Grandma Knows Best
Grandma Janet Mary Sinke has some story to tell. A grandmother of eight (with a ninth on the way) who is battling Parkinson’s Disease—a neurological condition affecting the motor system—she started her own independent publishing company, My Grandma and Me Publishers, in 2003. Despite having no publishing experience to draw upon, Sinke’s books have been recognized for their innovative marketing efforts. Two of her recent works—“Grandma’s Treasure Chest” and “Grandpa’s Fishin’ Friend”—were finalists for the PMA’s (The Independent Book Publishers Association) 2006 Ben Franklin Award for children’s picture book, with the latter title taking home the honor. In addition, she has sold more than 33,000 books in just over two years. Not bad for a self-described “rookie” living on a dirt road in St. Johns, Mich.
Your first title, “I Wanna Go to Grandma’s House,” garnered attention when it was awarded the Ben Franklin Award by the PMA for “Book of the Year for Excellence and Innovation in Marketing” (budgets under $10,000) in 2005. The book was also a finalist for “Best First Book” (Children’s/Young Adult). What’s the story behind publishing that first title?
Janet Mary Sinke: … I’m not sure why I got up that particular night. It was January 15, 2003. I remember it well. Call it the night of my epiphany. It was not unusual to wake—Parkinson’s had caused fragmented sleep many nights before. Normally I would lie in bed and wait to drift off again, but this night was different, and like all gifts that come from the spirit, it began with a simple idea. I would write about my new grandbaby. As I thought about the possibilities, I could feel the presence of two very special women, my grandmothers. I could see their faces, hear their patient voices and see their smiles … and for a brief time that night, I was with them, back at “Grandma’s House,” a place that I loved to go. And so, with those vivid memories so clear in my mind, I picked up the pen, and the words all came in rhyme. I did not think about publication until my daughters (both of whom are teachers) looked over the manuscript and commented how good they thought the story was. They insisted that I try to get it published, and so I sent it out to 54 different publishing companies. I was rejected 54 times.
Matt Steinmetz is the publisher and brand director of Publishing Executive.