Publishers, Authors Fill Yelm With Books

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Books help shape people’s lives. They can inform, entertain and inspire. It’s not surprising books play an important part of people’s lives, even as the Internet threatens to change the way people consume the written word.

Yelm is filled with book publishers, large and small, motivated more by spreading their message than by making money — though money is still important. The companies range in size, to authors who publish their own books. What’s clear is that Yelm is a hotbed of publishers printing all kinds of books — guides to spiritual enlightenment, epic science fiction and fantasy novels, children’s books and dictionaries. And while there’s far too many publishers to explore in depth, there are a few that illustrate the kinds of books people in the Yelm area are producing.

JZK Publishing, Sharing Ramtha’s Teachings

JZK Publishing, an arm of JZ Knight’s company, JZK, Inc., is most likely the largest book publisher in the area, shipping books to Ramtha followers across the world.

Knight is famous for purporting to channel a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior named Ramtha.

Jaime Leal-Anaya and Pat Richker are co-editors of JZK Publishing, a division of Knight’s company, JZK, Inc. And both became students at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment because of a book: “Ramtha,” also known as “The White Book.”

“The White Book” tells Ramtha’s story in his own words, explaining how he achieved enlightenment and ascended, and outlines the basic tenets of Ramtha’s philosophy.

Richker was a court reporter in Los Angeles for 25 years before she retired and moved to Orlando, Florida, where she spent seven years as a property manager. After reading “The White Book,” she sold her possessions and moved to Idaho and then, after attending an RSE event, bought 10 acres in Yelm. She’s worked for JZK, Inc. for 26 years, she said.

Leal-Anaya, who grew up in Mexico, was studying to become a Catholic priest in Ireland. He developed a keen interest in history and language, he said. He learned Hebrew and Greek so he could read Biblical scripture in its original languages. When he discovered “The White Book,” it seemed to answer many questions he wasn’t getting answers to in the Catholic church, he said.

He became disillusioned by scandals in the Catholic church, and he became more involved with RSE, he said.

Richker, who as a court reporter taught professional transcribers, helped start JZK, Inc.’s publishing division when it began in earnest in 2000. She was involved with every aspect — transcribing, proofing and editing, she said.

Leal-Anaya came on board soon after. He said he’s responsible for culling information from Ramtha’s lectures and organizing them into book-form, while Richker, a self-identified grammarian, fine-tunes the finished product.

“With Jaime, I find him to … be impeccable, in the sense that (he is) keeping Ramtha’s words pure so they don’t get devolved as they go through the years and the ages,” Richker said.

It can be tough work. The book they’re currently working on has gone through about 16 proofings between the two of them, she said. But the books they produce impact people’s lives, she said.

“I think that the books that we have put out from … (JZK Publishing) and the books that other students have put out have made a great impact in the community,” Richker said.

Richker has edited many books by RSE students. She said she thinks their literary efforts are born of a desire to express what they’ve learned at RSE.

“I think it’s expressing their knowledge of what they’ve learned and how it has affected them,” she said. “A lot of the books are personal, about someone’s own personal experience, growth, journey.”

Richker and Leal-Anaya both said the publisher’s most recent title, a reissue of the book “Love Yourself into Life,” is the publisher’s most successful book to date. The book exemplifies the fact that the company is primarily about disseminating knowledge as opposed to turning a profit, Richker said.

“That’s a 400-page book that JZ put the price on of $19.95,” she said. “That could have been a $50 book. It’s an incredible book. … It’s not about the money.”

Richker said she and Leal-Anaya work well together because they’re so particular and so dedicated to ensuring they don’t misrepresent Ramtha’s teachings.

Laura Eisen’s Children’s Book

Laura Eisen is one of the RSE students who was inspired to publish her own book. In fact, Richker helped her with the book’s editing.

Her book, “Clouds for Breakfast,” is a children’s book that was awarded a Mom’s Choice Award and named a 2014 Book of the Year by Creative Child Magazine.

Eisen loves books, which is no surprise, as she’s the manager of the Quantum Cafe, the bookstore on the RSE campus. She’s no stranger to children’s book, either, as she would often go to the library and check out dozens of books at a time with her son when he was younger, she said.

“Clouds for Breakfast” came to Eisen while she was performing a RSE technique, she said. The name of the book and some of the verses flowed into her mind, she said.

“It really came out of the blue,” she said. “It seemed to be that I was the messenger for that information.”

