Local Editor Helps Authors Self-Publish with Style
Written By: Cecile P. Haworth
The explosion of self-publishing provided a niche for Patricia Marshall, an experienced writer and editor. Her home-based Eugene business, Luminare Press, helps authors research the best and most affordable options for publishing in order to produce high quality and professionally designed books. Formulating her idea in late 2010, Patricia came to the Lane Small Business Development Center (Lane SBDC) for help.
Years ago, Patricia owned a children’s clothing manufacturing company, Bright Spot, and later became a member/owner of a local manufacturing company known for its bicycle trailers, Burley Design Cooperative. More recently, Patricia held senior positions in the magazine publication field. She had been hearing stories about self-publishing and knew some people who were doing it. Her initial idea was to create a publishing center, which would include a storefront for writers and readers.
Patricia explained, “After being involved in several businesses, this time, I wanted to approach it in a business-like way from the start. I felt like I needed all the help I could get. I had heard about the Lane SBDC, and knew several successful business owners who had gone through the Small Business Management (SBM) program.”
Patricia envisioned her new venture as a nonprofit. However, when she first met with Lane SBDC staff in January of 2011, she quickly determined nonprofit wasn’t the way to go. Patricia’s preliminary SBDC advising meetings helped to see a big picture analysis, of what a publishing business might look like. Early on, Patricia met with Dallas Merchant, a Lane SBDC advisor who helped her develop a business plan. In the same time period, she also took the Grassroots Marketing class and met with Bill Sarnoff, Lane SBDC marketing instructor and advisor.
With help from Lane SBDC advisors, Patricia began to focus on overall objectives, strategies and implementation of her business plan. Over the next several months, she worked on the start-up details of her business. Her business concept shifted from a retail outlet to a publishing service that would provide editorial, marketing, electronic book and author’s website services.
The shift was in-part due to some statistics, which Patricia read in 2010, that stuck with her as she developed her business model. She explains, “I read that 750,000 self-published books were produced, compared to 250,000 that were published through conventional publishing houses. The number of self-published was staggering, and has been growing every year. Self-publishing has become a viable avenue to seeing your book in print;but the exploding numbers make it a highly competitive field.”
According to Patricia, “There is a wide variety of services available with print-on-demand. However, there is a really steep learning curve to using the templates and doing it yourself. People are rushing to publish, but not doing it well.” Authors can simply download templates. Because of this, people mistake self-publishing as a do-it-yourself (DIY) craft. Those DIY author/publishers can’t compete with professionals in the publishing world.
Patricia explains, “Everyone thinks that they have a handle on publishing, even though they are amateurs in the field, there are professionals who do it better. Avid readers, who are not in the publishing business, are able to pick up a self-published book and know something is wrong … they may not know what, but they know something is.”
In partnering with do-it-yourself publishers, Patricia can help authors create the best possible self-published product. With a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College in Baltimore, and a certificate in Digital Journalism from Media Bistro in New York, combined with a thorough knowledge of the printing process, Patricia is a highly-qualified collaborator. “Because of my background in magazines, I am used to putting out products that look good on newsstands. I have an idea of what books should look like.”
In the fall of 2011, with her fledgling startup ready to run, Patricia signed up for the Small Business Management (SBM) program. The program offers a customized curriculum, over a three-year period, which helps entrepreneurs identify, prioritize and achieve their business goals. Designed specifically with a goal of increased business success, it provides a unique combination of education, coaching and networking.
In looking back at that first year of the SBM program, Patricia recalls that the networking was an unanticipated valuable perk. “I can trace many of my clients back to the class. I started the SBM program in September and in December I had my first client, recommended by an SBM classmate. That client went on to publish four books. He introduced me to an author in California, who became my client. She invited me to speak to her writing group in the bay area and that generated more clients. Nine or ten of the books I have published came from that SBM class.”
Patricia considers her decision to join the SBM program saying, “I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without the program.” Meeting every two weeks for the first nine months was difficult for Patricia. There was so much information covered in class and she was still working almost full time for her employer, while building her new business. However, she has high praise for Gary Smith, the program’s SBM certified instructor/coach, and for his ability to present key concepts, and then build and expand on them. What she didn’t have time to do in year one, she was excited about and motivated to do when she heard about it again, in year two.
“The most helpful thing about the SBM program is a shift in my attitude. I understand now that inevitably, I am going to make mistakes. But instead of letting them overwhelm me, I’ve learned not to get so hung up on what I’ve done wrong, and instead focus on how to improve as I move forward. I’ve learned that I can work in small increments to make things better, rather than worrying about overhauling the whole system. It is comforting to hear Gary talk about his mistakes—he’s so business savvy— if even he can mis-step sometimes, I shouldn’t beat myself up too much. Just because you have been doing something wrong, doesn’t mean you can’t change. You just keep working.”
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