Jacqueline Haag holds a book printed in 1848 and imagines its history. Who has held it before her? Did they read it in bed or by the fire? Can she discover a tear stain, or coffee ring, or child’s scribbles inside?
Haag has an unusual relationship with books. She values the package as well as the content, the quality of the binding nearly as much as the words inside.
She has turned books into her life mission at Mother’s House Publishing, a tiny publishing house based in a barn in northern Colorado Springs.
From that barn, Haag and her marketing manager Karen Egan have churned out nearly 100 books during the past six years, most of them from Colorado Springs authors, and no one book selling more than 1,000 copies. Yet.
They’ve had some recent successes. Mother’s House has gained wider distribution this year. The publisher is also close to deals with a bookseller to schools and a large restaurant chain that Haag believes would give her authors much wider exposure.
Haag has faith that she is publishing quality editions of classics that will still be selling decades from now. That’s why she toils 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, just to break even at the end of the year. She also prints promotional materials and self-published titles to generate cash flow for the books she loves.
At Mother’s House, most everything is done in-house. She reads manuscripts. She edits. She prepares and prints the pages herself. And she binds the books.
The publishing house is guided by the passions and proclivities of one woman. And thus, as one might imagine, the titles are idiosyncratic.
There are family histories, a children’s book about rock climbing in Garden of the Gods, the memoir of a man with brain damage, and many titles on Catholicism.
Haag said her guiding principles are “purpose and purity.” That’s what she wants in her books. They don’t necessarily have to be religious, but they must be appropriate for all ages.
Another quirk is that she has disdain for books with magic in them. Harry Potter and C.S. Lewis can kiss off, and the Indian can stay in his cupboard.
“It got very popular, and yet the world is not magic. The world is ruled by physics,” Haag said. “It’s disingenuous to the child.”
But local authors who need a break might be tempted to think there’s a little magic lurking in this nondescript barn.
“It has been just unbelievable working with them. They are very positive. After a half hour with them, you feel like you could do anything,” said author Jeffrey Keller Jr., who just published “Ricky Camps in Rocky Mountain National Park,” his fourth in a series of children’s books on Colorado adventures.
Keller, a math teacher at Pine Creek High School, was rejected by national publishers because his books are too local. But, he said, “Jackie was just on fire for it.”
Haag said she works with first-time authors she believes in to develop their books and their marketing plans. She thinks of Mother’s House as a nest for entrepreneurs, even if it takes years for the author to find his audience.
“We develop entrepreneurs here,” she said. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
Meanwhile, she is willing to toil away for long hours, lovingly binding books and dreaming of the day when her catalog of titles is a valuable commodity.
“Some remarkable things have happened in this barn with this business,” she said. “It’s not just books, it’s relationships.”
“Ricky Camps in Rocky Mountain National Park” by Jeffrey Keller Jr.
When: 6-8 p.m. today
Where: Pikes Perk Coffee & Tea House, 5965 N. Academy Blvd.
Info: 266-0437 or www.rickyadventurebooks.com
Mother’s House Publishing, 2814 E. Woodmen Road
Want to send in a manuscript? Don’t just mail it in, because it might not ever be read. You should call first and tell them about your project. If they’re interested, they’ll ask for the book. Call 266-0437.