Reprinted from The Patriot Ledger, February 5, 2014
EAST BRIDGEWATER — If anyone knows the ins and outs of the publishing industry, it’s Lisa Akoury-Ross. The SDP Publishing founder has spent her life in the industry. She started working at her father’s Weymouth-based company, Modern Graphics Inc., when she was 12.
Modern Graphics specialized in the production of books in the medical, education, banking and trade industries, and it served top publishers such as Pearson Education and Houghton Mifflin.
The only time Akoury-Ross wasn’t helping with the family business was while she was pursuing a marketing degree at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
When Modern Graphics closed after 40 years, Akoury-Ross decided to go out on her own. She launched SDP Publishing in 2009 to help individual authors self-publish their work, providing one-on-one professional services.
The East Bridgewater-based virtual company works with both new and seasoned writers – from doctors and entrepreneurs to stay-at-home moms. Akoury-Ross says it offers a cost-effective one-on-one approach to publishing.
How did you acquire the knowledge to run an independent publishing and literary agency?
I thought, ‘How can I make (self-publishing) affordable for authors? How can I consult them on what to do?’ I decided to test the water and publish my own book first, a cookbook titled “New American Cuisine for Today’s Family.” I learned what to do and what not do, how sales channels worked, how to get on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, what book distributors to go through, how to pitch to bookstores, and what kind of marketing you really need.
How does the publishing process work in a virtual office?
The goal is to help authors put their best foot forward in a competitive marketplace. I have a team of about 25 freelancers, including editors, illustrators, book-cover designers and literary experts. I submit the author’s works to a certain editor based on genre. They help with character descriptions, artwork, and determine the target reader. We also offer marketing kits.
What kind of criteria do you use when hiring freelancers?
I post a very strict and specific criteria to recruiting websites. They usually have to have an English degree with a minimum of 15 years in the business. Then I interview them over the phone and send them some samples to edit. Some of my staff I’ve never even met!
How successful is self-publishing?
Self-publishing is very much on the rise. In 2010, only 290 titles were traditionally published in the U.S., while 800,000 were self-published. Since then, we’ve broken that 1 million mark. The trend is growing because it’s hard to get picked up by a traditional publisher if you’re not famous or don’t have a professional writing career.
What caliber of writers do you tend to work with?
I work with a lot of newbies. The stay-at-home mom who has that wonderful bedtime story but has no idea about the publishing process. The professionals who want to get their area of expertise on the marketplace but don’t have time, so we provide ghostwriter services. We also get a lot of physicians who write medical thrillers or forensic novels but need writing coaches to help develop characters and the plot.
What genre is the most difficult to publish?
Fiction is very competitive, just because so many fiction titles are out there. It’s all about building a platform for the author to become established as a talented writer. You can’t sell a brand-new ebook from an unknown author at $12.95. We start at $2.99 and bump it up to $4.95 if it builds traction and demand.
It’s important to be a cheerleader for our authors, but at same time, we’re not going to say, ‘This is a great American novel.’ We take pride in honesty.
Where do you see your business in the future?
I see us not only increasing our titles but being more high up on the distribution channel. I see us having more presence in stores like Barnes & Nobles and especially independent bookstores. I see us doing more publicity and offering more exposure for authors.
Mary Pavlu may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.