When talking business with Bettie Youngs, publisher of Bettie Youngs Books, you’ll quickly get an idea of the scale of her ambition, as you’ll hear a lot of numbers. She wrote her first book in graduate school and has since authored 36 books, and now, at BYBooks, seven of her company’s last 12 memoirs are being developed or acquired for film. BYBooks has published 20 titles in the past 15 months and has more than 150 signed contracts in place. Her most recent title is Amazing Adventures of a Nobody by reality TV host Leon Logothetis (whose shows, on channels like Discovery, have aired in 100 countries).
Youngs’s focus is primarily on memoirs, with an emphasis on stories with global appeal. Amazing Adventures of a Nobody fits perfectly into Youngs’s game plan: “It’s a wonderfully poignant and funny book about [Logothetis] hating his job and the life it created, and about his journey in finding and living his own life,” said Youngs. “That thesis is close to my own heart. If you aren’t living close to the bone—if you aren’t living your calling, your purpose, then you can’t ‘live inside’ the passion that should direct and define the journey you’re to take in this lifetime.”
That attitude is part of what has made Youngs successful. She has applied it to her own writing, much of which developed because of her daughter, Jennifer: she wrote Taste Berries for Teens: Inspirational Short Stories and Encouragement on Life, Love, Friendships and Tough Issues (which hit the PW bestsellers list when HCI published it in 2000) while her daughter was a teenager, and turned to short nonfiction when her daughter went away to college. It was around this time—30 books in—that Youngs started her own consulting company and discovered her passion for developing others’ ideas for publication. It wasn’t long before she found herself with more than 100 clients—and an offer from Hampton Roads Publishing to start her Bettie Youngs Books imprint. In 2009, she went out on her own with Bettie Youngs Books. “It really wasn’t much of a stretch,” Youngs said. “Many of the elements were in place: I had a commitment from a good foreign rights firm [Montreal Contacts] and a standing invitation for distribution [Aaron Silverman’s SCB group], so we were up and running almost immediately.” Now, her San Diego office has a small staff, putting out 11 books in 2011 and looking to increase to 20 titles next year, all of which will also be in EPub formats. Sales this year have been “really wonderful,” according to Youngs, with Logothetis getting recent press coverage for his book tour, a cross-country promotion in which he gives out free cab rides.
In addition to Amazing Adventures of a Nobody, which has been back to press following its initial run of 18,500), she’s particularly high on Charmaine Hammond’s Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog—and His Hospital Friends (the next book following her bestseller On Toby’s Terms) and Letter Beasties, a book that reimagines the alphabet with monsters.
Does Youngs have time to write?
“I’m not writing anything at this time,” she said. “I’m thoroughly enchanted, completely engrossed, with helping my authors bring their works to life and finding a reading, viewing, and listening audience for each title.”