An Interview with Bandersnatch Books: A New Publisher

Carrie Givens has written a few posts for Foundling House, and has also been a good friend to us over the last several years. So when we heard about her new publishing venture, we knew we'd want to share it with our audience. We're so glad to meet her friends, Rachel Donahue and Annie Beth Donahue, and we can't wait to see what books they will help get out into the world in the years to come!

FOUNDLING HOUSE: Who and what is Bandersnatch Books? Do you have a mission statement?

Bandersnatch Books is a publisher of treasures found off the beaten path, books that might otherwise be overlooked in the vast world of publishing. We don’t look down on small ventures, but focus instead on making excellent books accessible. Our founders are Carolyn Clare Givens, Annie Beth Donahue, and Rachel S. Donahue. We like the sentiment of Zechariah 4:10, which says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” (NLT)

FH: Can you tell us a little bit about each one of you and how you met? What are your favorite books or genres?

CG: I’m a writer and editor and—according to my friend Emma—a gatherer of persons. So I guess it makes sense that I gathered together these persons (Annie Beth and Rachel) with me to start a small publishing company! By day I work in church communications and by night I hang out with my literary cats, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. (Who are we kidding, I’m still working from home; I hang out with them by day now, too.)

My favorite books are usually Young Adult and Middle Grade novels. I love a good plot, good characters, and an adventure. I lean toward fantasy, though I think my absolute favorite genre is magical realism, where the fantastic world is just barely separate from the real world. I’m also a lover of British literature from most of the past thousand years and Golden Age mysteries. I guess you could call my tastes eclectic!

RD: I’m a writer, but I’m also a homeschooling mom of four, so I tend to do my writing while everyone else is asleep. I’m also the in-house photographer and catalog designer for the family business, North Carolina Farms. Annie Beth and I have been friends for umpteen years (since we found out we’d be marrying brothers). When my husband, Mick, and I lived and worked overseas, my friendship with AB was long-distance, but for the past five years we have been close enough to walk to each other’s houses. We’re now accustomed to having conversations over tea while the chaos of children swirls around us. Carrie and I first connected through the Rabbit Room forums almost four years ago, and we became fast friends over our first cup of coffee together. (Apparently there is a pattern to these friendships…) I was so happy to connect these friends!

I personally enjoy English literature across genres, but my passion—the thing that really lights me up—is poetry. I studied and adored Shakespeare and the Victorian and Romantic poets in college, but I also have a soft spot for Shel Silverstein and A.A. Milne and others who first introduced me to word play. I’m currently exploring the profound works of Malcolm Guite and Luci Shaw (I want to be like her when I grow up) and enjoy introducing my children to the delights of reading poetry aloud.

AD: I’m a writer and project manager who has held a variety of other roles. Like Rachel, I am a homeschooling mom of four, and I work with the family greenhouse business. I am also the founder of a nonprofit, Signposts Ministries, that serves the families of children and youth with special healthcare needs. As already mentioned, I’ve known Rachel for quite a few years. We’re related, but very conveniently are also friends. Rachel wove Carrie into our circle several years ago, and I’m quite glad she did!

I’m not sure if I have a favorite book or genre. I write middle grade mysteries, which was inspired by an early love of “the famous five” series by Enid Blyton and pretty much anything by Agatha Christie. For reading material, I choose books based on my current interests, and I always have several going at one time. But since I tore through most of the classic novels as a youth, I am now usually found picking up nonfiction.

FH: Why did you decide to start a publishing company together?

RD: When Carrie and I began hosting a writers’ brunch together, Annie Beth quickly joined us. Those quarterly brunches led to a monthly inklings-style group based on Diana Glyer’s book Bandersnatch, and out of the critique group came the idea for Bandersnatch Books!

CG: I’ve had publishing in the background of my mind for a long time, but never felt like it was something I could manage to do on my own. Over the past few years of getting to know Annie Beth and Rachel, I began to think that these ladies might just be the right people to partner up with to make something happen. I’m awfully glad they thought so, too!

AD: I’d been hearing Carrie throw out the idea for a while, and it sounded like something that really aligned with my writerly interests and my project management skillset. When she seemed ready to take the leap, I was there to back it up 100%.

FH: What has your past experience with publishing (or related projects) been like?

