Gownley started out self-publishing in magazine form, improvised a paperback collection (his printing partner “shaved the staples of the single issues and bound them together”), worked with packager Byron Preiss, and went back to self-publishing after Preiss’s sudden death. Some efforts were surprisingly successful, some failures. And that was just the first five years.
Then came the biggest challenge yet—the fruits of unusual success. Alverson reports:
Getting Amelia into the Scholastic book fairs, which was nearly unheard of for a self-published book, was another important step; the best-of anthology that Gownley produced for Scholastic sold 83,000 copies. But with bigger sales came bigger headaches. Big book orders can completely paralyze small publishers who may not have the man power to deliver the order on time. "Six months or so after the Scholastic deal, when we could sell that book ourselves, we got an order for 4,000 copies," Gownley said. "My father helped [get the order fulfilled], and he was really sweating, and I said, 'Can you imagine how strong J. K. Rowling must be?'"Finally in 2008 Gownley signed an eight-book deal with Simon & Schuster. That arrangement meant Gownley could focus on content rather than production and distribution. Another benefit, as I noted back here, was more support with proofreading, which I can’t help but think meant that the books got into more school libraries.
With the end of his S&S contract, the article reveals, Gownley is moving on to new projects. It’s too bad that there won’t be more Amelia, but she has been growing up, little by little.