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Meet Maria Ashworth of Big Belly Book

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Ashworth.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I always loved writing as a kid and during high school. Never thought I’d make a career of it. It fell into my lap during my engagement to my second husband. My eight yo daughter didn’t want step kids coming to live with us.

There was nothing on the market transitioning children from two families to one. I threw a story together in rhyme to make it more enjoyable. Read it to my daughter, and she loved it. My fiance said I needed to publish it. That’s when I took the craft more seriously.

I gained momentum and had 48 manuscripts on my computer. Frustrated with finding a home for any of them, I set out to publish myself the one I wrote for my daughter. So Step One, Step, Two, Step Three and Four was born.

Through my hard and dedicated marketing, I landed on Fox News, NPR and Houston Chronicle. Soon after, I found an agent for 2.5 years, almost sold something. Then found a small traditional publisher. Stayed there for two years. Still unhappy with the industry. I was the happiest on my own, finding my illustrators and making my own decisions. I decided to open my own imprint, Big Belly book Co to publish my own books.

I solicited a bunch of illustrators to work with. Then I had a writer friend who posted part of his story. I asked him to send it to me. He did, and I fell in love. I had not decided to publish anyone else but me, but I was already doing all the work any publisher was doing so why not. I signed him. Then signed another, Another and another. I won’t just take or publish anything. I have to truly fall in love with it. And I won’t just have it simply illustrated. It has to be professional. My mission for Big Belly Book Co. is to be a “disrupter” in this publishing world. I want to give back to the authors and illustrators.

They are the ones that have worked so hard. Honestly, I am the happiest I have ever been since joining this publishing world. November 1, 2018, was my first real publication with another author’s baby. And it is spectacular. I am a one-man show. I do everything from promoting, marketing, book tours, book trailers, accounts, editing, art director, you name it I’m doing it. That doesn’t take into account the things I do on the side. Publicity Director for a library group, story time guru, stepmom, mom and nana. I am hoping to build an “M”pire, one book at a time.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I am a person who is organized to a fault. I follow through until it’s done. When people drop the ball, it gets very frustrating. Time is valuable. Waiting to get published. With 48 manuscripts and if each one takes two years to publish, I’d be dead by then! Rejection is a hard pill to swallow, but you learn to establish a thick skin.

263 rejections and I now appreciate every one of them. With my first book that I wrote for my daughter, I had an editor write in pen how dare I take a serious situation and write it in rhyme. Well, my thought was you got to get a kid to read it. If it’s all boring, who wants to read boring. And then I got on Fox News.

This business, with agents and publishers, is subjective. I wrote a middle grade called Sushi Kitty, set in 17th century Japan about a girl who wants to change the culture by creating sushi. Well if an editor or agent had a bad experience with sushi, they are not going to buy it. You see what I mean?

Please tell us about Big Belly Book Co.
I believe I mentioned most of it early on. Big Belly Book Co. has given me the freedom to express my creative abilities. To do what I’m good at. Like I said before Big Belly Book Co. is meant to change publishing. It’s for authors and illustrators who want something more.

Authors pay almost a thousand dollars for a book blog tour. I do it for free. Same with book trailers. I’m not going to say I’m the best. But I do it at 150% at the best of my ability. With these attributes, it drew in a NASA flight controller, and a host of kids show from PBS which I signed on.

I tell my authors and illustrators that I am dead honest and want them to do the same. That I will do everything I can to make them successful but not without fault and error.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I don’t think I would have. I am glad I acquired an agent and traditional publisher at one point. It gave me the validation that I am a writer. That I’m good at what I do. And when I read my books to kids and see them smile I know this is where I belong. At least for now.

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