Book smarts: Retired couple bring skills to publishing venture

Phyllis and Jerry Moorman operate Raven Books, an independent firm that’s published their award-winning novels, instructional books and poetry. The retired couple runs the business out of their Grand Junction home. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Phyllis and Jerry Moorman operate Raven Books, an independent firm that’s published their award-winning novels, instructional books and poetry. The retired couple runs the business out of their Grand Junction home. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Jerry Moorman jokes about the idiom that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. But he knows from personal experience that’s not true.

Even as Moorman taught college students how to manage businesses, he’s also managed ventures of his own. “It’s easier to teach than do it. But over the years, I did both,” he says.
“I enjoy doing both of them.”

Now that he’s supposedly retired, Moorman continues to operate a business in Raven Books, an independent book publishing firm run out of his home in Grand Junction.
And as repeatedly has been the case in their past endeavors, he’s got a partner in his wife, Phyllis.

Their collaboration works especially well this time, Jerry says: While he’s written award-winning novels, she’s literally written the book about self-publishing.

Given trends in the publishing industry and benefits associated with self-publishing, the opportunities are substantial, Phyllis says. “It’s a huge business right now.”

Less than two years after launching Raven Books, the Moormans so far have published only their own works. But they’re considering taking on projects for other authors at some point in the future.

“I think we do down the road,” Phyllis says.

“We’re ironing the wrinkles out of our business model,” Jerry says.

Jerry taught marketing and other business courses at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction for more than 20 years before retiring. He’s also worked as a professor and administrator at other colleges in a career that spanned more than 40 years.

At the same time, he’s operated his own consulting firm and other businesses. And he’s always written — academic articles, consulting reports, newspaper columns and textbooks, but also novels and poetry.

Phyllis worked as a computer programmer, college instructor and researcher and shares Jerry’s love for writing — in her case, poetry.

When the couple retired, they found they had more time for writing and what had been an avocation evolved into a vocation, Phyllis says. “We were doing it as a hobby. But the more we got into it, the more it turned into a business.”

Jerry has written four novels, including a story about love and bigotry set in the deep south during the 1960s, a thriller about a small Colorado college operated by the Mafia as a money laundering scheme and an action adventure about a boy abandoned at birth who’s trained by the government to become an assassin.

Phyllis has written several books of poetry and compiled into an instructional book the information she’s gleaned in her research on self-publishing.

That research has served the couple well in navigating through a rapidly changing publishing environment, Phyllis says.

While there once was a stigma attached with self-publishing and so-called vanity presses, that’s not the case any more, Phyllis says.

She cites statistics to back up her assertion, including one recent report that self-publishing increased 21 percent between 2014 and 2015, adding  to growth of 375 percent between 2010 and 2015.

CreateSpace, a self-publishing sector for print books sold by Amazon, increased more than 45 percent between 2014 and 2015 and nearly 1,100 percent between 2010 and 2015, she says.

More than 725,000 International Standard Book Numbers were issued to self-published titles in 2015, she adds.

Separate research sampling 150,000 print best-sellers on Amazon found that 19 percent were published independently and 51 percent were published by small- or medium-sized firms. Only 22 percent of the best-sellers were published by the big five publishers, she says.

Self-publishing offers several advantages, Phyllis says, among them greater control over the end product and a greater portion of proceeds from sales. Moreover, it takes less time to publish a book through self-publishing than it does more traditional methods.

Technology has made self-publishing easier with the advent of print-on-demand services that make it possible to print books as they’re ordered and the growing popularity of electronic books, she says.

Challenges to self-publishing remain, though, including editing a manuscript and then distributing and promoting books after they’re published, Phyllis says.

Still, resources are available to authors to help them edit their books. The Internet and social media help authors establish what’s called a platform and promote their work, she adds.

The Moormans expect a promotional boost for Raven Books in an award Jerry recently received from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. He placed third in the category for fiction action adventure for his new novel titled “Whatever Happened to Will.”

Jerry won first place in the awards program in 2008 in the category for inspiration  for “A Body Less Perfect,” a collection of poetry depicting various aspects of life with cerebral palsy. He grew up with cerebral palsy and polio.

As he continues to enjoy the process of writing and “making stuff up,” Jerry says he expects to complete more novels. Meanwhile, Phyllis has written a book about German culture and also expects to publish more books that combine poetry and photography.

But even as they publish their own work, there’s a possibility the Moormans could one day assist other authors and meet a broad need, Phyllis says. “Everybody has a story they want to write.”

And that means the couple that’s taught will continue to do.

For more information about Raven Books and its publications, visit www.ravenbooks.net.