Path Press, Inc. said it was love at first sight with its title, “The Black Knights.”
During my recent interview with J. Marcellus Burke, of Oak Lawn regarding the release of his new book, “The Black Knights,” I found myself enthralled by how easily he became published.
Burke is the subject of a front-page piece in this week’s Reporter that I wrote but that article doesn’t explain how Burke went from being a writer, carrying around a manuscript, to published author, with a traditional publishing company after just one solicitation.
“They looked it over, told me to clean it up, and gave me a contract.” Burke said.
I sat down with Path Press President, Bennett J. Johnson during a book signing for Burke, at the American Legion in Chicago Ridge. Johnson stated, a-matter-of-factly, “‘The Black Knights’ was published on the merit of the author’s skill. Read it and you’ll find out for yourself.”
Perhaps Johnson didn’t want me to misconstrue him giving Burke an on-the-spot contract with him being inexperienced. Because, then he exclaimed, “Let there be no mistake, I’ve been in business since 1961.”
Those were his words, but if I could guess his body language, it might have sounded more like…“This ain’t my first rodeo. I know a good manuscript when I read one.”
Johnson’s rare first-try-contract spared Burke the arduous process most aspiring authors’ experience. Even an optimist like myself would tell an unpublished writer to expect to query at least 20 publishers or literary agents before getting a contract. Once a signed contract is in place, it may be 18 months to three years before the book hits the market. Nevertheless, time can be salvaged by pursuing the appropriate establishment.
Budding writers are commonly advised to look for publishers that specialize in the genre of which they’ve written. Being that Burke’s book is about WWII fighter pilots of African descent, he said he felt Path Press was a great place to start.
He was right.
Johnson said Burke’s manuscript fit perfectly into the criteria of his company’s mission.
“We seek to provide opportunities for people of African descent and Third World heritage to write stories in a way that expresses their ideas or concerns on topics about political, philosophical, social or any other aspect of human existence.” Johnson said.
Path Press, Inc. is a small company but it is long standing.
“I founded one of the first black-owned publishing companies in the United States — we launched in Chicago in 1969.” Johnson said.
Johnson said he ceased production with Path Press for a number of years and began working with Third World Press as its vice president. One of their main achievements was the publication of “The Covenant with Black America,” by Tavis Smiley, which became a New York Times bestseller in 2006. Smiley is most known for his radio talk show, “The Tavis Smiley Show.”
However in 2012, Johnson decided to reactivate Path Press to pay homage to his late friend and co-founder Herman C. Gilbert. He said, “I’ve acquired several manuscripts that are outstanding in creativity. My goal is to continue to produce quality work.”
At Burke’s rate, he just might be the next New York Times bestselling author Johnson helps bring to the forefront.
Good luck gentlemen, I salute you both.
Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.