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From screen to page: Sarasota director establishes a publishing house

on Jul 14, 2022
Sarasota director : Jason Cannon

Jason Cannon finds a comparison to the theatre, where he earned his fortune for years, at just about every turn in an interview about his new Sarasota book publishing company.

Ten years ago, Cannon relocated to Sarasota to work as an associate artist at Florida Studio Theatre. While there, he directed several productions, occasionally performed as an actor—most notably during his award-winning run in "Dancing Lessons"—taught playwriting and acting classes, worked with apprentices, and more.

However, related incidents prompted him to switch his creative attention back to writing novels and assisting others in getting theirs published.

He participated in a Saturday writer's group called the Rabbit Room on Zoom during the epidemic when there weren't any plays for him to direct or improv for him to perform in.

We exchanged chapters and discussed our writing, according to Cannon. Sam Mossler, an actor and playwright from Sarasota who got active at FST as a young child, was one of the participants. Mossler returned to FST as an educator and performer after finishing college and working for a while, frequently collaborating with Cannon as a director.

At age 45, Mossler unexpectedly departed while working on the novelization of his original movie "Queen Palm.

"Cannon was concerned that the book might be released.

I was getting up at 5 or 6 a.m. to write before heading to work, even though I was still putting in 40 to 50 hours each week at FST. Cannon stated that Sam was working on his book. I thought, "Should I get a literary agency," but then your creative brother suddenly passes away, leading you to question, "What are you waiting for?"

With the rise of self-publishing, publishing on demand, Amazon, and other websites that make it much simpler for anybody to have a book published, the publishing industry has seen a significant upheaval in the previous two decades.

Sam Mossler, a well-known Florida Studio Theatre performer who oversaw educational initiatives, passed away in October 2020 at the age of 45. Based on his original script, Ibis Books released his book "Queen Palm."

"I took the deep dive into self publishing," Cannon claimed, "and the word I'd use is conflicted. The approach seems improper there.

Cannon made the decision to leave a profession he liked and take a chance, joining the millions of other people who have changed careers as a result of the pandemic.

"Once that decision was made, it was only a matter of logistics, timing, and gracefully and fairly handing off my projects at FST. I have nothing but gratitude for the ten years I spent working in theatre. It's been a privilege, he remarked.

Giving his resignation letter to Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins was, in his opinion, the most difficult step in that changeover process. "Deceiving someone you care about and admire so much was one of the worst experiences of my life. It was a way for me to distance myself from Jason, the theatre enthusiast.

Hopkins calls Cannon a "valued member" whose "contributions were considerable" of the theater's artistic staff. He continued by saying he was eager to work with him again as a freelance director.


Ibis Books was hastily founded by Cannon, with Mossler's work serving as the first publication.

On my laptop, I had 80% of Sam's book. I got in touch with his girlfriend Nicole Hancock and his family, telling them that I know how to handle this now that the time is so close. We created the "Queen Palm" finale after his brother Mickey claimed to have the whole screenplay.

He also released two of his own works, "The Understudy" and "Ghost Light," both of which are free, and he will release a third this summer. The author of "Dancing Lessons" and numerous other plays performed at FST, Mark St. Germain, "came out to me and said 'I've written a mystery. Would you consider publishing my book? The gates began to open. The title of St. Germain's novel is "The Mirror Man."

"This Above All," Cannon's most recent nonfiction book, is on leading an artistic life. In addition to publishing some of St. Germain's pieces, he will release "Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret" this summer, a one-act drama by Ret. Lt. Col. Scott Man, a former FST student of Cannon's.

Mann "is establishing a veteran performing arts centre and wants me to assist him with readings for veterans to help them adjust to civilian life, working with persons with mental health concerns to write monologues and plays to help them deal with their mental disorders, and other tasks." By quitting the theatre, I'm surely not giving up on narrative.

He even claimed that the new organisation, together with his expertise at FST, "opens me up to other projects that have specific goals, veterans, mental health issues, and my books." Other novels have been offered to me recently.

He is preparing a launch event for St. Germain's book at Bookstore1Sarasota. Georgia Court, the owner, "has been a fantastic mentor. You are astounded by people's generosity when you have the opportunity to accept it.

Despite the fact that he uses Ibis to publish his own works, he insisted that it is not a vanity label.

"I get the chance to publish other people because of it. Self-publishing lacks monitoring or verification, and some people abuse the system, he claimed. Amazon does not publish books. They don't really care if your book is any good; they just want you to get it out there. In terms of volume, Amazon operates. Authors are paid according to how many pages are read. Your book might be purchased but only has 10 pages to read. They also compensate you for those pages.

He is entering a sector where there are numerous small independent publishers acting as gatekeepers without attempting to become huge publishers like Simon & Schuster or Random House.

"These independent publishers, of which there are hundreds, establish respectability. Instead of an advance, the financial concept is profit sharing, according to Cannon. People are unaware of how little they are paid.  A comparison is made to nonprofit theatre performers.

According to him, his business "tells stories that are enjoyable, thrilling, and matter. I currently divide my time between three different genres of literature: a memoir, literary fiction (where Sam lives), and thriller/suspense/genre fiction. Amazing stories are told by people. So many people lack the knowledge necessary to share their story. Years ago, I was instructing a spoken memoir course where students could perform a dramatic rendition of their life story.

He will include a new pocket for plays, improv, acting, and directing books. "I have knowledge of and expertise in those areas. We'll see if other genres are added. I would need someone to check those out because I don't read romance novels. I'm not trying to act like I can edit a love story," he said.

He selects the books he will publish similarly to how a theatre director selects the plays to be performed.

"I know what I'm excellent at, and it feels like when we read plays for fresh play development," the speaker said. I majored in both English and theatre.

He looks for the same thing in novels submitted as he does in the plays he reads at FST: "Compelling characters. Does the plot advance? Over storyline, I choose stories that are character-driven. I also appreciate language that is entertaining. Even if it's the best book ever written, a dry tone will ruin it. Can you then sell it? Is it too specific? Does it have legs or is it something that just five people will read?

Even though it would be fantastic to find the next Stephen King or John Grisham, the author believes that his business will "always be a grassroots, word-of-mouth kind of business." It's a grind, just like the theatre industry. Over time, work it out and cultivate partnerships.

The practice of printing books as they are ordered has fundamentally altered the publishing industry and allowed for the expansion of independent publishers.

You are not required to transport a U-Haul load of stock. For events, I keep a few crates of books in my trunk, the man added. However, if a customer orders it online, it will be printed and delivered. My books have been sold in Australia and France. It would take more time and money for me to do that myself.

How does he evaluate his progress? "At the moment, it's a low bar for me. They are free to spike or not and sell endlessly. The requirement that I have a large opening worries me less. I got into this to share interesting stories, but I'm more passionate about fostering connections. There is a certain level of integrity present. We're good as long as I can pay my expenses and keep publicising what I stand for.

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