Interview with Gerardeen Santiago of Aionios Books

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Gerardeen Santiago is a poet and publisher I originally met at Glassless Minds in Oceanside. When the Metaworker staff was suggesting new people to interview, she was at the top of my list. Aionios Books recently put out a brilliant book of poetry, meaning that this interview was well-timed, if I do say so myself. (I do.)

Can you tell us a little bit about Aionios Books?

Aionios Books is an independent micro publishing house located in Carlsbad, California. We’re only a year old, established in March 2016. We’re modeled after traditional publishing houses in that we shoulder all the costs of publishing a book; the author collects royalties and does NOT pay us fees or share in the cost of publication. This said, we have a consulting division, called Aionios Cats, that offers editorial, design, and production services to authors who wish to self-publish. For more information on how we got started, please visit us here.

How did you get involved in publishing? Did you always know you wanted to work in publishing?

Sometime during my last two years in grad school, I decided that I didn’t want to go into academia or research (I was completing my doctorate in experimental psychology, neuroscience). So I had to find a J-O-B asap. Publishing made sense at the time—and I had no idea how much I’d enjoy the work! My first job was as an editor with Worth Publishers, now under Macmillan Learning. I had such a blast! I remember feeling sad whenever Friday rolled around and looking forward to Monday morning!

We enjoyed your blog article about the differences between indie publishing and traditional publishing. Why did you decide to self publish your poems instead of using one of the “Big 5” publishers?

My tennis buddy—and now business partner—Daniel Primbs kept egging me on, telling me how easy it is to create an e-book. So we decided to experiment with my little collection of poems, just to see if we could do it: call it a learning experience. We had absolutely no idea what challenges we would confront: styling poetry e-books is pretty brutal! Also at this time, I volunteered to be the publisher for the Magee Park Poets Anthology—having no idea what a crazy-wonderful ride we’d signed up for! Indie publishing is FUN!

You write poetry and recently published a book of your poems through Aionios Books. Who or what influenced you to start writing?

Two things: (1) I attended a Magee Park Poets Workshop by Sonia Gutierrez at the Carlsbad City Library; and then (2) I read this deeply moving and gorgeous novel by Pascal Mercier (aka Peter Bieri) called Night Train to Lisbon. My third poem was a sonnet in homage to that book. I emailed Peter and his publisher, Carl Hanser Verlag in Munich, Germany, and was delighted to receive responses from both. So with Peter’s encouragement, I continued to write.

What sort of subjects do you like to write about? Do you only write poetry?

I actually most enjoy writing about publishing—you can laugh at that, it’s ok. I live, eat, sleep, and breathe publishing. It’s a wonderful industry that offers creative individuals so many opportunities to… create!

What is your role in Aionios Books?

I am the principal partner of Aionios Books. Because we are small, I wear many hats, and I love every hat I put on—well, almost every. I love working with authors and meeting prospective authors, editors, and marketers and others in the industry. I love reviewing manuscripts—and get so stoked to find a good one!—and editing, designing covers and interiors, creating the marketing materials. You name it: it’s all good! I even like keeping the accounting books! LOL

What makes you decide to publish a book? What qualities do you look for in the book and/or the author?

What we look for in a manuscript can be distilled to this: we publish books we enjoy reading. Period. Of course, this means a good plot, pace, great characters, great writing style/voice—but fundamentally, we want something fun to read. As far as authors go, we want to work with smart, creative writers who have the willingness to listen to editorial feedback. And it’s important that prospective authors, especially debut authors, come with a solid social media following: you really need this to sell a book. Gone are the days of the reclusive, hermit writer!

How collaborative is your publishing process?

I firmly believe that a book achieves its greatest potential through close collaboration between its author and the publishing team, especially the editor. The author-editor relationship is perhaps the closest relationship in the business world. That doesn’t mean that the author and editor agree on everything, but both sides must trust and respect each other’s contributions.

What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of self-publishing?

First, understand the players in the independent book publishing industry, and know the difference between traditional, hybrid, and assisted publishing houses. Understand the publishing process. Get informed; get educated: join IBPA and PWSD. Most importantly, set realistic goals and expectations. Know your own strengths and limitations so that you’ll be able to pinpoint what you can do yourself versus what you’ll need to outsource. This self-knowledge will save you money in the long run…. Feel free to reach out to us at Aionios Books, too.

What do you enjoy about working in publishing?

The people, the process, and the act of creating: I like working alongside smart people to build beautiful books.

What else are you involved in when you’re not busy with Aionios Books?

Tennis, whenever I can squeeze in some court time. And I like to run, hike, and play with my dogs. Also, I read for fun!

What is your favorite poem and why? How exactly did it affect you or make an impact on you?

The poems with the biggest impact on me were the nursery rhymes my mother read to me when I was a toddler. Through them, I learned to love the rhythms of language, the visual imagery, the beauty of it all. So thank you, mama!

What role do you think literature will play in the 21st century and how will it be different than the 20th century?

I believe literature touches each individual on a personal level, and I believe this to have been true down through the ages. So for me, the more fascinating question is what impact our changing society will have on shaping literature. For instance, I’ve noticed a distinct decrease in the length of chapters not only in the popular fiction genres but also in literary fiction (note that last year’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel All the Light We Cannot See contains very short chapters). There’s also been a long-growing trend towards more and more colloquialism. And how about the rise of the graphic novel? The advent of tweeted poetry? (I know one poet who tweets one line from a sonnet every few hours.) Technology and our cultural/social/political milieu are influencing how we think and therefore how we communicate and how we write. I find this exciting and wonder what books will look like a hundred years from now.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes. Almost 7,000 new books are being published on Amazon every day, and less than 1% of all titles published, even by the Big 5, sell 1,000+ copies. So ask yourself why you want to publish your book. If the reason is to make lots of money and get famous, then don’t do it: you’ll likely be sorely disappointed. If the reason is internally motivated (you’re writing for fun; you feel the need to get your message out there; writing is a cathartic release; you’re writing a book to give to your family and friends; etc.) or if you’re writing a book to support your business (eg., a how-to book), then yeah, go for it!

Gerardeen M. Santiago, Ph.D.
Publisher, Aionios Books
Gerri brings over twenty-five years of experience from The McGraw-Hill Companies, Worth Publishers (Macmillan Learning), Scholastic Inc., and medical education and communication. She is honored to have been part of the McGraw-Hill team to win CODiE awards for educational web-based books. Gerri earned her Ph.D. in experimental psychology (neuroscience) from Columbia University in the City of New York, while simultaneously jump-starting her career in publishing.

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