CG: From an editorial standpoint, I’ve worked with a few different publishers and various self-publishing authors as a freelancer over the years. I’ve had my hands on—and been a part of getting out into the world— more than 30 titles. I don’t know everything, but it’s been fun to be able to bring a little bit to the table.

As an author, I have one self-published novel, The King’s Messenger. I remember my friend Glenn McCarty saying that he didn’t like calling his novel self-published because he’d essentially put together a small publishing team to make it happen. That’s the reality for many good independently published books. The King’s Messenger is an example of that. I hired an illustrator, Stephen Hesselman, as well as a graphic designer. And I had friends help me with the little marketing I did. I’m happy with the result, but I would have loved to see my little book reach a larger audience.

RD: I’ve done a great deal of editing for my husband over the years (from seminary papers to official business documents) and I helped shape a friend’s novel a few years ago. My work designing the NCF catalog gave me enough experience with InDesign that I felt confident to try my hand at designing my first book of poetry (Real Poems for Real Moms: from a Mother in the Trenches to Another), which came out in 2019. I enjoyed having control over every little detail, but I didn’t walk through that process alone. Carrie and my friends in The Poetry Pub were helpful and encouraging along the way. I hired an artist, Katie Brunone, to create art for the book cover design, but I also received the help of writer and artist friends who were willing to offer their skills to make my little book better. Mick created a website and marketing strategy for me, far exceeding the laughably lofty goals that he made me set early on. I learned a lot through the whole process, and I now enjoy helping other friends who are bringing their own books into the world.

AD: I do a lot of writing and editing for businesses and healthcare-related projects. However, books are where my passion lies. I’ve been the editor for several nonfiction healthcare books, and I self-published my own children’s book. These projects gave me a great introduction to all the work that is involved, from creation to publication.

FH: What are the challenges you anticipate as you get this project up and running?

RD: Managing our time! We’re all busy people, and we’re all writers with works in progress. We decided to start slow this year because we want to give each of the books we publish the attention needed to make them great. The initial response from people has been exciting and encouraging, and from the looks of it I don’t think there’s a shortage of authors looking to be published. If we get off to a good start, I think it will pave the way for us to connect writers and readers for years to come.

AD: Rachel already said it. Time management will be our biggest challenge. I think we’ve all come to the table with the experience and skills needed to start off our venture. For me, as the Business Officer, there will be a transition period where I am closing out work with other clients so I can focus more on Bandersnatch Books. Fortunately, we are ramping up slowly, which will allow for that.

CG: There are so many unknowns, and frankly, when I start to think about them all, they terrify me. I’ve been grateful for Annie Beth and Rachel’s encouragement. I think we balance each other out well in that whenever one of us starts to spin out, the others are there to help rein her back in.

FH: What are you most looking forward to as it concerns working with new writers and helping to get their stories out into the world?

CG: I know so many writers who have great manuscripts, but simply don’t have the time, skillset, or energy to publish and market their book. As we looked around and realized that we have the skills and the drive needed to help, we got so excited thinking about those authors we already know. And beyond those that we know are so many more that we don’t know. We can’t publish every book that gets overlooked, but we can publish some!

RD: I’m excited about the relationships. I see this as a kind of discipleship opportunity. We get to walk alongside others who are facing the same challenges and doubts and fears that we’ve faced, to encourage them along the way and help shape the works over which they’ve been laboring. Taking care of our authors is a high value for us because we ourselves are authors. As we’ve been forming this company, a major consideration has been what we personally would like to see from a publisher (as both a reader and a writer) and making that a part of our DNA from the beginning.

AD: I’m looking forward to helping guide new writers through the process of publication. Like Carrie and Rachel, I’m excited to help other authors and make new connections and friendships. But I’m also a little geeky about systems, processes, and numbers. I hope to be able to break down some of the boring bits of the book business into easy, actionable steps for both Bandersnatch Books and our authors.

FH: Anything else you want to add?

We’re incredibly grateful to The Foundling House for this opportunity to spread the word about our little company. The excitement about this endeavor shows us that there’s a place in the world for these books. We look to the coming year with prayerful expectation to see what comes of these small beginnings!

Follow us on the socials:

Facebook – @bandersnatchbooks

Instagram – @bandersnatchbooks

Twitter – @bandersnatchbk

And check out our website for information about upcoming titles and how to let us know about your own book:

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