“The book is about the unlimitedness of your mind and that each day you can create whatever you want,” Eisen said. “The clouds are like a metaphor because they’re new all the time, they’re always changing and they take on any form. So that’s how unlimited our mind is.”

The book was illustrated by Kent Cissna, and Eisen said his illustrations help attract people to the book.

“Kent Cissna is a genius with his artwork,” she said. “We worked for a year using the text and the artwork to make sure they work together, and he is so talented. We looked at really embedding a complexity into the book. The knowledge doesn’t necessarily just come through the text, but children are very interested in visuals so there’s layers in the book that allow them to discover. So each time they look at the book they can discover something more.”

Someone asked her early on why she was publishing a children’s book. Eisen said she realized she wasn’t doing it for the money, though she acknowledged she’s not opposed to making a profit.

“I realized that I wanted to do it because I believed in the message,” she said. “There’s a lot of information out there — there’s television, there’s iPads. There’s a lot of things that I don’t think really honor and support the great minds that children have, and so it’s a simple but very powerful message and I felt  that was what I really wanted to accomplish, was to make that available to as many people as possible.”

Eisen said she chose to publish her book through CreateSpace, a print-on-demand publisher associated with Amazon.com. Print-on-demand publishers use a printing process that allows them to print an order as small as a single book to fulfill an order, as opposed to traditional self-publishers that require authors to order hundreds or thousands of copies of their books, which they must then sell themselves. Print-on-demand publishers require no upfront cost to the author, but the books cost slightly more and the printer usually charges a small fee on each sale.

Eisen has learned that getting a good product is only the first step, she said. The next thing authors need to do is get the word out about their book.

One thing that’s helped bring awareness to her books is translating it into other languages. Translators at RSE have offered to translate the book, helping Eisen market her book to languages she wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

Submitting the book for awards has also brought exposure to the book, she said.

Eisen said it’s important for people interested in publishing to think about how much work it will take.

“(People need to) really ask yourself how much time and money and focus you want to devote to this, because it really is relative to how far it will go,” she said. “And there’s no formula.”

Bettye Johnson, Self-Published Author

Bettye Johnson is the author of more than a half dozen books, including a successful Dan Brown-style trilogy on Biblical figure Mary Magdalene. Johnson’s first two books in the trilogy both won Independent Publisher Book Awards.

It was learning about Mary Magdalene’s background that first got Johnson interested in the idea of writing a book.

She went online and researched how to go about publishing her first book, “Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls.” The process of getting an agent and submitting her manuscript to publishers seemed daunting, and she decided to publish the book herself, she said.

Like Eisen, Johnson publishes her books through CreateSpace.

“I’ve not been sorry for … (self-publishing) at all, because I’ve enjoyed it,” she said. “I’ve had fun.”

Sales of the book seemed to take off after she won her first Independent Publisher Award, she said.

Johnson has used the Internet to market her books. She’s used Facebook, Twitter, AuthorsDen.com, and her own website, www.bettyejohnson.com, to get the word out about her books, she said.

She’s also experimented with e-books, offering a free e-book on her website to introduce potential readers to her writing.

“I’ve learned so much and it’s like I’m never bored … because I’m always thinking of something,” she said. She shares her passion for writing by leading a writer’s group twice a month at Yelm Timberland Library.

“I love it because I love people coming in and wanting to express themselves and to learn more about how they can use their writing,” she said.

TANSTAAFL Press, Indie Publishing

Thomas Gondolfi’s parents were both bibliophiles, so it’s not surprising he grew up to found a small indie press in Yelm.

Gondolfi’s parents both loved western and mystery novels, but his dad had a penchant for science fiction that his mother only casually shared. But that love of science fiction rubbed off on Gondolfi. At first, his dad introduced him to the juvenile fiction of sci-fi author Robert Heinlein. As he grew up, he started getting into Heinlein’s adult fiction.

A Heinlein novel, in fact, was the inspiration for the name of Gondolfi’s company — TANSTAAFL Press.

The acronym stands for, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” a phrase popularized by Heinlein’s novel, “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.”

“I wanted to give kind of an homage to my hero, Robert Heinlein,” Gondolfi said. “Whenever I go to a (science fiction) convention, I’d say 60-70 percent of the people will come up to me and say, ‘Well, anyone with a name like TANSTAAFL Press, I half-like you already.”

The phrase — which means it’s not possible to get something for nothing — also serves as a nod to the business side of writing and selling books, Gondolfi said.

