A group of Bay Area authors is trying to fund a new publishing company, Golden Gate Books, through Kickstarter.com

It’s no secret that times are tough in the publishing industry.

Consumers are increasingly buying e-books, which bring in less revenue than traditional hardcover books. The popularity of the iPad means more words are fighting for readers’ attention. And publishers are increasingly turning to celebrity memoirs or books written by those with established track records. The days of a young unknown steadily building up a reputation are gone.

Now a group of Bay Area authors committed to children’s literature is starting a new publishing imprint, and is funding it in an unusual way: through Kickstarter.com. Led by Berkeley author Marissa Moss, who has published more than 60 books, including the popular Amelia’s Notebook series, Golden Gate Books “plans to fill the void left behind by the major New York publishers who no longer put out a broad range of quality picture books.”

“This will be a press that values strong writing and art above everything else, a company that cares about the magic that happens when a parent reads a picture book to a child,” reads the description on the Kickstarter page. “Golden Gate Books creates today the classics of tomorrow.”

Berkeley author Marissa Moss

Authors and illustrators will run the new imprint and will be “given more editorial freedom and control than in a typical New York house.” Golden Gate Books will only put out a few children’s books each year, but all will receive promotion and publicity – another thing traditional publishers do not always do.

Moss and her fellow co-founders, who include Joan LesterElisa KlevenElise Primavera, Dan Sans Souci, Stacey Schuett, and David Schwartz, have set a lofty fundraising goal: $50,000. That is much higher than the average Kickstarter project.

However, in just a little more than two weeks, backers have pledged around $27,000. The deadline to contribute is April 19.

The $50,000 will cover the advances paid to authors for four picture books, said Moss, as well as promoting the books.

Moss said independent presses are vital to exposing new voices to the world. While the Amelia’s Notebooks series is now a success, when she first tried to get it published the large publishing houses turned it down because it didn’t neatly fit into a category. (Was it a novel? A picture book?) It was eventually published by a smaller imprint, Triangle Press (which was eventually taken over by Random House). American Girl, the maker of the American Girl doll series, eventually started to publish the books. Now Simon & Schuster, publishes the Amelia series.

“It took a small, local publisher who didn’t know better to take a chance on Amelia,” said Moss.

Golden Gate Books hopes to do the same.

“Once upon a time, picture books were plentiful in the land, and whoever wanted to find a wonderful story to share with a child had only to walk into a bookstore and be overwhelmed with the wealth of choices,” reads the Kickstarter page.

“Then darkness came to the publishing world. Instead of many publishers, there were fewer and fewer large companies, each owned by a massive media corporation.  These mega publishers weren’t as interested in strong stories and fine illustration.  They were interested in books by celebrities and books that would sell merchandise.  Instead of taking risks on new voices or subjects, they focused on what had already sold well – one Harry Potter book led to a slew of imitators.  One Twilight book created a wake of supernatural novels.  Instead of looking for the great books of the future, they looked for books that were like great books of the past. Golden Gate Books plans to fill the void.”

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...