Thursday, October 14, 2010

A letter from Sneed Collard - An author who has created a publishing company

A few weeks ago I read an article about an author who decided to create his own publishing business. It is getting harder than ever to break into children's publishing, so Sneed Collard took the next step. I asked him to tell me a little about his journey. This is his story.

Dear Through the Looking Glass:

Seventeen months ago, I took my family to eastern Montana during a school visit trip to Miles City. Thanks to my sponsors there, I was able to time my visit for the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale. The trip not only led to my newest book, but to my own publishing company, Bucking Horse Books.

As any writer knows these days, it’s gotten almost impossible to sell a book to an established publisher—especially for terms that are even remotely reasonable to the author. Even though I had published 55 books with more than a dozen different publishers, I was getting very discouraged by the shrinking opportunities to publish quality children’s books. Most publishers these days just aren’t interested in anything without crass commercial appeal. Witness the virus-like spread of celebrity children’s books and series about vampires.

Still, I couldn’t resist writing about the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale. The 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 Roundup.

Even as I was writing the book, however, I thought “No other publisher is going to buy this. They just won’t understand how popular rodeo actually is and how many people cherish small-town existence.” I was right. After getting 15 rejections, I decided “Okay, this is a message.” Instead of continuing to butt my head against the eastern publishing wall, I hired a brilliant designer here in Missoula, Montana and struck a deal with a local publisher to distribute my new company. Six months later, we launched Bucking Horse Books with our first title, The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale.

The book not only documents the Bucking Horse Sale, but traces the history of rodeo and of eastern Montana frontier life—all illustrated with more than sixty photos, most of which I took myself. You may be wondering, though, if my experiment as a publisher is working? Well, it’s still early, but already The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale has received more publicity than any of my 55 other books. Part of that, of course, has to do with the fact that an established author got fed up with big publishing and decided to break out on his own. I like to think, though, that readers are also fed up with the commercial books being forced down their throats. All across the country, writers are still writing books and stories that reflect the real values and experiences of real people. I like to think that the success of The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale will encourage even the big publishers to re-evaluate and improve the quality of what they offer today’s younger generation.

Sneed B. Collard III has written many popular fiction and nonfiction children’s books including Animal Dads, Pocket Babies and Other Amazing Marsupials, Teeth, and the YA thriller Double Eagle. In 2006, he received the prestigious Washington Post-Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award for his body of work. To learn more about him and Bucking Horse Books, check out

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