When Adam Wahlberg launched his one-man publishing house, Think Piece Publishing, three years ago, he did so without the expectation of Simon & Schuster riches.
That could soon change.
Julie Barton's memoir, Dog Medicine, is Think Piece's fourth literary offering. The story, about how a canine's love helps emancipate his owner from the tumult of her own mind, has been snagging stellar reviews across the land. The book is already on its third printing, although its official release happened but a month ago.
"Just in its pre-sales, Julie has already sold more than the other four [books] put together," Wahlberg says. "After we had 2,500 copies [sold], I'm like holy shit! The book is finding its audience."
Soon, 10,000 copies of Dog Medicine will be in print. It's scored as high as the top 200 memoirs worldwide. Not too shabby for a one-man publisher and a first-time author. Wahlberg might even make some money this time.
"Julie has been a lifesaver for me," he says. "It's allowing me to keep going a little longer. ... I always knew these topics weren't going to be best-sellers, but I did this because I wanted to get into advocacy. For me, it's about people overcoming struggle. It's the self-help genre and through my weirdo positive energy, I've admired these folks who shared their stories and I wanted to be a part of it."
The game changer began with an email in 2014. Wahlberg's buddy from years gone by, Lisa Grantham, made a surprise appearance. Grantham knew Wahlberg was in the publishing biz. She had a friend with a memoir that she thought would make for a good fit.
Would Wahlberg mind if her friend reached out to him?
A week later, he received an email from Julie Barton. She had a draft of a book about her life with depression and the dog that saved her.
"It's a helluva of a story," says Wahlberg. "I call it 'Girl, Interrupted' with a dog that doesn't even show up until halfway into the story. … At first even before I read it, I thought it might be a little too cute, but 10 pages in, the first 20 pages in, she's like suicidal and in real trouble. And it reads like this is really happening to this woman although it happened in 1997. Fifty pages in I knew it was something special."
Barton and Wahlberg have marketed the memoir mainly through social media, word-of-mouth, favorable reviews, and the occasional fellow author. Foreign translations requests have come in from as far away as Korea. Movie rights? It's a possibility.
With every demand for another printing, Wahlberg fronts the cash. He dips into his savings. It's stressful publishing a book in demand with a ceiling that feels unfathomable.
"It seems like it has this potential," he says. "It could sell a million copies, but I don't know how the fuck I could make that happen. It requires a machinery I don't have. But advocacy has always been the tone and it's getting big and kind of fun and I have no idea how it might go to the next level. People freak the fuck out about the book."
Meanwhile, Wahlberg is pulling it all together, his rock star author's byline ascending to new heights one review, one Facebook share at a time.