Follett in 1990 as director of data services at Follett Software Company and held several positions there over the years before founding his own consulting company in 2008. He began publishing books after launching Takoma Ridge Media three years ago with the release of I’m The White Guy… Jay-Z by Soren Baker, a journalist who covers the rap music scene.
Johnson said that when Follett approached him with his story, he thought, “This is a great place to launch a new imprint. BeeBear is so old school. It’s so different from what we’ve done before.” Takoma Ridge releases include The Making of Young Bleed’s ‘Preserved’ by Young Bleed, in which the Louisiana rapper relates the backstory of his debut album; Johnson’s Five Reasons Why Cricket Is More American Than Baseball; and two more from Baker in the I’m the White Guy series.
With a mission to publish “odd but interesting stories,” the OddInt imprint released its first title, BeeBear, in March 2013 with a 3,000-copy hardcover print run. Three books for adults – including Follett’s More Poem-Like Thought Things (April), a sequel to his 2012 Takoma Ridge Media title – have been subsequently released. Three more books are scheduled for release by Christmas, including BeeBear 2. All OddInt titles – except for Follett’s books – are released in both print and digital formats. BeeBear is print-only because Johnson and Follett are committed to the idea of a parent or grandparent holding the book while reading it with a child.
“I’m all about telling stories,” Johnson said, adding that three more children’s picture books are in various stages of development. “When I find interesting stories, I’m going to publish them.”
Follett’s illustrator, Lee Sievers, a freelance commercial artist in Minneapolis, had never illustrated a children’s book before. But, the author said, Follett Library Resources once hired Adcom, a Minneapolis advertising agency, to create promotional materials, and Sievers, an employee there at the time, “did wonderful work for us.”
“It’s like getting the band back together again,” Follett added, noting that John Nelson, who once headed Adcom, is now assisting Follett with the marketing and promotion of his books. “We’re all grayer, but these people have great talent and abilities.”
OddInt Media titles are available through Amazon.com, Baker & Taylor, Brodart, Ingram, and, not unexpectedly, Follett Library Resources.