SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Out of 10,000 children's books submitted to publishers, they buy about three," said Johnny Boyd, the author of two children's books through his self-publishing company PTO Press. "Only 5 percent of published books sell more than 5,000 copies."
"We're approaching (selling) 12,000 copies of my first book," Boyd continues. "If we go to a fifth printing I'll have 15,000 in print. One of these days I'm going to get some respect."
It is tough enough to think up and write a book, and it's even tougher to sell a book. Out of the hundreds of thousands of books printed by publishing companies and the even larger group of self-
published books, most sell few copies.
Boyd moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1979 to work on the
Fryingpan-Arkansas water project. A year later he was working seasonally in Snowmass for the town's transportation department, overseeing parking in lot C.
"I don't know why Snowmass," said Boyd. "Somebody must have said check out Snowmass, and I turned right off of Highway 82."
In 1982 he began as a Town of Snowmass Village shuttle driver, and he has been driving for the department ever since.
In 1995, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Snowmass Sun about his idea for making the Snowmass Mall a better place. The editor of the paper offered him a regular column, and Johnny Boyd's Snomasokist was born on Nov. 24, 1995. His second column featured his idea for putting casinos on the Snowmass Mall, and he has been offering his opinions ever since.
"There's a lot of great therapy involved in writing a newspaper column," Boyd said. "I can also go out and get a lot of satisfaction skiing. But there's a lot of satisfaction tweaking the noses of the 'powers that be' just a little bit."
"I used to be harsher, but these days I've mellowed a lot," Boyd continued. "I try not to be personal or nasty. I don't mind giving (the powers that be) a different reality than what they have given me. I am at ground level so I see how the infrastructure works. I see the reality of what they want this place to be."
Snomasokist ran in the Snowmass Sun from 1995 to 1997, and then again from 1999 to 2011. At present, and in the intervening years, Boyd writes the column for the Aspen Daily News.
In 1996, Boyd decided to expand his writing and publish a children's book. He sent out his idea and manuscript to dozens of publishers and was rejected by all of them. Undaunted, he created his own publishing company, PTO Press.
Boyd's first book, "First Tracks," was conceived as a book "for little skiers."
"My niece was about 4 or 5 at the time," Boyd said. "And I wanted to write the book for her. I wanted to get kids excited about skiing. I tried to write as young as I could, through the eyes of a child. I wanted to include the things that are universal about going skiing: the ski instructor, ski patrol, getting pizza, the waitress. I put it all down and hoped that little kids would identify."
Boyd's book has been a huge success compared to most. He sold out his first printing of 3,000 copies in the first
12 months of sale. Now, he is looking at his fifth printing.
"As the years progressed and technology changed, it became possible and affordable to self-publish a book," Boyd explained. "It's not cheap, but it's doable where you can turn a profit."
He acknowledges former Sundance staff member Patricia Logan for the title and offers special appreciation to ski instructor Jeff Teaford for illustrating "First Tracks."
"Pretty much anyone can write a book, but selling it is pretty difficult," Boyd said. "That's one reason why I've gone for a niche market: Skiing, in the first book, and the second one is about vacationing in Yellowstone Park, which is also a universal experience for kids."
Marketing and selling a book means getting out on the road. Boyd traveled 3,500 miles in two weeks through Colorado, New Mexico, up to Idaho, and on to Whistler, British Columbia, then down the West Coast to Mammoth. So far, Boyd has his books in 70 to 80 different retail stores.
"I'm not afraid to cold-call people," Boyd said. "I can stop in, give them a few books, take their card, put them in my database and move on."
Around 2009, Boyd started thinking about another children's book, and "The Yellowstone Kid" was conceived.
"I look at Yellowstone and most little kids are going to stay on that little
figure-eight road," Boyd said. "Because Yellowstone is a universal experience like skiing, I can mention all those sights and it becomes an experience for all those kids."
Boyd and his wife, Cassia, live in Snowmass Village. When he isn't writing or driving a Village Shuttle, he can be found skiing in the winter and mountain biking or motorcycling in the summer.
For more information about PTO Press, "First Tracks" or "The Yellowstone Kid," contact Johnny at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Alldredge is the former associate editor/reporter for the Snowmass Sun. He now runs a local communications company whose clients include Related Colorado. He can be reached at email@example.com.