Meet Becky Gehrisch, owner of Bookling Media

 by Gloria Reichert

   Becky Gehrisch     

       After meeting Becky Gehrisch at the recent SCBWI: Ohio North Conference, I was fascinated that she has established a publishing company called Bookling Media. I had all sorts of questions about how one goes about doing such a thing and thought readers of this blog might also find such information useful, especially those who are authors/illustrators. Becky graciously agreed to be  interviewed. I hope you enjoy meeting her and learning about her company.

       Becky is the Creative Director at Bookling Media LLC, an independent press redefining the kidlit publishing industry, book by book! Bookling Media focuses on picture books created by author-illustrators. Passionate about art, Becky has an art degree from The Ohio State University and has served as the Illustrator Coordinator for the Central and Southern Ohio chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

 Becky, what inspired you to write and illustrate your first book?

As a kid, I loved seek-in-find aspects to illustrations and details in picture books. When I was in middle school, my art class had an opportunity to submit a picture book through a nationwide Written and Illustrated program. I won Honorable Mention! The thrill of creating a physical book to call my own was satisfying. My name was on a book –how cool is that?!

I then went to The Ohio State University to study painting and drawing. I was drawn (pun intended) to Norman Rockwell and other illustrators. I loved art that told a playful, childlike story. After graduating, I took time away from the fine arts and relocated to the countryside. There, I was newly inspired to pick up my paintbrush and make a fun illustration of three dogs playing in a bathtub!

At OSU, I almost minored in Art History. Remembering dates and names was a challenge but I was intrigued by how art changed throughout time. Because of this, I included fun art facts about art styles in the back material of Escape to Play. Creating classic art on the pages for kids to find and then read about later was a blast! I loved the interactive aspect this is for kids.

I absolutely needed, in my core, to create a fun book that allowed kids to enjoy detailed illustrations! I loved the process of creating each chaotic scene for the dogs to explore which then evolved into a story. Adding the easy-to-read poem tied everything together.

Who are some author/illustrators you admire?

Wow! So many. Here are some in no particular order: Wanda Gág, Jan Brett, Dan Santat, Brian Lies, Brendan Wenzel, Peter Brown, Ryan T. Higgins, and many others! They all have such a unique and mastered illustrative style. The reason their books stand out to me is because of their storytelling power through the marriage of the words and images. I often love the humorously written ones best but a beautiful, touching story is quite captivating, too!

What led you to found Bookling Media? How will it be different from other publishers?

I saw a need in the industry to create Bookling Media through my own experiences as an author-illustrator and through my involvement with SCBWI. I realized how terrible the traditional publishing experience has been for many creators, not just when submitting manuscripts to publishers, but also after their books were published.

I saw friends powerless to market their books and take control of their own success due to their publishers’ policies and contract restrictions. I knew there had to be a better way. So, a plan emerged! I wanted to create a new kind of publishing company that is known for high-quality picture books while also respecting the creators and allowing author-illustrators to remain in control of their intellectual property rights.

What will you do if you receive a manuscript that is beautifully illustrated but poorly written? Or, vice versa?

I feel that a manuscript with great illustrations but poorly written is easier to adjust and mold into a polished piece. We can always develop a story. It would be harder to keep the essence of

the art in a collaboration with another illustrator. If the meat of the story is unique, the rest can follow.

If a manuscript is written well but the creator lacks in artistic skill, it will be hard to move forward. I strive for high quality, especially in the illustrations, and a picture book should reflect that. I have already received some manuscripts which have great illustrations, so I’m confident that the next book that Bookling Media releases will be beautiful!

Can you share some details about your Bookling Media? How will you promote and distribute your books? Do authors receive royalties? Will you use freelance or in-house editors? etc.

There is a lot to cover here! Relationships are everything, and that is the value that Bookling Media brings to the table for our creators. My team consists of industry professionals that either have their own businesses or freelance. It works well because we can get experienced professionals such as editors, designers, proofreaders, and typesetters to work on our projects on a fractional basis. We use offset printing instead of print-on-demand to give us the highest degree of creative control and quality.

When the book is ready, we run a presale campaign to help cover the initial costs of publication and printing. Working closely with the creator, we put together a launch team and marketing plan for the presale. Our relationship with our distributor lets us make our titles available through Baker & Taylor for libraries, Ingram for independent bookstores, Barnes &Noble, Amazon, and even to name a few.

We provide marketing support to drive sales, and our creators make a percentage of every book that Bookling Media sells, either directly or through distribution. Unfortunately, the middlemen and retailers take a large cut. Where our creators can make the most money is author events and school visits.

We have built a toolkit to help creators market themselves and host successful events. We make copies of their book available to them at deeply discounted prices so that they can sell directly at their events or on their own website. Our authors enjoy access to our marketing coaching and materials, as well as the freedom to sell and market their books as they see fit.

What kind of books do you like to read?

This is the toughest question! I love a variety of genres, but I really enjoy picture books and a good, historical fiction!

What book has influenced you the most?

I received a chapter book, Half Magic, from my aunt when I was a kid. It was by Edward Eager and originally published in 1954. This was the first book that I could read with minimal illustrations, and it struck a chord in me. Merging the magical and every-day of four children, was intriguing.

My mind was full of the images that inspired me to create my own magical scenes. In 2019 I drew a ghostly girl and did not connect the association somehow to the cover of Half Magic! The cover art is a part of my subconscious it seems!

What was your most unusual or funny experience as an author/illustrator?

What a great question! At an elementary school visit I asked what tools might be needed to make a picture book. One answer was interesting. The boy said, “a saw!” I wasn’t sure how to respond to that one, so I just said, “Sure, cutting large stacks of paper needs a sharp cutter almost like a saw!” Kids say the funniest things.

I have found that kids love coming up to my 18” mouse puppet, Norman. They want to hug him and pet him. This is more sweet than funny, but I enjoy those moments with young readers. It is amusing when kids want my autograph – in pencil – on their writing notebooks.

What work do you wish you had written and illustrated?

Anything illustrated by David Wiesner or created by Dan Santat – just wow! They have been extremely inspirational to me in my art and illustrations. The dynamic way they lay out their illustrations is amazing.

What is one piece of advice you would give to author/illustrators?

I love the advice to be cautious of taking too much advice. However, there is one piece of advice that I feel strongly about - study your craft. If your craft is writing and illustrating, take serious time to hone each. This will make a world of difference in submitting your work and in the end, selling it!

*Short and Sweet:

Pantser or Plotter? Both! Mostly pantser!

Guilty Food Pleasure? Ice cream!

Favorite Hobby? Painting and light hiking.

Dog or Cat Person? Cat currently. Maybe all those years of mischievous dogs wore me down!

Who would you like to have dinner with (living or dead)? David Wiesner. His illustrations are amazing, and I would love to know more about how his brain works.

Do you do your best work in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Evening. If I could, I’d work from 12pm-4pm and 8pm-12am.

   Since Bookling Media’s start in 2020, Becky has built and led the team through the publication of their premiere title and is now announcing national distribution! Bookling Media has also opened submissions for author-illustrators to submit their manuscripts for publication.

Check out the submission guidelines here: