Guest Post: Libby Sternberg Talks about Istoria Books

Istoria Books is an e-press publisher with a focus on digitally printing the best possible books at rates readers want to pay.  They have a range of titles in the literary, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, women’s fiction, and other categories.  It’s a relatively new press begun in 2010 that hopes to make its mark in the e-press arena to help readers choose “good reads.”

Libby Sternberg is with us today to discuss the press and its mission.


Thanks for having me as a guest to talk about a new publishing venture, Istoria Books.

Istoria Books is a new digital press dedicated to releasing “eBooks You Want to Read at Prices You Want to Pay.”

We’re in the start-up phase right now, but we’re excited to announce we’ve acquired digital rights to a page-turning Vietnam novel (written by Vietnam veteran Gary Alexander) called Dragon Lady and the backlist to award-winning romance author Jerri Corgiat, whose five books in the Love Finds a Home series were originally published by Penguin’s Signet imprint. We also offer some of my own backlist (I’m an Edgar-nominated author). And we’re open to submissions–even from unagented authors.

We started Istoria Books because we saw real opportunity in the expanding ebook world and because we’re committed to the idea that good stories, well-told can find an audience. Digital publishing, in fact, enhances the possibility that such stories will find readers because the books never “go out of print.”

The big print publishers have to deal with tremendous marketing pressures that smaller presses and digital publishers do not face (we have a different set of challenges!). Because print publishers have more money on the line–more overhead, usually larger advances, more production costs–they try to spend their dollars on manuscripts that can be considered sure things. So, when they see books like the Da Vinci Code selling like hotcakes, they look for similar tales.

This is why you see so many books about vampires, Tudor ladies, and Knights Templar receiving a great deal of space at bookstores.

I’ve nothing against these books or the success of their authors–bravo for their hard work! But I want to see other stories succeed, too, stories that might be overlooked in the quest for these “sure things” or might not be given enough time to catch on with readers before books are sent back from bookstores to publishers.

If you don’t write that kind of story–the “sure thing”–if your muse whispers a different kind of tale in your ear, what are you to do? Can you find an editor wiling to take a chance on you?

Sometimes you can find that editor in the big publishing houses, and the results are often breathtaking when a “different” kind of story grabs the reading public’s attention. Think of books such as The Help, The Secret Life of Bees, The Life of Pi, Water for Elephants. None of these stories takes a cookie-cutter, imitative approach. None of them shares elements with a “trend” except the trend of good storytelling. At least one of them — Water for Elephants — was published by a house outside of New York, Algonquin Books, after being rejected by a big house. Unfortunately, I think it’s becoming harder and harder, in this difficult economy, for other authors writing those kinds of stories to find homes.

Istoria Books, like all small publishing houses, has more freedom to offer those kinds of reads. Because we’re a digital press, we don’t have the overhead associated with print and distribution. Our only questions as we consider manuscripts are: Do I want to keep reading this story, and do I want to keep hearing this author tell it to me? We want good stories, well-told

As we say in our submission guidelines, if your romance is told from the hero’s POV, we’ll still look at it. If your young adult novel features a college-age protagonist, we’ll consider it. If your women’s fiction book puts romance way on the back burner, we’re open to it. If your inspirational involves a sinning protagonist, we’ll still take a look. And if your literary novel is a quirky memoir-like offering set in Saigon 1965, we’ll be very happy to read it (and publish it–see below).

Istoria Books is a selective publisher–not a vanity press or self-publisher. While we don’t pay advances, we split royalties and do not ask authors to “earn out” expenses associated with release of the book (editing, ISBN registration, formatting, marketing, cover art, etc.). We are currently exploring print options or partnerships.

We hope authors will check out our submission guidelines, at the “About Us” page on our website. We hope readers will check out our offerings and get on our mailing list by signing up at our website or blog. Freebies and discounts will be available at various time to our subscribers.


Istoria Books will publish Gary Alexander’s literary novel Dragon Lady in April 2011. Set in 1965 Saigon, Dragon Lady tells the story of Joe, a young draftee, who becomes obsessed with a Vietnam girl named Mai, his own “Dragon Lady” from his beloved Terry and the Pirates cartoon strips that his mother still sends him. As he pursues a relationship with her, Saigon churns with intrigue and rumors–will the U.S. become more involved with the Vietnamese struggle? What’s going on with a special unit that’s bringing in all sorts of (for the time) high tech equipment? Will the U.S. make Vietnam the 51st state and bomb aggressors to oblivion? But for Joe, the soldier, the big question is–does Mai love him or will she betray more than just his heart? Gary’s intelligent voice, filled with dry wit, and his own experiences give this story a sharp sense of truth, recounting the horror and absurdity of war. Reminiscent of books such as Catch-22, Dragon Lady serves up equal measures of outrageous humor and poignant remembrance. Gary served in Vietnam in ’65. When he arrived, he joined 17,000 GIs. When he left, 75,000 were in country.

Gary Alexander also writes mystery; his three mystery novels in the Buster Hightower series are published or under contract to be published by print publisher Five Star/Cengage. A Vietnam vet himself, Gary lives in Seattle.

Thanks, Libby, for sharing with us your mission and goals.

Don’t I wish I had an e-reader now for that digital copy of Dragon Lady?!  Vietnam War literature is right up this gal’s alley.  Now to convince someone to print it out and bind it for me?!