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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 11:16 pm | Fair 47º


Susan Miles Gulbransen: How Local Book People Erin Graffy, Anna Lafferty Get Published

How to get published? Write manuscript. Find agent. Agent finds publisher. Manuscript accepted. Or rejected. If accepted, sign contract and wait for book to come out. If rejected, beat your breast and keep looking, but no book in hand. That’s how it’s done. Or was ...

Author Erin Graffy de Garcia and graphic artist Anna Sands Lafferty have together produced seven popular books about Santa Barbara, from Graffy de Garcia’s first book, Society Lady’s Guide on How To Santa Barbara: An Insider’s Exposé, to her latest this year, Old Spanish Days: Santa Barbara History Through Public Art. No traditional publishing route for them. Instead, Graffy de Garcia created her own business, Kieran Publishing Co. The team has since made each book just the way they want.

Graffy de Garcia, Lafferty and I recently sat down over coffee to talk about why and how. Between them, talk is fast and punctuated with laughter, indicative of a relaxed working relationship. In sentences that one begins and the other finishes, they explain the difference between traditional publishing and their form of personal publishing.

“This is not just writing a manuscript and gathering graphic material,” Lafferty said, “but creating a book out of our material.”

Once a publisher’s contract is signed, the author usually has little to say or do with the cover, format and finished book.

“The author is no longer a part of the process of making that book,”​ Graffy de Garcia said. “He or she loses out on the pleasure of watching it come together. Some authors don’t want to go through that process. I find it almost as exciting as writing the material.”

Graffy de Garcia, a dynamic redhead similar to her mother, Jeanne Graffy, a former Santa Barbara city councilwoman and Santa Barbara County supervisor, shares writing talents with her brother, historian Neal Graffy (Santa Barbara Then and Now). She has served several local nonprofit organizations, from the Santa Barbara Historical Museum to the Dream Foundation to the Junior League of Santa Barbara.

Lafferty took art classes at Santa Barbara High School from artist Bud Bottoms. He encouraged her to continue art, which led to two M.A.s in graphics. She has taught graphics and design at Santa Barbara City College for 15 years. Lafferty also designs covers and graphics for many local authors like the Graffy authors and Mission Creek Studio. The results are professional publications suited for those manuscripts.

“Not everyone,” she said, “who works on a book reads the text. Cover artists may look at a few pages and create what they think the book is about. Sometimes it’s way off from the book’s premise. Like publicists, they have so many projects they read the blurb and go from there.

“I remember former local author Gayle Lynds’ first novel, Masquerade. It was about a woman doing a make-over to change her appearance. She goes from a blonde to a redhead early in the book. The cover shows a buxom blonde, nothing like the main character in most of the book.”

Graffy de Garcia did not know Lafferty before forming their partnership. From the get-go they have worked easily sharing, editing and OK’ing drafts of graphics.

“We should call ourselves the Grafferty Team!”​ Graffy de Garcia joked before turning serious. “We believe that reading a book is more than getting information. It’s an experience. You enhance that by the choice of typeface, paper quality, margin sizes, color of paper, not just any white. All those little details add up.

“When writing, I keep them in the back of my mind. Anna and I are usually on the same page. She’s no artsy-fartsy artist but looks at the text for guidance.”

Lafferty, a quiet blonde who imparts much information, talks about how she approaches a manuscript.

“When reading it, I think of ways to illustrate points of interests,” she said. “Then we have to think of the cover and its material. What will the reader do with the book? Keep it on a coffee table? In that case, a hard cover works.

“For the Spanish Days book, we figured the reader might carry it around town to see the art and historical points mentioned. For that we went with a soft cover so they could refer to the index and map we included.”

Graffy de Garcia admits that history used to have little appeal, although she has done books on the history of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club, Jordano’s and others. As historian for our Old Spanish Days Fiesta, she became fascinated with local life around 1820-1863.

“That was the time of cattle with more people living in the village,” she explained. “There was no real means of industry or production. Life was ‘hides, horses, hospitality, jotas (dances) and weddings’ as reported by Richard Henry Dana in his Two Years Before the Mast.”

The book idea took off when she saw how artwork around town showed off that era.

“Most people go to an art exhibit, and then buy the book,” she said. “In this case, people buy the book first, then go see the exhibit.”

The end result is an attractive book, its cover featuring a tile design found at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center. The cover’s warm orange-yellow background blends with the golds and blues of the artwork.

As our coffee gets cold and conversation winds down, Lafferty thinks of another perk when creating your own book.

“Remember: authors make money by working with small publishers to design and produce their books and by getting sponsors to help pay for the production,” she explained. “This is especially true for authors who have targeted audiences with opportunities to sell their books through lectures, expos, museums, trade fairs, conferences and book fairs promoting their topic as well as on their own web sites, Amazon and regular book store markets.”

Frank Goss of Sullivan Goss-An American Gallery commented on Graffy de Garcia’s efforts.

“She was not satisfied with merely finding these artistic treasures and photographing them,” he said. “She has gone to great lengths to uncover the artists’ names and histories, and she has woven them together to show us what makes Santa Barbara unique.”

Noozhawk columnist Susan Miles Gulbransen — a Santa Barbara native, writer and book reviewer — teaches writing at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and through the Santa Barbara City College Continuing Education Division. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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