How She Built It: Wayetu Moore, Publisher & CEO of One Moore Book
Wayetu Moore has always been curious about how and why things are the way they are. At age 8, she was so fascinated with the financial and social benefits of product/service trading that she began to sell candy in school as an experiment, not knowing that the experience would kickstart a lifelong pursuit of entrepreneurial ventures.
Now, at 26, Wayetu is the founder and chief executive of One Moore Book, a one-year-old publishing house that develops and distributes books for children in countries with low literacy rates and underrepresented cultures.
Keep reading to learn how she built it.
MN: Launching a business is hard work. Who or what was your inspiration?
WM: My parents are the two most inspiring people I know—both individually and as a team. They are both so selfless but also understand how important their lives and legacies are to the people around them. They have such an inspiring love story and are such brilliant and rare people.
MN: Do you have any business partners and/or employees?
WM: My 4 siblings and I are business partners. They were the first ones I asked to join in this venture. They make up the creative team and assist in writing and illustrating our books. In total, there are 7 employees.
MN: At a time when the print industry is being called an antiquated form of media…you decided to launch a publishing house. Why not just go 100 percent digital?
WM: If I were publishing young adult or adult books, I may have considered that, but I don’t see children’s books or the children’s book publishing industry becoming completely digital any time soon.
New parents and parents of elementary-aged children enjoy the tradition of filling their child’s library with stories they will remember. Children’s books are an opportunity for parents to interact with their children, and to physically chronicle their child’s growth. Also as a writer, I appreciate the emotional and psychological value of holding a book.
MN: How does One Moore Book make money? One Moore Book sells and distributes children’s books. We also partner with non-profit organizations to create culturally sensitive literature for their programs.
MN: Did you have a background in publishing before launching One Moore Book? Was this an industry that you’ve always aspired to be a part of?
WM: I did not have a background in publishing. I actually began in theater and moved to New York when I was 17 to study at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I was a performer but writing was always present. As I matured, my passion for writing consumed more and more of my attention and interest and I eventually decided to study writing full-time.
While in theater I was always interested in what was going on behind the scenes. I wanted to know who was directing, who was writing, how production worked, “why is that light positioned that way and who controls it?” Those are questions I asked even from center stage. So when I began to write full-time, organically I wondered the same things about the literary industry: who packages these thoughts and sells them? And why should someone else make more money than me for my thoughts and stories when all they are doing is packaging?
MN: When did you get your first taste of the publishing industry?
WM: I published an online literary magazine for women of color with a friend while I was in college. It was such an amazing experience because I learned so much about the literary industry. It was one of the first glimpses I had of the integration of art and commerce.
MN: What was the biggest obstacle you faced while you were launching your company?
WM: The biggest obstacle I faced was that I had to juggle multiple roles. I was doing business development, accounting, marketing and heading the creative team on my own because I did not have the resources to hire a team. There is a team in place now, but the initial struggles of wearing multiple hats definitely slowed us down.
MN: What are your short and long term goals for One Moore Book?
WM: As a company, our short-term goals are to publish a set of books for Haiti and Guinea in 2012 and build our online distribution catalog to 1000 books. My long-term goal is to make One Moore Book a nationally recognizable brand for multicultural children’s literature.
MN: Are you writing, creating and distributing books too? Or, are you only distributing books created by others?
WM: Yes. I have written or co-written all 7 books we published last year. Writing is my passion, but being a publisher gives me an opportunity to explore and thoroughly understand how my art is supposed to be packaged, marketed and distributed.
MN: How do you find new authors for One Moore Book?
WM: We publish in cycles and feature one country per cycle. For Haiti, we have been communicating with schools and NGOs and plan to collaborate with Haitian teachers who are interested in content development. Through word of mouth there have already been a few Haitian-American writers who have reached out to us. For our Guinea series we are collaborating with a Guinean organization that will provide content and writers–we will provide illustrators.
MN: If an author of a children’s book wanted to pitch a new idea to you, what would that process be like?
WM: The only program we have right now for interested new authors is the Joint Venture Publishing program, which integrates the traditional benefits of mainstream publishing with self-publishing. Writers can submit a proposal that includes a summary of the book and a little about themselves to email@example.com. Right now our response time is 3-4 weeks.
MN: Why is childhood literacy so important to you?
WM: My family experienced the war in Liberia in 1990 and upon moving here when I was 5, it took a long time for me to adjust – longer than my sisters. My mother would buy books for me and read to us before sleeping so I wouldn’t have nightmares. Reading saved my childhood mind from completely losing my trust for people and life. My mother eventually suggested that I begin to write and I wrote my first poem around 7 or 8 and it provided similar therapy as the bedtime stories my mother read to me. These early experiences stuck and I have always been aware of the power of literature and art in the lives of children, especially children who face adversity. I could not imagine not being able to read then–I’m not sure what would have saved me.
MN: What advice would you give someone who was interested in getting into the publishing game?
WM: Do your research. Know exactly what you want, who you want to reach, and have a reason for doing what you do.
MN: What advice would you give an aspiring author who is looking for a publishing deal?
WM: The same. Research your industry. Research everything from literary agencies to publishing houses and know what you want and what kind of agent you want to represent you. Know your options. Not enough artists understand the commercial aspects of their art. Also, READ. Read as much as you can. Good writing requires good reading.
MN: What do you want people to know about One Moore Book?
WM: We are a new company and we are still growing, and with your continued support we will be here for a long time.
When a child sees something on a page, they believe that thing is definite and they accept the images, names, narratives as a standard of the way the world is supposed to be. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we gave ALL children a chance to see themselves in literature, and further, an opportunity to celebrate their stories as also significant, permanent, and worth telling?
This company is my way of celebrating multicultural stories that are largely missing in the larger industry. One Moore Book has been my way of immortalizing my culture and the cultures of many children who may otherwise borrow other narratives and aspire to the physical appearances and lives of those characters.
Sakita Holley is the founder and CEO of House of Success, where she advises lifestyle brands on social media best practices, branding and traditional public relations strategies. Follow her on Twitter @MissSuccess.