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Engage Books interviewed by the AV Times

I was recently interviewed by Alyson McAndrews from the Alberni Valley Times. Below is the article in full.

From wrestling ring to the publisher's desk

Alexis Roumanis has come a long way from the wrestling mats at Mount Klitsa Middle School and Alberni District Secondary School where he spent most of his youth. The four-time provincial wrestling champion now spends most of his days surrounded by books.

Or at least everything to do with books. Since moving from Port Alberni to the lower mainland in 2000 to wrestle and attend Simon Fraser University he has earned two degrees and started his own book publishing company -- Engage Books.

File 119"When I got to Simon Fraser I didn't know what I wanted to do and originally tried business," says Roumanis. "I didn't like that, but I liked English because of Mrs. Smith at ADSS, whose enthusiasm and encouragement in the classroom inspired me to pursue literature and writing, so I decided to do a degree in English."

His undergraduate degree inspired him to pursue a career in book publishing.

The tenacity he learned in wrestling helped him land his first job in the industry at Ronsdale Press in Vancouver.

"I sent out resumes to as many book publishers as I could find in the area, and landed a job at Ronsdale, which produces a great product, basically from home, which really appealed to me," he says.

From there he entered the Masters of Publishing program at SFU, one of two of its kind in North America, and before he officially graduated he had started Engage Books, which publishes classics and new science fiction. That was in May 2008.

About two years later he has published roughly a dozen classics, a cookbook, an Alice in Wonderland colouring book and will publish his first new science fiction book later this year, titled Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars by Chris Stevenson.

He employs a business model, print-on-demand, which allows him to reduce overhead and publish more books. Instead of warehousing thousands of copies of a title, his printer will print and mail a book within 24 hours of it being ordered.

"Using this system has greatly increased my ability to publish more titles because I don't have a ton of overhead wrapped up in storing thousands of copies of something I'm not sure will sell."

It's a competitive business and margins are tight, so Roumanis uses freelancers for cover art and book illustrations, instead of hiring employees.

"I come up with a concept for a book and choose the font, the lay out of the text and write the book information, but I use freelancers from places like Emily Carr to actually create illustrations and artwork.

When I'm working with new titles, like Planet Janitor, I have a freelance editor who works with the writer," Roumanis explains. "When I started this company, I had no idea if it would work. Given that I'm really happy to be continuing to grow the business two years later and be doing something I love."

Roumanis credits his background in wrestling and the support he received in the Alberni Valley with much of his success. "The people who influenced me in Port Alberni like Tom McEvay and John McDonald taught me valuable lessons about challenging myself and chasing my goals.

Tom got me into wrestling, was my neighbor and the officient at my wedding in 2007. John coached me to four provincial championships, was the Canada Summer Games coach where I won gold and we traveled to Russia and Georgia on a wrestling trip in 2000."

The lessons he learned from these men about sportsmanship, taking pride in his work and being part of a team have served Roumanis in good stead in business.

"My goal is to produce a good product and be a good business partner. I think having an upstanding reputation and treating people fairly, like providing good royalty rates to authors, is the best way to conduct yourself in business."

For more information, including latest titles like Alice in Wonderland, visit www.engagebooks.ca.

 
This article in the AV Times was published on Friday, March 12, 2010.
 

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