GUEST POST by Rob Broder, Ripple Grove Press
Ripple Grove Press turns five years old this fall. Writers’ Rumpus is honored to host Rob Broder as he tells the Ripple Grove Press origin story.
In February 2010, we had the horrific life-changing experience of losing our daughter due to complications during birth.
Eleven months to the day after our first daughter died, our second daughter was born.
Caring for a baby is no easy task, but mourning your child while trying to raise another… There are no words for the struggles of taking care of a baby, when you can’t even breathe.
Reading books to our daughter became a source of comfort for us as well as her. We started reading to her the moment we brought her home. After months of reading the same books over and over, we found that we were discussing them after she fell asleep: “I like that book. I wish the ending was different in that one. I love the art on this one. What a fun story. She loves that book so much. Do you see how she nods to that one?”
At that time, I worked as a sales rep, driving around New England selling chocolate and… thinking. Being alone in a car eight hours a day leaves you with a lot of alone time to think, about loss, grief, anger, the past, the present, and the future.
After one particularly long day in the car, I presented an idea to my wife, Amanda.
“What if we start a children’s picture book publishing company? What if we find writers and illustrators that may not be seen by bigger presses, and make picture books? We figure out everything and just make it happen. We get to pick the stories we like, and match them with illustrators to make really beautiful and timeless picture books. And we can run the business from our home.”
“Let me think on it,” was Amanda’s response.
One week passed and we didn’t discuss anything about my idea. I honesty expected to never discuss it again, like all the other wild ideas I came up with while driving. But then Amanda said, “You know that picture book idea you have? I think we could make it work.”
And so the research began. We started reading books and blogs about publishing, researching the children’s book industry, and doing as much networking as possible. We became members of the Independent Book Publishers Association, where they helped us navigate our way to better understand the industry. Then it was time, if we were going to do this, to give ourselves a name.
When I was a pre-K teacher, I made up a story called “Ripple Grove” about a place with fairies and trolls and hidden caves and magic. And a key that unlocks a door protected by the fairies. Amanda said, “What if we call our company Ripple Grove Press?” So, a publishing company was born.
We had to learn everything about publishing. Everything. How long does it take to make a book? Who will edit? Who does the layout? What is an ISBN anyway and where do we get one? How do you know the specs for a dust jacket? What paper should we print on? What’s the difference between soft and hard proofs and self-ends and separate-ends? What’s a bleed? Where do we send our books for reviews? How do we make money?
We have learned a lot since the release of our first book in October 2014: The Gentleman Bat by Abraham Schroeder / illustrated by Piotr Parda.
We learned about printing, distribution, and marketing. We have become art directors and financial officers and social media gurus. We have learned from our mistakes and have had some really amazing moments. We are thrilled at all the wonderful and talented people we have gotten to know and who want to be part of our press.
By no means has this been easy. I have made mistakes. I have had sleepless nights thinking on a story, or how I’m going to talk to an illustrator about an issue we have, or where are we going to get the money to do another print run because we sold out of the first batch too quickly.
Ripple Grove Press has been such a rewarding endeavor. We found ways to give back through our partnership with WhyHunger on Mr. Tanner, book drives to benefit the Children’s Book Bank in Portland, Oregon, and donations of Paul and His Ukulele to children’s hospitals, just to name a few.
But I love finding that next story: a story that speaks to me; a story that captures a moment; a story that, with each word, brings me closer to wanting to make our next book.
In staying creative, making what I love, and giving back when I can, I found my passion, and along the way, my healing process.
Rob Broder is Publisher and Creative Director of Ripple Grove Press. He is on the Board of Directors for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). Rob and Amanda Broder were named co-honorees for the 2019 PW (Publisher’s Weekly) Star Watch; honorees are chosen for “their trailblazing spirit, innovative problem-solving, and leadership qualities… within the publishing and bookselling communities.” They moved back to Vermont last year after spending time in Portland, Oregon.