In the time of COVID-19, the news is often bleak for local businesses; this is not the case with Crave Press, a publishing company in Leesport.
“Instead, we are experiencing slow, steady growth, and we are nurturing the talent of local Berks County writers,” said Christina J. Steffy, editor and marketing coordinator at Crave Press. “We are continuing to move books through the pipeline to publication, and we anticipate releasing more books in the coming months.”
Crave Press was founded in 2012 by two Berks County residents, David J. Reimer Sr. and Steffy. Reimer published a book with a small, independent publishing company in Camp Hill before he and Steffy decided to create their own company in Leesport to publish their work and the works of others.
“We want to help our community tell their stories, and we want to do it in an ethical way that encourages them to grow as authors, refine their voices and tell their stories,” said Steffy. “There’s no greater thrill than to hold a published book in your hand and to say, ‘I’m a published author.’ It’s very satisfying to help someone get to this point with their book, to help them take it from a manuscript to a finished product and achieve their dream. That’s the best experience.”
Crave Press now has four additional authors including two from Berks County, Tom Dillman of Leesport and M.A. Kukle of Mohrsville. Books by two additional Berks County authors, Steven Noll of Laureldale and Thomas M. Malafarina of Wernersville, are on the slate of new releases for the summer and fall. The publishing company will also release a new book by M.A. Kunkle this summer.
The pandemic changed how they conduct business.
"We have had to cancel in-person book signings,” Steffy said. “The pandemic has motivated us to start some virtual initiatives that we had planned on doing, such as mini-interviews with authors on YouTube, which we plan to start in July, and virtual publishing talks, which we are in the process of developing.”
Two books were released March 9, immediately before places started closing down due to COVID-19.
“In that time, through digital advertising and marketing initiatives on our part and social media and word of mouth marketing on the part of authors, we have seen steady sales of the new titles and sales of older titles,” said Steffy. “Our sales can be attributed to marketing and advertising efforts, word of mouth and social media pushes from our motivated authors, and offering quality products. We are also starting to become a recognized name in the community by providing sponsorship for local community events.”
Most of their authors are from Berks County, and one author is from Lebanon County. They publish a range of genres such as fiction, non-fiction, children’s lit and memoir. They also range in age from college student through retiree.
“In terms of gaining new clients, now that the pandemic has forced people to slow down and stay home, they have the time to think about writing and publishing their books,” she said.
There are a lot of talented writers locally, but major publishing companies accept a very small percentage of books pitched to them; "that leaves a lot of wonderful stories left out," she said.
“It’s difficult to find a publisher that is willing to take a chance on you,” she said. “Many authors get discouraged by continuous rejection and either give up or turn to vanity presses and get taken advantage of by being charged for every aspect of production and publication. We’ve also run into people who want to publish a book, but they just don’t know where to start. That’s where we come in. We can get them started and guide them through the process.”
In their business model, Crave Press does not charge authors to publish their books.
“We absorb all of the cost for production, including editing and cover art,” Steffy said. “We make a huge investment in the book before it is even on the market. This is why we need to be confident the book will do well -- so we recoup our initial investment and so we and the author make money. This has been a successful business model for us since the beginning.”
Steffy added: “We’ve made the conscious decision to engage in slow, steady growth so we can give our authors personalized attention and work with them to let them have a voice in what happens with their book. They’re included in the decision-making, and that’s something that sets us apart from a big publisher — our authors have a say in what happens with their books.”
Previously published an error online. Author Steve Noll lives in Laureldale, not Fleetwood.