Xpress Yourself Publishing, LLC, founded by Jessica Tilles, is truly an up-and-coming independent publishing house. Just last year, the company received The Independent Publishing House of the Year award from the African American Literary Awards Show. Xpress Yourself Publishing has quickly cultivated a nice selection of books on an impressive array of topics, ranging from “thought-provoking literature and commercial fiction, business books, mystery, romance, erotica, spiritual, contemporary and neo-soul lit.”
Here is a bit of background on the company and some of its highlights to date:
In 2001, Jessica launched Xpress Yourself Publishing as a self-published author, publishing her national best-selling titles. In 2006, she published fellow authors Bill Holmes, Kenda Bell and Michael J. Burt. Bill Holmes’ debut novel, One Love, peeked at #4 on the Essence Best Seller’s List in July 2007, followed by Kenda Bell’s, For Every Love There Is A Reason at #8 in August 2007. As publisher of Xpress Yourself Publishing (now affectionately known as XYP), she is helping to mold the literary careers of 35 talented authors, which includes two ESSENCE Best Sellers, award-winning authors, several award nominees, and a finalist for the 2008 NAACP Image Award nomination in the Best Debut Novel category. Annually, XYP publishes 10 to 20 titles.
We were lucky enough to sit down with the company’s founder, Jessica Tilles, for an interview. It is always interesting to learn what inspires creative people to tackle the world of publishing. In Jessica’s case, she began attending publishing workshops where she met three authors, Brenda L. Thomas, Collen Dixon and Jamillah Ellis. She credits this trio of gifted authors with helping motivate her to create Xpress Yourself Publishing.
Jessica also credits advice given to her by her parents with her success. Her parents were quick to lend the very sage advice, which was “learn from the mistakes of other.” Incorporating this advice, Jessica says that she keeps her “ear to the ground and her eyes wide open.” Jessica says that she is constantly studying what others in the publishing business are doing and saying. She keeps that input close to heart.
Any entrepreneur is going to face obstacles and the publishing business is, of course, no different. Like many entrepreneurs, Jessica’s main obstacle was financial. She wondered where she would get the money to print her own book. In a stroke a genius, Jessica opted for a fundraising campaign and one of her first targets was Joe Corbis Pizza. Joe Corbis Pizza is deeply involved in fundraising in the Maryland area. Before she knew it, Jessica had enlisted the help of her friends and family to sell pizzas to their friends and coworkers. By the end of her fundraising, she had raised over $5,000, $2,500 of which went to printing of the first 500 copies of her own book Anything Goes. The other $2,500 she had raised from the fundraising went to marketing and promotion.
No doubt Jessica has created a unique publishing company with Xpress Yourself Publishing. She prides herself in the fact that she is available to her authors 24/7 and responds to their emails and calls as soon as possible. While she never forgets that the publishing business is, at its core, a business, she feels that the family-like environment at Xpress Yourself Publishing really helps her publishing company stand out from the crowd.
So what does the future hold for XYP? Jessica says that 2009 is looking bright indeed and that there are many “irons in the fire.” She is excited about the number of great writers and fantastic works at XYP and expects great things for XYP and all of its writers soon.
The success story of Xpress Yourself Publishing is nothing short of inspiring. Jessica’s success shows the strength of determination and belief in a goal. Additionally, never underestimate the power of mentors. In Jessica’s case, she was able to receive guidance and advice from authors whose opinions she admired and respected.