Jerusha Bosarge could write a book about publishing if she wasn’t so busy publishing and marketing children’s books. The mother of four is the owner, founder and chief executive officer of Character Publishing, whose motto is, “Don’t just raise a child, create a character.”
The Pascagoula native earned a degree in pre-med biology at Millsaps College on the way to becoming a doctor. After she and her husband, Dr. Joseph Bosarge, had their first child, she said she was drawn to “the more colorful world of children’s books.”
She wrote a biography of Dr. Arthur Guyton of Oxford, a renowned researcher and medical textbook author, and from that experience decided to take the giant leap toward starting her own publishing company.
“I wrote the sort of things I wanted my children to read but I felt like I could do as good a job marketing as the publisher I was using,” Bosarge said. “I thought it would be a better quality product if there was one person behind all of it.”
It didn’t take long for reality to set in. “It turns out to be a lot more complicated than I thought,” she said. One major obstacle was getting distributors, marketers, bookstores and libraries to take her seriously and not lumping her into the vanity publishing category.
When she put out a call for papers on professional discussion boards that this new publisher was looking for manuscripts, authors were suspicious. “It was difficult finding quality work,” she said. “I just wasn’t getting the best manuscripts.”
Gradually, though, Bosarge started getting more and better manuscripts as she continued learning the ropes in publishing. To sign authors to her publishing company, she was introduced to the complicated world of contracts. “It took forever to find a lawyer who understood intellectual property,” she said.
Despite all the obstacles, she said, book publishing has been a pleasant adventure. “I haven’t regretted it a second. I am learning something new every day.”
She worked out of her Pass Christian home for three years before opening an office and retail store last October in Pass Christian. “I started getting a few retail items in to supplement the publishing. Each time I release a book I get an influx of sales, followed by a lull in consumer activity. Retail is really doing well to keep me in the book business between new releases.”
Eighty percent of her book sales are from the website (www.characterpublishing.org) and the store also sells books along with educational toys that help nurture character. Each book cover has a golden seal that says what character traits the story nurtures, including respect, self confidence and patience, among others.
Character Publishing’s 18th book will be out in the next couple of months and after that Bosarge will convert all of her titles into digital content. She recently attended a Digital Book World conference in New York to learn more about this new phase in her business.
The children’s book market isn’t converting to ebooks as quickly as those for adults, she said. “Kids still like to hold and touch books, and parents love cuddling up and reading real books to their kids,” she said. “The children’s book market is doing a lot better than adult book sales.”
Bosarge also is taking some art courses to learn how art translates best into print. She is also getting more into “the dreaded marketing side” of the business.
“I am a one-man band,” she said. Her workforce consists almost exclusively of interns from Pass High. One student helped with creating crafts related to the books and another made a video and book trailers for her website. “I’ve had some wonderful kids,” she said
Bosarge said she now feels as though she has “the pick of the litter” when it comes to manuscripts. She refers to the growing collection from all over the world as her slush pile. “I have close to 1,000 in a drawer right now.”
The stack of manuscripts keeps Bosarge enthusiastic about finding that diamond in the rough. “It’s really exciting,” she said. “There’s more of a chance that the next great work is in there.”