The dairy farmer who founded a local "small press" in 1998 to publish undiscovered authors thinks the company may have struck pay dirt with its latest release.
Marvin Books, which operates out of founder Gerald Anderson's dairy farm in southern Crow Wing County, this week released "Dove in a Window," a novel by Jean Marie Haugen of Menahga.
The promotional material accompanying the book describes "Dove in a Window" as a "psychological thriller with a touch of romance that is destined to be a classic."
The novel -- the first by Haugen and the second work of fiction in Marvin Books' catalogue -- "will take you into the complex realm of multiple personality disorder and the disturbing realities that lie beneath," the material says.
Initial copies of the 2,500 press run arrived in area bookstores earlier this week. Haugen will attend a book signing Dec. 1 at Book World in Brainerd.
Anderson is so confident of the book's success he began circulating the galleys to contacts in the independent film industry before the press run began, he said in an interview this week.
"It's the best book we've ever published by far," said Anderson, a 1972 Brainerd High School graduate and the fourth generation to operate the family's dairy farm, now with 50 cows.
"It takes a good writer to handle the various personalities (that appear in the book) and she can do that," Anderson said. "Her writing is very strong."
Anderson founded the imprint in 1998 "to take on projects that other publishers pass over," he said.
Marvin Books -- the name was "picked out of a hat" with no specific meaning -- debuted in 1998 with Anderson's own novel, "Sons of Disobedience."
Although the work had been rejected by some major publishers, that was not the reason for creating his own book imprint, Anderson said.
"It is an unusual book, a prophetic novel," he said, "and I didn't want it pushed with other novels."
Marvin Books included in the book's slipcover a computer disk of nonfiction information about prophecies, a device to expand the readers' interest and knowledge of the subject, he said.
With a one-a-year publishing goal, Marvin Books released a personal reminiscence, "Remember No Electricity," by Pierz author Maurice Faust in 1999 and a business-related advice book, "The Employer Survival Guide," by Brainerd writer John Austin last year.
"Doing one book a year makes it tough to get published with us but at least there's a chance," said Anderson, who is highly motivated by the idea of finding authors ignored by major publishers.
Changes in the nation's publishing industry in recent years has made it much harder for first-time and mid-list authors to find a publisher, Anderson said.
"It's a difficult process, and there are lots of writers out there with something to say, with a command of the language and good ideas," he said in explaining his reasons for founding the company. "They just don't get any attention at all. But it opens the way for the small presses in the country."
A full-time dairy farmer, Anderson-the-writer has found a ready market for his experiences and observations on the family farm. He has sold more than 100 freelance articles to farm-related publications over the years, he said. "Sons of Disobedience" was his first novel.
Marvin Books operates as a "straight up" publisher, offering advances and royalties to its authors, rather than as a "vanity press," which charges writers for publishing and marketing expenses.
The imprint subcontracts with other companies to bring a book into print, including Bang Printing of Brainerd for "Dove in a Window." Marvin Books also places its products through several national book distributors.
Kerry Johnston of Brainerd serves as the company's marketing director, but Anderson is skeptical of publicizing Marvin Books for fear it could overwhelm his dairy business.
He conveys a story about an aspiring writer arriving unannounced at the farm, at the peak of Anderson's daily milking duties, "with a suitcase full of manuscripts he wanted me to read."
"I'm a bit leery of getting into a situation where writers are approaching the farm, which is very active with 50 milk cows," he said. "My other concern is that the other farmers in my area are humble, simple people and I don't want (this business) to scare them off or put them on edge.
"I'm not sure how they would react," he said, "and it's just a sideline, a small business, but not my living."
In fact, Marvin Books does little to solicit manuscripts, although they arrive like clockwork from writers across the country. The imprint can be contacted by consulting with the Small Publishers of North America, of which Marvin Books is a member.
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