The women of Clare Songbirds Publishing House had a "lofty" goal for their first year in business: Publish at least 12 books.
After a little over two months in business, Heidi Nightengale, Laura Williams French and Brianna Walsh have nearly doubled that.
French, the director of publishing operations, said the mid-level Auburn-based publishing house has contracts to publish 23 books and already has 12 in print.
“We're still kind of a little dazed by it," French said. "This was not what we thought would happen. We're just extremely pleased that it's going so well."
"It feels divine," Nightengale added.
The idea to start their own publishing house came from a dilemma that Nightengale, the company's editor, faced. She published her own children's book called "What Fragrance Is the Moon?" in 2014. However, the publisher she worked with closed down and when it came time to print a second edition of the book, Nightengale was without a publisher.
So she decided to do it herself.
After successfully publishing the second edition of her book, Nightengale, who has been a writer and teacher for over 30 years, got together with long-time friend and graphic designer French and the two women realized there was a need for more mid-level publishing houses for poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction essays and children's picture books. They decided to combine their skill sets and fill the need themselves, Nightengale said.
Nightengale came up with the name, which are "hat tips" to parts of her life. Clare is the Irish county where her maternal family lived and songbirds is a play on her last name. French designed the company's logo, two yellow birds perched on green tree branches.
The company works with local writers, as well as some from across the world. Clare Songbirds has contacts with writers from Nepal, England, South Wales, Minnesota and New York City.
“She has remarkable contacts and has already done some amazing things for our regional writers," Nightengale said of Walsh.
The publishing house helps its writers set up poetry readings. The next reading will be at Funk 'n Waffles in Syracuse from 2 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 21. Four poets, including Nightengale, will be reading.
That's the biggest difference between working with a publisher and self publishing, Nightengale said. Publishing houses give writers the opportunity to work with an editor to improve and promote their work.
Nightengale said Clare Songbirds receives one or two manuscripts each week. She takes the time to read them over thoroughly and often consults with French, who has a master's degree in literary theory, to decide whether to accept or reject an author's work.
“We certainly have made rejections," Nightengale said. "This is a quality publishing house. We don't want our other writers sitting side-by-side with (low-quality work)."
Nightengale said she looks for writers who "have a strong voice, which means they've been writing for a while." She also looks for evidence of literary techniques, such as metaphors, imagery and strong themes.
After a manuscript is accepted, Nightengale works with the writers to improve their work.
“Very few of them come to us and go out exactly as they came in, like they would with self publishing," French said.
Once the manuscript is ready to go, Nightengale sends it over to French and "she does magic," formatting the book and designing the cover or any other art to go with the writing. Then, most books are sent to printers in either Ohio or Colorado. The company prints some small poetry chapbooks in house.
Nightengale and French said the best part about owning a publishing company is helping writers achieve their dreams.
“How exhilarating it feels to work with a writer and see their work go from pieces of paper to a perfect-bound manuscripts,” Nightengale said.
As for the future, Nightengale and French would like to see their business continue to grow and one day open a storefront.
"We imagine ourselves being little old ladies, opening up our storefront and starting our day with tea and scones and looking at the submissions,” Nightengale said.