BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times April 4-10, 2007
by Philip K. Jason
When Wade Keller moved to Marco Island in 1995, he immediately became active in the Naples Rotary Club and began writing a “Spotlight” column for the club’s bulletin. These were 500-word profiles of the Rotary Club’s members. Wade wrote about eighty of these over a two-year period. One of those members, Edward Elliott, thought Keller had done such a good job on his profile that he asked him for help in writing his memoir. This ghostwriting stint was the first step in Keller’s progress from retired CPA to owner of a busy vanity press with satisfied customers.
Keller was born in Greenville, Georgia where he worked in the family grocery store. Later, he served in Vietnam, earned degrees in accounting, and taught college. While building his CPA firm, he began writing a financial column in a local weekly. This experience infected Keller with the writing bug, so agreeing to do the Rotary Club’s “Spotlight” column was just a natural continuation of the pleasure he had received from his newspaper column.
When I asked Keller about his transition from CPA to memoir editor-ghostwriter, he said that for him it was no big deal. His right brain and left brain activities nourished one another. As a CPA, he had gathered data (cancelled checks, invoices), organized it, and reshaped it into financial statements. In helping his memoir-writing clients, he taped interviews, reviewed their notes, false starts, life documents and photographs, and organized these materials in a way that made for effective story-telling.
The original idea was simply to offer ghostwriting services, but soon the need to bring these projects into print led Keller to develop Keller Publishing. His business has grown by word of mouth, as one satisfied customer leads to another. After Edward Elliott’s Taking the Thread Back came out late in 1998, Keller was approached to work with Joseph Callahan on Shoot for the Pin, which came out the following year. Things went slowly through the first years of the new century – only four books in five years. But then, in 2005, the press took off and Keller Publishing now has eighteen books in print and six more in the pipeline.
In becoming a publisher, Keller defined his particular contribution as what it had been from the beginning – organizing, shaping, and ghostwriting. He has engaged an individual in New Hampshire to take care of book and cover design. He has contracted with Ingram to handle the distribution of Keller Publishing titles. These are not unusual outsourcing steps, but rather how most publishing firms work – large or small. Keller takes bids from various printers and decides which one will give him the quality he requires at the best price. A recent project, Charles Strasser’s From Refugee to OBE, led Keller to contract with a printer in Shanghai. The next step will be to find the right public relations firm.
Other Keller Publishing titles include Gail G. Thomson’s The Making of a Surgeon, William R. Rose’s Tell Me a Story, Grandpa, Lynn Bonasia’s poetry volume A Family Journey, and Edward G. Storie’s At the Helm. Memoirs by Joe Manoni and Glenn Williams include sections on wartime service. Maury Atkin’s Life’s Voyage tells, among other things, of Atkin’s work in helping to found the modern state of Israel and to gather support for its survival during its early years. There is, indeed, a great variety in the life experiences revealed in books that Wade Keller has nourished to and through publication.
Keller Publishing has brought out two titles by the Polish-born neurosurgeon Janusz Subczynski, detailing different periods in his life. The first, In the Shadow of Satan, tells of the author’s experiences living under Nazi and Communist regimes. The Colors of Life focuses mainly on his life after immigrating to the United States.
As more manuscripts come his way, Keller sees increasing quality, along with enhanced marketing prospects, for his new and future titles. New contracts, in some cases, have royalty arrangements. Yet he does not intend to become a trade publisher. Just as he is content to focus on ghostwriting and leave design and publicity to others, Keller is content to fill the need for what he calls a “boutique, for-a-fee” publisher. And he is content to specialize in memoirs. Keller’s credo is to focus on what he knows he can do well. Check up on this interesting enterprise by visiting kellerpublishing.com.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at firstname.lastname@example.org.