Many years ago I wrote a short story called “Dead Baby Birds.” It was the first story I sent to Bee Culture that elicited a response from the editor, “This is a first.” (No animals were harmed in the writing of the story.) I sent the story to a writer friend, wondering if there was a place I could sell the story again. She couldn’t think of any place but, by the way, would I like to write for her? I wrote four young adult books for her company. In the meantime, Bee Culture was buying almost everything I sent. Why not put together a collection in a book?
I started sending out manuscripts to literary agents and got the usual “no thanks,” “I can’t take any more projects,” and no response at all. Finally one agent was interested and I signed a contract. He specialized in textbooks. I had a book of short humor. We weren’t a good match. At the same time I was learning that the author ends up doing most of the marketing anyways.
While A Bee’s Guide to Managing Beekeepers was in the oven, my oldest son started a beekeeping newsletter and online ordering site based on a couple how-to manuals I had written for beekeepers and woodworkers (www.makingbeehives.com). My daughter researched self-publishing and formatted my “homemade” publications into professional looking books. My youngest son designed the covers. I continued writing stories, my wife continued editing them, and Bee Culture magazine continued buying them. I gradually realized that I had a family publishing business. Who knew?
“Dead Baby Birds” is still one of my favorite stories. It’s in A Bee’s Guide to Managing Beekeepers. And no baby birds died in the story, so you don’t need a box of tissues to read it.