Life of an Indie Publisher: Always on to the Next Project

by Janna Marlies Maron on April 15, 2014

Publishing is an odd venture. It’s both incredibly satisfying and completely insatiable. The moment that a project is done and ready to be released, sent out into the world, is so thrilling. All this energy of creating, reworking, editing, fine-tuning for weeks and months, and maybe years, has paid off and now there’s this amazing body of work to show for it. It feels like a major accomplishment most of the time. And yet, it’s finished so now what? I immediately want to start on the next project.

This year so far is a perfect example of that. It’s been almost three years since I started publishing Under the Gum Tree, a quarterly literary magazine, and I just released issue 11. I’m also about to release my first ebook, so in addition to magazine publisher, I’m now also a book publisher. Here it is, only April and I have already released four titles–three within four weeks, to be exact. Three titles were all in the works simultaneously.


Sip, Don’t Gulp is a Snippet that I wrote, and it was published on March 20. All of the content, written, audio and video, was collected at the end of last year and so the first part of this year I spent finalizing everything. Working with the videographer, Jesse, to edit and finalize the videos; working with the designer, Ben, on the cover and graphics; uploading everything to the writing platform and publishing; and working with Snippet on some marketing ideas, like this excerpt from Sip, Don’t Gulp on Medium. (By the way, Sip, Don’t Gulp is free for a limited time, so if you’re into wine you should check it out!)


cover_042014 WEBMeanwhile I had released an issue of Under the Gum Tree on January 1, and was also working on the next issue, which was published on April 1. We get content by blind submission year-round and two associate editors, Becca and Katie, read everything that comes in. Then three editors, Robin, Kate, and I, read everything that the associate editors promote to us and eight weeks before our deadline we have an editorial meeting to decide what to include in the issue. We deliver all copy-edited content to our designer, Aimee, four weeks before the publish date and order a print proof. When it arrives, Robin and I each proof it, marking it up with changes, and then give it to Aimee who makes the changes in the digital file. Aimee and I spend an afternoon together finalizing the magazine; I review every change and usually find a few more before it’s finished. Once it’s finished, I have a check list of tasks to complete before the magazine is published: updating the site with the new issue, updating links with the new issue in email auto-responders, sending the new issue out to subscribers, ordering the print version for subscribers and contributors. Once the magazine is finalized it takes me another three to five hours to officially publish. (By the way, the premiere issue of Under the Gum Tree is free when you sign up for our email newsletter.)

How To Manage Depression Cover Yellow WEB

Meanwhile I was also working on my ebook, How to Manage Depression Without Drugs, which I started in April last year. I had a complete draft of the manuscript by the end of 2013 and so I hired my friend Robin Martin, who is also the senior editor of Under the Gum Tree, to edit the ebook. We worked on revising and finalizing it in January and February. During those two months I did things and learned things I never thought I would: I learned about styles and advanced formatting in Microsoft Word, I hustled to get myself a couple of interviews and reviews, and I even designed the ebook’s cover as well as info graphics for each chapter. I used the month of March to work on some marketing, and I set up a virtual book tour for the beginning of April leading up to the ebook’s release date on April 18th. (By the way, I’ll be reading from the ebook at TrueStory on Thursday April 17, 6 p.m. at Shine.)

It’s still kinda hard for me to believe that all of these projects published within four weeks of each other. For so long it felt like I had been working and thinking and brainstorming and writing and editing and revising and pushing the repeat button on that play list for weeks before seeing any sort of result. Like any creative work, the finished product is just the tip of the iceberg–it’s the thing we show to the world, but the world never sees our belaboring that happens behind the scenes. And sometimes, like these three titles represent, we labor on more than one project simultaneously, juggling and balancing and time-managing, only to experience what seems like a magical moment of culmination.

Three titles in four weeks. These titles are out there, available to the world. They each represent hours of my creative energy spent and poured into electronic pages. I should rest. Take a break. Relax and reflect on the process, the journey, the accomplishment. Right?

Instead, I’m thinking about my next book.

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