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Student Forms Her Own Publishing Firm

December 24, 1988|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer and

Lila Amor learned a valuable lesson 10 years ago when she took Raymond Obstfeld's fiction-writing class at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.

"I realized just because I liked to read, I wasn't a writer," says Amor, 32. "But I do have a passion for books, so I always wanted to do something. "

In August, that nebulous something became a tangible something when Amor formed her own small publishing company, Brighton & Lloyd. (Concerned about the type of books that might be conjured up in book buyers' minds if she named it "Amor Press," the Costa Mesa mother of two young children simply made up the more staid, British-sounding name.)

Amor's decision to start her own publishing company grew out of her involvement as a student in Obstfeld's new fall-semester class at OCC: "How to Publish," in which students learn about publishing by forming their own publishing house. The object of the class, which began meeting informally last summer, was to find a publishable manuscript by a first-time novelist and guide it into print by the end of class.

But after two months of learning the steps involved in publishing a book--from selecting and editing a manuscript to production and distribution--Amor realized, "Hey, I can do this myself."

The student-run publishing house, Quixote Press of Costa Mesa, missed its December deadline, due to delays in rewriting, finding suitable cover art and raising outside money to help pay for printing costs. The students are now looking at a February publication date for "Max Golly," a comic novel written by Rick Drager, a Davis piano teacher.

As the head of her own fledgling publishing house, however, Amor is way ahead of the game.

The day before Thanksgiving, 10,000 copies of Brighton & Lloyd's debut title, "A Handful of Magic" ($3.25) by Stella Fabian of Santa Ana Heights, arrived at Amor's home from the printer. And, with no wasted time on Amor's part, the 129-page, soft-cover children's book--the story of a boy who finds a magic glove that allows him to make his stuffed dog, Socks, come to life--is now available at Waldenbooks in the Mission Viejo Mall, Brentano's in South Coast Plaza and a handful of other local bookstores. 'Maybe I'm impatient sometimes and jump in when I shouldn't," Amor said. "I wanted to get it out before Christmas. Otherwise I wouldn't have pushed it so hard."

Unlike the student-run Quixote Press, in which a student editorial committee had to sift through 40 manuscript submissions that were solicited by flyers sent to college creative-writing programs, Amor had no problem finding a publishable manuscript for Brighton & Lloyd.

Stella Fabian is the maiden name of Amor's New Zealand-born mother, Stella Askew, 65.

Having learned from one of the students in class that children's books and nonfiction were easier to market than adult fiction, Amor asked to read her mother's story, "A Handful of Magic."

"It's very uplifting," Amor said. "I had read it a couple of years ago, but at the time I never thought I was going to publish it."

Lest it sound like a simple case of literary nepotism, Fabian has been taking writing classes for 20 years and has written 10 unpublished children's books. A student in Obstfeld's fiction-writing class for 5 years, she is currently working on an epic-length novel set in Medieval England. Observes Obstfeld: "I think she is an exceptional writer and it ('A Handful of Magic') inevitably would have been published in any event."

When her daughter told her she wanted to publish "A Handful of Magic," Fabian, who received a $500 advance and will get a 6% royalty, said she was "walking on air for days."

"I never had the courage to put my own money into it. I knew it was good; it's just that you have to have a lot of faith in your idea. Lila's a real live wire. You have to have a lot of energy to make it succeed."

Once Amor decided to start her own publishing company--a one-person operation out of her home--everything seemed to fall into place.

Fabian, who hadn't looked at "A Handful of Magic" in years, polished the manuscript and made several changes at her daughter's request. She also wrote a new chapter for the end. "I had a1847617892wanted to bring the story a little bit forward so it would lend itself more to a sequel," she said.

When Amor contacted KNI, an Anaheim printing company, a salesman recommended artist Roger Mejia of Wilmington to do the color cover art and inside pen-and-ink illustrations.

And what could have been Amor's biggest hurdle--coming up with the approximately $10,000 publishing cost--proved to be no problem at all. Thanks to a couple of investments that did "very well," Amor just happened to have $10,000.

In addition to the $500 advance, Amor paid $450 for the artwork, $200 for color separation, $1,500 for typesetting and $7,600 for printing.

But as Amor found out, getting a book in print is only half the battle.

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