Before she was the author of three published novels, Holly Kammier was a third-grader with a dream school assignment. The assignment was to create a diary inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books. The result was Kammier’s first publishing experience of her.
There would be more where that came from.
“That was the happiest I had ever felt up until that point, because I got to be someone else and immerse myself in someone else’s life story,” Kammier said from her home in Carmel Valley.
“We had to get grocery bags and light them on fire to make them look old, and then we bound the whole thing together with twine. It was the best school project ever.”
A few decades later, Kammier is still immersing herself in stories. She is also still turning those stories into books. More than 100 of them.
Kammier is the co-founder of Acorn Publishing, a San Diego-based company that gives authors the chance to self-publish their books without making them brave the literary wilderness on their own. Eight of those authors, some of them locals, will be signing their books at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Mira Mesa on Sunday.
The seven-year-old company, which Kammier co-founded with her best friend and fellow author, Jessica Therrien, is what is known in the book industry as a hybrid publisher. Authors can submit manuscripts to Acorn without an agent. If the company decides to sign them, authors pay a flat fee upfront, and Acorn takes care of everything from formatting the book and designing the cover to sending advance copies to reviewers.
In return, authors keep the rights to their books and 100 percent of the profits. They also become part of a publisher’s stable of writers.
It’s not the way the book business traditionally works. But for many authors, the traditional book business — which is dominated by just a few big publishers — doesn’t work at all.
“It’s everybody’s dream to get that traditional publishing deal with a big publisher, but the chances of it happening are less than getting struck by lightning,” Kammier said. “We tell our authors, ‘If that’s your dream, go for it.’ But the chances are so slim. That’s why we started our company.”
Acorn Publishing grew out of Kammier and Therrien’s frustrating experiences with the book business. Kammier became disillusioned early in the process, when a publisher expressed interest in her memoir de ella, but only if she changed it.
Meanwhile, Therrien had seen great success with “Oppression,” the first book in her young-adult novel series, “Children of the Gods.” But when her publisher decided to label the second book as a romance novel instead of young-adult fiction, fans couldn’t find it, and sales suffered.
So Kammier and Therrien pooled their hard-won wisdom and started Acorn Publishing.
The company’s first release was Kammier’s juicy 2015 novel “Kingston Court.” Other early successes included all three of Therrien’s “Children of the Gods” novels; Alyssa Petersel’s award-winning memoir, “Somehow I Am Different”; and the “Fourth Element” series from prolific fantasy writer Kat Ross.
The idea for Acorn Publishing’s name came from Kammier’s oldest son, with the idea that his mom’s small publishing enterprise might go on to do big things. And for local authors like Jerome Farmer and Li-Ying Lundquist, that is what happened.
For Lundquist, the recent publication of her debut novel, “Wings of Silk,” is the fulfillment of a writing dream that was many years and multiple hardships in the making. The novel tells the story of Ying-Ying, who — like Lundquist — survives China’s oppressive Cultural Revolution and flees to New York, where her journey from her takes a dark, heartbreaking turn that eventually leads to a second-chance life filled with independence and sees it.
It was a story Lundquist always wanted to tell. And when the Carmel Valley resident signed with Acorn, she was paired with a ghost writer who was able to translate her memories of her into the book that she will be signing on Sunday.
“English is my second language, and I didn’t think I could write anything that people would enjoy reading,” said Lundquist, who was an engineer at AT&T for 20 years. “But the ghost writer translated my story into such beautifully written thoughts. I just loved the whole experience. I am so proud of the legacy they helped me create for my children and beyond.”
For Farmer, the publication of “Counterfeit Lover” shows that sticking to your story can pay off.
In Farmer’s 2020 thriller, his hero is Darrin Clark, a struggling actor who agrees to undergo an experimental face-changing procedure in exchange for fame. Unlike Darrin, Farmer did not want to make himself over to please someone else. And after working with Acorn Publishing, the book he will be signing at Barnes & Noble is exactly the book he wanted to write. Every un-doctored word of it.
“I talked to all of these agents, and they had a lot of things they wanted to change,” said Farmer, who lives in Solana Beach. “But the great writers, which is what I dream of being, they have their vision, and they go out and write the best stories they can. This gives you the chance to do that.”
The Acorn Publishing author book signing is Sunday at 2 pm at the Mira Mesa Barnes & Noble 10775 Westview Parkway. (858) 684-3166; stores.barnesandnoble.com