The past three years have been devoted to work on The Mountain of Dempsey Molehill. First writing it, then rewriting … and rewriting … and editing … and rewriting … and editing … and …
You get the picture.
But there has been more going on behind the scenes than just novel writing. In between rounds of editing and revising, I had to make an important decision about the next step: Do I pitch the manuscript to an agent in pursuit of traditional publishing, or do I continue on my path of independent publishing?
Even as I asked myself the question, I knew the answer deep down. I was already making plans to hire an artist for cover art, and renewing my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for layout, and mentally logging design elements I liked in other middle grade novels. I began planning a release date and jotting marketing campaign notes on slips of paper that I later misplaced.
As much as I love the writing process as an author, I equally love — or dare I say, moreso love? — the production process of designing and crafting a book. That is just as much an art as writing, and one I find immensely satisfying.
My first foray into independent publishing was with Sarah & Katy and the Imagination Blankets, which I published through CreateSpace. As I waded into the self-publishing industry for the first time, I didn’t immediately register my own imprint. However, for Sarah & Katy and the Book of Blank, I created JSB Independent Books.
Why I’m changing the name
JSB Independent Books was a brand that didn’t have a lot of thought or meaning behind it — I simply created it so the publisher wouldn’t be listed as CreateSpace, which serves only as the print-on-demand service and not as the publisher or copyright holder. The name of the imprint was derived from my initials — Julie Stroebel Barichello.
When I made the choice to continue independent publishing with The Mountain of Dempsey Molehill, I decided it was also time to seriously consider branding a new personal imprint for future projects. While JSB Independent Books wasn’t a terrible banner to fly over my work, it also wasn’t strong. I discovered my typewriter key logo looked uncomfortably similar to Little, Brown and Company’s logo. The initials JSB also aren’t unique in the literary world. A Chicago-based author and illustrator publishes under the name JSB. Then there’s author James Scott Bell, who writes books on writing and has a page on his website named JSB’s Books on Writing. There’s author J.S.B. Morse. And let’s not overlook the wholesale book dealer JSB Books LLC in Arkansas.
The market feels a little congested with fellow JSBs. That led to several weeks of searching for an idea for a new imprint name. One that reflected myself as a writer and my work.
Inspiration for the new imprint
As a middle grade author, I searched my mental archive of my own middle grade years, searching for a piece of inspiration. Something that summarized my grade school and junior high life. What element of my youth could be a unique publishing name? What could encapsulate who I am as a writer? What was I interested in back then? Who was I back then?
The answer to that last question is remarkably obvious. I was a Stroebel.
That one word — that past identity — took root in my mind. Even though there are several authors with the surname Stroebel (and the alternative spelling Strobel), a quick Google search didn’t find any publishing companies with a similar name. And Stroebel summarizes so much my childhood self. There were other Julies in my school, but the only Stroebels were my sisters and me. I took pride in being called by my surname and the derivative nickname Strobes.
I’ve also taken care to incorporate Stroebel into my writing career — as a young writer, I imagined seeing Julie Stroebel on the cover of a book. Hence the reason why I have a mouthful of an author name; I wanted to honor both my maiden and married surnames, so I used them both as my author identity for the Sarah & Katy books.
My earliest identity as a writer is now the inspiration of my newly formed imprint: Stroebel Independent Books.
Q. Will Stroebel stay in your author name?
A. I’m still trying to decide on that one. While I like the consistency of keeping the same author name I used for the Sarah & Katy books, the name Julie Stroebel Barichello is a mouthful for young readers. I’ve considered moving forward with separating Stroebel as my publishing branding and Barichello as my author name.
Beyond the name
Once I settled on a name for my imprint, I had another element to consider: a logo.
The visual aspect was harder to pin down than a name. What sort of image would illustrate the name Stroebel? Even though the product I’m selling is a book, I didn’t necessarily want to incorporate a book into my logo. So I wracked my brain for a visual element that could tie into being a Stroebel.
It took a while for the next lightning bolt of inspiration to zap my brain.
One of the reasons I was determined to incorporate Stroebel into my publishing life is to carry forward my family’s legacy. With three daughters, my dad’s line of the Stroebel surname ends at his branch of the family tree. So even though I’m legally a Barichello these days, I would keep the name alive for one more generation in our branch.
It occurred to me as I focused on the Stroebel part of my identity that I was overlooking my mom’s side of the family. Just as I parted with Stroebel to become a Barichello, she parted with Haislip to become a Stroebel.
But I’m equal parts Stroebel and Haislip blood. So I started hunting for ways to incorporate Haislip into my publishing branding.
Thankfully, Haislip offers a bit more pleasing visual element than Stroebel. The only definition I could find for the Stroebel surname was “person with bushy or bristly hair; son of Strubo.” That doesn’t inspire elegant logo art. But Haislip — meaning “dwellers of hazel valley”– offered an idea: a hazel leaf.
Thus, I introduce my new imprint name and logo.
Creative, Julie! For mentor texts I recommend both Wolf Hollow, a debut by Lauren Wolk, and The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani, another debut (historical fiction). I am capturing these brilliant authors’ first and last lines of each chapter to chart my own MG epistolary novel arcs.