By SARAH CHAIN
Daily Record/Sunday News
Darby Jo Campbell’s knack for writing started out with poems, which she’d written since grade school. But it wasn’t until she started regularly reading to her first grandson, now nearly 4 years old, that she started itching to write a children’s story.
“Reading some of the books, I thought … ‘I can do this,’” the 61-year-old Windsor Township resident said.
Then Campbell found the perfect inspiration: her 13-year-old Bischon, Boomer.
“I was walking Boomer, and I said to him, ‘This isn’t a walk in the park, this is a sniff in the park,’” Campbell said.
The words came to her while they walked, Campbell writing the story in her head as she observed Boomer’s curiosity. “A Sniff in the Park: Boomer’s Nose Adventures” was published in a 1,000-book run in July.
But Campbell didn’t take her idea to a publisher — she started her own company. Relying on her four-plus decades of experience in publishing services, she created Darby Books. She applied for a sole proprietorship, paid for an ISBN number and website domain, and found a printer.
Her day job as the vice president of operations and sales at Progressive Information Technology in Manchester Township was part of her motivation to pave her own way.
“We don’t publish, but we serve publishers,” Campbell said of PTI. “I knew that, No. 1, publishers take control and it gets out of the author’s hands. No. 2, to put it through Amazon or iTunes, they take close to 30 percent.
“It was a combination of trying to keep control, and also not giving away all my margins.”
Campbell’s collaboration with graphic designer and illustrator AliceAnn Strausbaugh was also a connection she forged on her own.
“We actually attend church together,” Strausbaugh said.
The 50-year-old Jackson Township woman had done illustrations for two other children’s books written by York County authors, so when Campbell asked for her help, it was a no-brainer. Campbell provided her with copies of the poem and photos of Boomer and other dogs of the same breed.
“She basically said, ‘Do what you think,’” Strausbaugh said with a laugh.
In the end, Campbell was more than satisfied.
“The illustrations make the book, there’s no doubt about that,” she said.
As for starting her own company? Campbell is still in the learning process.
“I knew enough of what to do to get my business established,” Campbell said. “But what I’m learning in marketing is interesting. That’s something I have no experience in.”
Readers can order the book through her website, www.darbybooks.com, by sending in a personal check. She also recently launched a PayPal account through the website, and she’s in talks with a York County elementary school that might use “A Sniff in the Park” in its curriculum. She’d like to get the book in a few local bookstores, too.
“PayPal charges so much per month, and then a fee per transaction,” Campbell said, explaining her initial resistance against using the service. “That’s the downside of self-publishing — the things that publishers do for an author, you’re handling yourself.”
Still, she’s having fun with it, and she’s glad to have a legacy for her grandchildren, she said.
“They can look back and say, ‘Hey, Grandma did this. Nana did this,’” Campbell said.
If you go
What: Book signing
When: 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10
Where: Community Courier’s booth at the York Fair, West Manchester Township
Details: Campbell will sign copies of “A Sniff in the Park”
Meet Darby Jo Campbell
Lives in: Windsor Township
Family: Husband, Michael; children Aaron and Jennifer; grandsons Noah and Ben
Occupation: Vice president of operations and sales at Progressive Information Technologies
Hobbies: Poetry, reading, mentoring and building websites for non-profits, sewing
Books: “A Sniff in the Park”
Meet AliceAnn Strausbaugh
Lives in: Jackson Township
Family: Husband, Steve; son, Tucker
Occupation: Freelancing in graphic design, illustration
Hobbies: Jewelry making, fiber arts
Books: “The Giggle of the Snow”; “Hobby Horses, Silly Gooses and other Invited Guests” and “A Sniff in the Park”