At just about every turn of an interview about his new Sarasota book publishing company, Jason Cannon finds an analogy to the theater he’s made his living in for years.
Cannon came to Sarasota ten years ago to become an associate artist at the Florida Studio Theater, where he directed various productions, performed occasionally, including in his award-winning series in “Dancing Lessons”, worked with apprentices and taught the theater and dramaturgy. Classes.
But overlapping events caused him to refocus his creative energies on writing novels and helping others get theirs published.
Arts newsletter:Sign up to receive the latest news on the Sarasota area arts scene every Monday
On the scene:Teachers bond as they move past defeat in Florida Studio Theater’s ‘Maytag Virgin’
During the pandemic, when there were no plays to direct, no improv to do, he was involved in a Saturday writers club known as the Rabbit Room on Zoom.
“We shared chapters, went back and forth on what we had written,” Cannon said. One of the attendees was Sam Mossler, an actor and writer who grew up in Sarasota and became involved with the FST as a child. After college and a few years on the job, Mossler returned to FST as an instructor and actor, often working with Cannon as a director.
Mossler was turning his original “Queen Palm” screenplay into a novel when he died suddenly nearly two years ago at the age of 45.
Cannon wanted the book published.
“I was still putting in 40-50 hours a week at FST, but I was getting up at 5 or 6 in the morning and writing in the morning and then going to work. Sam was writing his book,” Cannon said. “I was like, ‘Should I get a literary agent,’ and then your artist brother dies like this out of nowhere and you start thinking, ‘what are you waiting for?'”
The publishing world has seen a major transformation over the past two decades, with the growth of self-publishing, on-demand publishing, Amazon and other sites that allow anyone to publish a delivers much more easily.
Cannon said he “did deep into self-publishing and the word I would use is contradictory. It just didn’t seem like the right way.
So, like millions of others who changed careers during the pandemic, Cannon decided to quit a job he loved and give it a shot.
“Once that decision was behind me, it was just logistics, finding the right time, handing over my projects to FST properly in a gracious and fair manner. I am nothing but grateful for these 10 years of my theater career. It has been an honor,” he said.
Opinion:What should Sarasota do with the Van Wezel?
Emerging artists:Hermitage Retreat provides creative opportunities for Sarasota-area artists
The hardest part of this transition process, he said, was delivering his resignation letter to production art director Richard Hopkins. “It was one of the worst times of my life, disappointing someone you love and admire so much. It was kind of disassociating myself from Jason the theater.
Hopkins describes Cannon as a “valuable member” of the theater’s artistic team whose “contributions have been considerable”. He added that he looked forward to continuing to work with him as a freelance director.
Cannon quickly established Ibis Books, starting with Mossler’s novel, which was nearing completion at the time.
“I had 80% of Sam’s book on my laptop. I reached out to his girlfriend, Nicole Hancock, and her family and said I know how to do this now, it’s so close. His brother, Mickey, said he had the script done, here’s how it ends, so we did the ending of “Queen Palm.”
He has also published two of his own books, “The Understudy” (which is available for free) and “Ghost Light”, and is publishing his third this summer. Playwright Mark St. Germain, who wrote “Dancing Lessons” and many other plays produced at FST, “contacted me and said, ‘I’ve written a thriller. Do you want to publish my book?’ The doors started to open. St. Germain’s book is called “The Mirror Man”.
Creation of new shows:Asolo Rep plays a part in the future of musical theater
Support the arts:Florida doubles funding for arts and culture programs in new budget
Cannon’s latest book is a non-fiction work entitled “This Above All” about the life of an artist. He plans to publish some of St. Germain’s plays, and this summer he will also publish “Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret”, a one-act play written by Ret. Lt. Col. Scott Man, who was a student of Cannon at FST.
Mann “starts a veteran performing arts center and wants me to help with readings for vets to help them adjust to civilian life, working with people with mental health issues to develop monologues and plays to help them deal with their mental illnesses. I definitely don’t quit storytelling when I quit theatre.
In fact, he said his experiences at FST combined with the new company “open me up to more projects that have niche missions, veterans, mental health issues, my books. for other books.
He’s working on plans to launch St. Germain’s book with an event at Bookstore1Sarasota. Owner Georgia Court “has been an incredible mentor. The generosity of people amazes you when you are able to receive it.
Ibis is not a vanity brand, he said, even though it publishes its own books through the publisher.
“It gives me the opportunity to publish other people. Self-publishing lacks control or oversight and people take advantage of the system,” he said. “Amazon is not a publisher. It’s just a way for you to spread your book and they don’t care if it’s good or not. Amazon works at such a volume level. They pay authors for the number of pages read. Someone can buy your book but only read 10 pages. And they pay you for those pages.
It joins an industry with many independent publishers that offer a sense of control without trying to become a major publisher like Simon & Schuster or Random House.
“There are hundreds of these independent publishers creating legitimacy. The financial model is profit sharing rather than an advance,” Cannon said. “People don’t realize how little they are paid. There is a comparison with non-profit theater artists.
He said his business is all about “funny, exciting, and meaningful stories. The three pockets I live in now are genre fiction, specifically thriller; literary fiction where Sam lives; and the other pocket is memory. People have amazing stories. So many people don’t know how to get their stories out there. I taught an oral memoir class for years where people could tell a theatrical version of their life story.
It will add another pocket: theatre, acting, bookmaking, improvisation and plays. “These are places I know and can talk about intelligently. If other genres come along, we’ll see. I don’t read romance novels, so I would need someone to check them out. I don’t claim to be able to edit a romance novel,” he said.
Choosing which books to publish is similar to choosing plays to stage in the theatre.
“I know what I’m doing well and it feels like when we read plays in the development of new plays. I double majored in English and Drama.
When books are submitted, he looks for the same thing he looks for in the plays he’s read at TSF: “Compelling characters. does the story move? I want a character driven story rather than a plot driven story. And I also like when the language is fun. It may be the best book, but if it’s dryly written, ugh. And then can you sell it? Is it too niche? Is it something only five people will read or is it something that has legs?
While it might be great to discover the next Stephen King or John Grisham, he expects his business “to always be a grassroots, word-of-mouth business. It’s a chore, so much like the theater industry. Work it over time and develop relationships.
The print-on-demand process has radically changed the publishing industry and allowed independent publishers to grow.
“You don’t have to haul a U-Haul full of inventory. I have a few boxes of books in my trunk for when I have an event,” he said. “But if someone orders it online, it will be printed and sent. People in Australia and France bought my books. Doing this myself would require more work and cost more.
How does he measure success? “For me right now, it’s a low bar. They can sell and sell and climb or not. I’m less concerned about having to have a wide opening. I got into this to tell good stories and I’m more interested in building relationships. There’s a kind of integrity there. As long as I can pay my bills and post things I believe in, I’m fine.