Losing My First Publisher

When I wrote my first book (non-fiction grandparents grief book) WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW, I had no clue how to find or use a publisher. But via Keith Bettinger, a former police officer and grief counselor who was the first to review my manuscript via the Public Safety Writers Association, I was linked to Oak Tree Press and its publisher, Billie Johnson. She immediately accepted my manuscript and I signed with her on November 12, 2012. At the time, she was only publishing fourteen books a year. Where I live in the Colorado mountains, we have a tourist season from Memorial Day through October and Billie worked hard to make sure my book would be available by that time. It was on the market May 17, 2013. It turned out beautifully. I like the classy look of the books Billie provided with great covers and cream-colored pages. This particular book sold like hotcakes. I personally sold three hundred myself almost immediately. It still sells today, as needed, though it is not yet available on-line as a second edition, but can be purchased directly from me.

Detective Max Richards Book 1

Billie was present when my second book FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST won First Place as a Non-published Fiction Book at the PSWA Writing Competition in Las Vegas on July 13, 2014 and couldn’t wait to publish it with the award sticker on the cover she created. This book also sold extremely well. I think that says a lot about the quality and enthusiasm Billie had for her authors.Unfortunately, after a serious illness struck her twice a few years ago, she was no longer able to function as the Oak Tree Press publisher, so in September 2017 I took my rights back and moved to Aakenbaaken & Kent. This was no reflection on Billie or Oak Tree Press. It was just time to move on since I had a new manuscript SNOW ANGEL ready to roll and Billie could no longer accommodate her authors.

Billie Earlene Beard-Johnson

On September 28, 2018 at the age of 71, Billie passed away, unfortunately. Her obituary was written lovingly and revealed a lot of things about Billie most of us never knew. We knew she loved cats. But she also was passionate about Trivial Pursuit, CNN, MSNBC and mystery novels. It also told  you would have a hard time finding her without a pack of Extra Spearmint gum on or near her. She will always have a special place in my heart for giving me my start as a published book author and for the ease with which we were able to work together. By the time of her death, she had around one hundred fifty authors working for her. That’s a large jump from just fourteen a year. It speaks volumes about her ability and success with Oak Tree Press. I will miss her and never forget her. May she rest in peace.

Detective Max Richards Book 2




About jtzortman

Author of "WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW" - A Grandparent's Journey Through Grief, first place award winning novel "FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST" and award-winning novel "SNOW ANGEL", and the first of three novellas in her The Drifter Series called JAKE - Whiskey, Water & Wildfire. Contributing author to anthologies "Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides", "American Blue", "Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook" and "The Centennial Book of The National Society of Daughters of the Union 1861-1865". Numerous articles, poems and short stories published since 1990. Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Winner of ten writing awards. I live in a quaint Colorado mountain tourist town with my husband and Siamese cat. When deeps snows blanket the terrain and spectacular views from my windows, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.
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10 Responses to Losing My First Publisher

  1. mmgornell says:

    Billie has a special place in my heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. jtzortman says:

    I think she has that with many of us, Mad. I just made some corrections to the year I took my rights back. It was 2017, not 2014.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Billie created a new imprint for my book, “Ghost Writer.” She didn’t publish fantasy, but she wanted this one. We were friends. We had met at several conferences before she became my publisher. She pushed to get it out as a summer read. I loved her, and miss her humor and friendship. She believed in her authors. (I edited for her–often without the authors being aware of it.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jtzortman says:

    She had some very special qualities, didn’t she? She will be missed by all of us who were her authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joseph B Haggerty says:

    I’m very disappointed that I didn’t see the notice of her passing in the list/serv for PSWA. I was enormously happy when Billie decided to publish my second, Ocean in the Desert. She gave me a confidence in myself that was needed. I too enjoyed her humor and her straight forwardness. She was a special person and we will miss her.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jtzortman says:

    Billie seems to have given so many of us our start in book publishing. It’s a good fraternity to belong to and yes, we will always miss her. I wasn’t aware that the notice of her passing didn’t appear on the PSWA list-serv.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great tribute. Those of us connected by Billie will always have a special bond.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Well said, Jackie!

    Liked by 1 person

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