Spotlight on Cynthia Brian & BTSYA
“Be the Star You Are!® (BTSYA) was not originally created to donate to disaster relief,” explains IBPA member and author publisher Cynthia Brian. “It was founded as a literacy and positive media message charity to empower women, families, and youth by donating books and other resources to those who could not afford to buy them.”
Cynthia added disaster relief, though, when 9/11 occurred. “In 2001, my book, Be the Star You Are! 99 Gifts for Living, Loving, Laughing, and Learning to Make a Difference (Ten Speed Press) was scheduled for a late August debut. I was booked to appear on a major TV show on 9/11 in NYC but a couple of days before the show, the producers rescheduled me to 9/18. Like the rest of the population of America, I was horrified by the terrorist attacks and just as sickened knowing that I was supposed to be in NYC that day.
“Besides being farmers, the majority of my family members are first responders: Chiefs, captains, firefighters, paramedics, police, CSI, heavy equipment operators. My dad was Captain in our valley volunteer fire department for 45 years and as a kid, I was on numerous burns, mostly control fires. Since BTSYA doesn’t provide blood, water, food, or medical, I called FDNY Family Crisis and asked if books, games, CDs, DVDs, puzzles, and other resources would be helpful to offer hope and healing from the trauma for all ages. They responded ‘YES, PLEASE!’ My teen volunteers and I went into action. I reached out to every author who had been on my radio show, as well as publicists, producers, and publishers who had worked on my TV and radio shows. In addition, I had acting clients and volunteers across the country who stepped up to spearhead collections in their areas. It was truly a national outreach program, and BTSYA was one of the very first charities to offer non-emergency assistance to the victims and survivors. Over several months, we shipped over 50 pallets worth $57,000 (in this relief effort and in general, books make up around 85% of donations). The program was called Operation Ground Hero.”
Be the Star You Are! went on to ship $27,000 in resources to schools, libraries, groups, and shelters for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. “Then the disasters kept coming: fires, tornadoes, and floods,” says Cynthia. “Disaster areas started reaching out to us to help. When Super Storm Sandy hit, one of our volunteers in New Jersey lost her home and we collaborated to ship $30,000 in resources. My son, who is a Captain with Cal Fire was on a Southern Cal. fire for 57 days without relief. Disasters are traumatic for everyone.”
Be the Star You Are! is completely volunteer-based, including Cynthia, and it’s now a year-round program. Donations can be made to the nonprofit by clicking here. If any publisher or author would like to be included on a list to donate and ship books for Disaster Relief or other tax-deductible outreach programs, they can send an email to Cynthia@Star-Style.com. All donations will receive a tax receipt for the contribution from Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 literacy and positive media charity.
Four Questions with Be the Star You Are!’s Founder Cynthia Brian
IBPA: Can you share three tips for other independent publishers who are looking to set up nonprofits related to their books?
Cynthia Brian (CB):
Don’t set up a nonprofit. Find one that is already in existence. If I had known in 1999 what I know today about the challenges of running a charity, I would not have founded a nonprofit. The road is tough; the work is long and hard; funding is difficult; and the paperwork, emails, calls, and mail are unending. After 20 years of leading Be the Star You Are!®, I am very dedicated to the cause of increasing literacy and positive media messages. I am still holding the goal of finding a volunteer somewhere in the world to create a software program that will provide an avenue to register aid organizations that need books with publishers who want to donate books and shipping companies that will provide the shipping. BTSYA would orchestrate this circle and provide tax receipts to donating participants and make sure that “rescued” books were sent to people who could benefit.
IBPA: Can you list three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?
Giving a percentage of sales to a nonprofit improves your book sales. For all 8 of my published books, I donate a percentage to Be the Star You Are!® charity, and I put this information in each book. Marketing and radio interviews are key to success. Speaking engagements and radio interviews help with branding and making experts, which equals selling more books.
IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of Independent Book Publishers Association?
CB: In 1998, I interviewed Jan Nathan when IBPA was called Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) on my radio show, StarStyle®. The interview with Jan prompted me to find out more about PMA, and I also had contracts for books with two publishers at that time, so I thought that learning about publishing was a great idea. When I joined the organization, I found the IBPA Independent magazine the most valuable resource. Since I am an acting and media coach as well as a radio/TV producer, I started submitting articles that were published, mostly regarding marketing and publicity via radio and TV. I also decided to professionally publish my book that had been very popular with actors, The Business of Show Business, using the new tools that I learned through IBPA. The book is now in its 14th enhanced edition and won a Silver in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards. I also found that going to a few IBPA Publishing University conferences was terrific to meet fellow members and get to know some of the staff. And this past year I offered a Publishing University Online webinar, How to Think Like a Producer and Interview Like a Star (IBPA members can watch this webinar for free by clicking the link above and logging into their IBPA profile).
IBPA: Do you have any new books coming out soon?
CB: I published two books in 2018, Growing with the Goddess Gardener (Book 1 in the Garden Shorts Series)and book 3 in the Be the Star You Are!® trilogy, Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers Celebrating Gifts of Positive Voices in a Changing Digital World.
My next projects will focus on the life lessons I’ve learned with adopting abandoned and abused animals over my lifetime. These will be books for young children, including picture books. I am looking for a fabulous publishing partner!
IBPA: Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing your story with the IBPA community, and for all the disaster relief work you do through your nonprofit!