Need a coffee table book? B-Metro’s publisher Joe O’Donnell is branching into the custom book biz

Joe O'Donnell is the publisher of B-Metro Magazine and head of Fergus Media.
Joe O’Donnell of Fergus Media. Photo supplied

Joe O’Donnell knows the power of a good coffee table book. The rich weave of stories and lush photographs. The slower pacing. The invitation to sit and savor for a while. For 10 years, he’s been at the helm of Fergus Media, which publishes B-Metro | The Magazine of Metro Birmingham Living and BhmBiz | Metro Birmingham Business.

Now, Fergus Media has tapped the coffee table magic to produce a gorgeous 200-page history called Woven Together: The Story of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Fergus Media’s new custom publishing venture

A snapshot of the inside cover of "Woven Together: the story of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians" by Fergus Media.
A snapshot from the inside cover of “Woven Together.” Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Moving into custom publishing is a natural extension of the work they’ve been doing with the magazines for years. Part of the work of a magazine is what you see when you sit and open the cover to see what’s inside. But just like an iceberg, there’s way more beneath the tip. In the magazine world, that means a whole universe of behind-the-scenes relationship-building.

Fergus Media’s new custom publishing venture came out of the desire to meet the needs of folks they’ve been getting to know all these years while publishing the magazines.

Why the Poarch Band of Creek Indians?

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians had a story they wanted to tell. Fergus Media had the talent and the know-how to help tell it. According to O’Donnell, they “wrote and photographed, designed and took care of the printing and publishing.” For the final design of the book, they worked with Mindvolt out of Athens, Alabama.

If you’re not familiar with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, here’s some of their story from their website:

[They’re] “descendants of a segment of the original Creek Nation, which once covered almost all of Alabama and Georgia. Unlike many eastern Indian tribes, the Poarch Creeks were not removed from their tribal lands and have lived together for almost 200 years in and around the reservation in Poarch, Alabama.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized Indian Tribe in the state of Alabama, operating as a sovereign nation with its own system of government and bylaws. The Tribe operates a variety of economic enterprises, which employ hundreds of area residents.”

Under the name Wind Creek, Poarch Creek Indian Gaming has three casinos in Alabama, including Atmore, Wetumpka, and Montgomery. They have two gaming resorts abroad, and are helping another Native American group manage a casino in Vegas. Their goal is to create wealth for their entire community (rather than having a few people get rich). They’s also huge philanthropists.

You won’t find “Woven Together” on bookstore shelves, though. The Band purchased the book as a gift to give to each one of its members so they will know their history.

Who is Joe O’Donnell?

Newspapers. A relic from a not-too-distant past.
Newspapers B&W” by Jon S. CC BY 2.0

Joe O’Donnell is a longtime media guy. He got his start as a student at St. Joseph University in his native Philadelphia. In 1982, he met and married his wife, who was from Marshall County (near Guntersville), and they moved to Alabama. Joe started working at the Huntsville News, which was Huntsville’s morning newspaper at that time. Later, he went on to do a couple of other publishing jobs with an agricultural trade publisher.

From 1987-2009, he worked at Birmingham Magazine, before founding Fergus Media in 2009. The name Fergus means “strong” in Gaelic, the language of his ancestors’ native Ireland. For the past 10 years, Fergus Media has been publishing magazines and are now expanding their reach.

B-Metro is the quintessential coffee table magazine. Now their publisher is expanding into custom coffee table books.
A B-Metro cover. Photo supplied

What are some of Joe O’Donnell’s Bham faves?

Regions Park is one of Joe O'Donnell's favorite places to go in Birmingham.
One of the best minor league ball parks in America, y’all. Photo from Facebook

What’s the vision for this new endeavor?

"The story of the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians  . . ." a new venture from Fergus Media.
“The story of the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians . . . ” Photo Sharron Swain for Bham Now

According to O’Donnell, they’re constantly talking with advertisers or potential advertisers and finding out what their needs are. The trick now is finding just the right companies or organizations that “might need something tailored for them to tell a portion of their story.” They’re particularly well-suited to create custom print books or magazines—something that will have lasting value in a world of fleeting digital content.

“We want to extend the value of print into a new realm, working with clients to get their stories out there in a way that has permanence and meaning.”

The goal is to create custom—not consumer—books, each with its own customized distribution plan. Their ideal client is “a corporation or organization that wants to tell their story in a permanent fashion with a lot of style and grace—something they can be extremely proud of.” Now they just need to find the right fit between clients, projects, needs and budgets. “It’s not a quick process, but it’s fun,” says O’Donnell.

If you have a company or organization that may be looking for something like this, contact Joe O’Donnell directly.

Growth is good for everyone, and it’s fun to watch the expansion of Fergus Media from its magazine roots into custom publishing. We’re looking forward to seeing what they produce next.

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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