Publishing books in Blacksburg, VA

The Lit. Chick

By Heather Brush


A small publishing company exists in Blacksburg, VA, where it has been putting words in print for more than 25 years. Writer Michael Abraham is half of the publishing team there, his wife Jane answers some general questions about the business.

Q: What is the gist of Pocahontas Press?

Jane answered, “Pocahontas Press is a publishing business started over twenty-five years ago by Mary Holliman, primarily for local authors and readers. Mary died in August 2010 and Michael and I acquired it in late May of 2011.”

Their website states that they are ‘Chronicling the Appalachian Experience.’ Evidenced in their past book publishing, with titles such as “Appalachian Coal Mining Memories” by Mary B. La Lone and “The Radford letters: a Radford family history” by Minnie Adams Fitting, and current titles, their mission statement covers a good deal of local interest.

Q: What do you consider the ‘Appalachian Experience?’

Jane answered, “Living in or near Appalachia gives a person a unique viewpoint on life, living, world happenings, history, the future, growing up, parenting, learning, loving, the environment, our carbon footprints, music, eating, drinking, just to name a few. I have been here 20 years and feel a change in myself due to living in Appalachia. It might also be due to raising a child and being away from the city for that long.”

In “Abiding Appalachia: Where Mountain and Atom Meet” a book of poetry, by Marilou Awiakta, the author fuses her Cherokee/Appalachian heritage with the experience of growing up on the atomic frontier in Oak Ridge, TN. Awiakta explores humanity’s dilemma, and hope, through the legendary Awi Usdi, Little Deer, a Cherokee spirit-teacher of reverence. In Michael Abraham’s “The Spine of the Virginias” the book chips away at the West Virginia formation myth. Abraham offers a collection of contemporary vignettes of people and places on both sides of the border of Virginia and West Virginia, in revealing looks at the interaction between a landscape and its people.

Mary Holliman started Pocahontas Press with publishing her father’s autobiography, “A Teacher’s Story,” plus two manuals on healthy living for third-graders and their parents. During her quarter-century at the helm, she published a wide range of books from poetry to autobiography to history. The Abraham’s have been in control since May of 2011.

Q: It’s not been quite a year since you purchased Pocahontas; how is it going?

Jane responded, “It’s going great! We already have been working on several manuscripts and have a few on the back burner. This spring semester I have had an intern from Virginia Tech helping out twice a week. The pace is just how I want it to be.”

Q: Are you accepting submissions?

Yes, we are taking submissions in different forms – from ready-to-go to just ideas. People often need encouragement and mentoring to get through.”

Q: Do you offer editing services to authors?

Yes, we offer editing services to authors who are doing books, papers, theses, dissertations, pamphlets, or anything in written form.”

Q: How do your sales work? Are authors on a royalty basis?

We are a subsidy publishing house which means we charge for the work that we do for an author. So if we are editing or typesetting we charge by the hour. Then we take a small royalty on sales. We expect authors to be involved with sales by giving book readings, presentations, or contacting stores nearby.”

On their website, Abraham states that “(We) share Mary’s original vision that EVERYONE, no matter how ‘ordinary,’ has a story that needs to be told; we aim to help that story get told in a form that can be preserved for posterity.”

Q: How does your printing work? Print on demand?

Jane responded, “We do not do the printing ourselves, but contract that out. We help our authors make decisions regarding production runs. Untested authors with new books often choose print-on-demand because small quantities are feasible. For proven authors, traditional offset may be most appropriate. Our goal is to make our authors successful with their decisions.”

Q: What is your distribution like? Are you in local book stores? Amazon?

We are in several local stores. We are exploring relationships with Amazon, Ingram, and Barnes and Noble. We are also looking into doing e-books and audio-books.”

Jane continued, “We plan to get better at what we do. There is so much to learn, so many mailing lists to get on, organizations to join, conferences to attend. Our vision is to be a personal, local source of services, advice, and education that helps our customers achieve their publishing goals.”

For more information on reading about the “Appalachian Experience” or getting your own book published, see