“It’s the concept that I’m giving something to other people — in this case, the twisted vision in my head, entertainment — and they’re giving me money, if you will. I consider it (money) almost applause. If you’re willing to pay me money to see what I’ve written and be entertained by me, then you’re giving applause by giving me money.”

Gondolfi has a solid scientific background having worked for Intel in DuPont and Xerox before that.

“I use my knowledge as a background, but I write what I want to write and try to make the science fit,” he said. “But at the same time, I won’t write anything illogical.”

That commitment to logic delayed the publication of his first book, “Toy Wars,” which he first wrote 15 years ago. The novel is about robotic toys fighting a war with each other on a distant planet.

“I couldn’t think of a logical reason why toys would fight toys, and so I just kept thinking about it,” he said. “What you see as the preface of the book is what I came up with, how toys would logically be fighting toys. Once I got that, it was like, ‘OK, now I can start writing the book.’”

Gondolfi considered going the traditional route and submitting his work to traditional publishers, but he didn’t look forward to the long, grueling process, he said.

When his wife gave him a book for Christmas called “The Well-fed Self Publisher” by Peter Bowerman, he realized he could publish his books himself.

TANSTAAFL Press got its business license in December 2011. It took Gondolfi about a year to put out his first book, “Toy Wars.”

Since then, TANSTAAFL Press has put out a total of five books, including two by Gondolfi’s longtime friend Bruce Graw, author of TANSTAAFL titles “Demon Holiday” and “Demon Ascendant.”

“I see it (the company) growing organically with the additional books I’ve put out,” he said.

Gondofli has learned the best way to promote books is through word-of-mouth, Gondofli said.

When he thought of how he discovered new books, he noted he either stumbled upon one in a bookstore or heard about one from someone — and between the two, word of mouth is where he’s focusing.

He’s generating that word of mouth by making himself approachable at conventions, where he often rents out booths or gives talks. He’s often accompanied by a purple teddy bear wielding a machine gun — the main character of “Toy Wars.”

“I can’t sell to a man dying of thirst,” Gondolfi said. “Never have been able to. But what I’ve learned is not to sell. I don’t sell my books. I market my books.”

Diane Frank’s Phonetic Dictionary

Diane Frank of Rainier entered the book publishing world because of her daughter.

Her book, “Gabby’s Wordspeller,” is named after her daughter, who had a hard time spelling as a child because of her dyslexia, Frank said.

“When she was 13, it was her first year in high school and she lost it,” Frank said. “She decided she wasn’t going to be finishing high school because spelling … and getting through all her schoolwork was just too much.”

Her daughter could never find words in the dictionary because she spells phonetically, Frank said.

Frank hunted for resources that could help her daughter, but came up empty, she said.

“One of these nights she was doing her homework … and she started crying and said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to make it through high school. I don’t know what to do. Would you write me a dictionary that spells the words the way I do so I can find them?’ She had a lot to say, it was just so laborious to write and read that she was turning off parts of herself, just shutting down her communication lines, and it scared her.”

Frank took on her daughter’s request and began writing a phonetic dictionary. It took her 10 years to finish it, she said.

She thought she had a unique product on her hands, and went to publishers she thought might be interested. But she didn’t even receive a response from most of them, she said.

“My book is a new concept,” Frank said. “No one’s ever done it. It’s not going to be competing with anyone else and what was going to be required was … that they educate the market about it before they could even sell it. In order to sell it you have to teach people what it’s about.”

So she formed a company called DMFrank Publishing and published the book herself.

The first edition of her phonetic dictionary came out in 2008.

Frank initially assumed the book would do best among dyslexic people like her daughter, and while it’s helped many people with dyslexia, she was surprised at the book’s success among people learning English as a second language. She wrote an edition of the book specifically for foreign speakers learning English.

Frank travels around the country, speaking at schools, conventions and libraries, telling people how to use her dictionary.

Technological advances have provided new opportunities for Frank to sell her book. Her company has produced a smartphone app, called American Wordspeller, that brings her phonetic database to people’s phones.

One unexpected challenge Frank said she ran into was cover design. The book’s current cover evokes thoughts of classic dictionaries, which librarians love, Frank said. But it doesn’t do well in bookstores, where flashier covers are needed to catch customers’ eyes.

“There’s plumbers, HVAC specialists, electricians, skilled workers who are carrying these around in their trucks because they’re writing purchase orders and they’re filling out invoices,” Frank said. “So they tell me … (it would help to) get a variety of covers going so they’re not embarrassed to carry it around so it doesn’t look like there’s something wrong with them and they need help.”

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