Part 3: Interview with Jeff Gerke, Marcher Lord Press

This is the third installment of our interview with Jeff Gerke from Marcher Lord Press. Based on his experience as an editor and a writer, Jeff explains how publishers will have to change, and how writers can be successful in the changing market. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2 of this series be sure to check those out too.

GWP: The ground is shifting beneath us as publishers strive to remain competitive. What will publishers need to do more of, do better at, to be successful in this changing marketplace?

Jeff GerkeJG: I think that large CBA publishers ought to reinvent themselves while they still have the financial liquidity to do so. It’s better to make the change on your own terms than to be forced into changes you don’t like.

I think they should (regrettably) lay off all but about 8-10 employees. They should retool themselves as multiple MLPs, basically. They should pick the, say, three types of book they’re most known for, and concentrate on those. Hire or retain one editor for each of those lines or imprints. That editor becomes the publisher, if you will, of that line. He or she does the acquiring, editing, and project managing.

The company would keep one person for accounting and contracts management, one person to handle record-keeping and clerical work, maybe one person for sales to major retain chains, and then 2-4 people for marketing and publicity (mostly online and social network marketing). Finally, there should be one top person, the capital P publisher/CEO who knows everyone in the industry and can make the big deals with the big authors and agents, and who can make decisions for the imprints.

Everything else—cover design, typesetting, sales, printing, e-book conversion, etc.—can be handled by freelancers or in direct association with those companies. Everyone works from his or her own home, so there’s no need for a facility to rent or build. The company uses the POD model, so there’s no need for a warehouse or warehouse staff. Creating those imprints, each with a narrow focus, will clarify publishing decisions and maximize the brand the publisher already has.

It’s a model that’s not been tried at that scale, as far as I know, but I think it makes sense. It allows a publishing company to retain its identity and control of its destiny (well, unless God wills otherwise, of course), and it allows them to make the changes themselves. I like that outcome for these companies better than seeing them clinging to the old model and then having to simply go out of business. I’d rather have a smaller version of these companies people trust than to not have them at all.

GWP: What will authors need to do more of, do better at, to be successful?

JG: The refrain we’re hearing all over the industry now is that authors have to be marketers. They have to know everything about Twitter and Facebook and the rest. They have to do their own marketing because publishers aren’t able to.

That scares a lot of authors—novelists, especially. They just want to write. They don’t feel confident as marketers. Most of them are introverts, after all.

Then there’s the talk about self-publishing and how authors can bypass the publisher/bookstore blockade and get directly to the perfectly targeted reader. That’s a great opportunity for previously marginalized authors and genres. But it’s likewise intimidating to the wallflower novelist.

So the common wisdom is that authors have to be strident, tireless online marketers and brilliant entrepreneurs and self-publishers, handling all portions of the publishing process. It’s left a lot of authors quaking in their shoes.

But I see it as an opportunity for author services to rise up. These authors would gladly pay someone else to go be the Facebook/Twitter expert and advocate for their books. They’d gladly pay someone else to assemble the book and figure out how to sell it and to reach the target consumer.

This is the age of the freelance book specialist: the freelance editor, the freelance cover designer, the freelance e-book converter, the freelance online social media marketer. If you can do for authors what they need done, I think there will be a growing willingness among those authors to pay you to do it.

So if you’re an author…don’t stress out! Individuals and small companies will arise to do for you the things you’re being told you must do for yourself. You’ll be able to go back to just writing.

Thanks Jeff for being so candid and sharing your thoughts with us. Make sure you check out MLP – buy a book while you’re there 🙂

Do you agree with Jeff? Tell us what you think.






14 comments on “Part 3: Interview with Jeff Gerke, Marcher Lord Press

  1. Jeff, I love your vision of the industry’s future. And I agree most writers would gladly outsource marketing. Because the hard part is always matching the authors to the readers. Which is why I’m not sure self-publishing really does let authors “get directly to the perfectly targeted reader.” It still seems so random. And never mind that there are more books to read than hours to read them in…

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview series! Jeff, you ARE a Marcher Lord of POD publishing … a visionary on the vanguard of a paradigm shift. I’m so excited for your success. Very astute observations on the industry, and I daresay, a surreal prophet in that regard. You’re starting to see “nichedoms” popping up on the outskirts and hinterlands of traditional publishing. The shift is here.

    Yes, I still dream of garnering a half-inch of shelf space in the brick and mortar, BUT … there’s a vast expanse in the open space of the ether – one parsec of which I might call my “nichedom” someday.

    Thank you Jeff for sharing your vision with clarity and purpose. Kewl stuff & Nicely done!

    And “Girls With Pens” – KUDOS! to you for hosting this parley. Nicely shared!

  3. Thanks David for the insight. I just wrote a book and my publisher gave me a heads up on what they want of me even before the book goes to print. Facebook etc. is fairly new to me.
    I wouldn’t mind having someone do the legwork for me but in this day and age, how do you find someone that you can trust and have proven themselves. i’m not that comfortable yet with social networking.

    • Thanks for your comment, Regis. Lisa and I have been considering offering social media services to writers who need some help and guidance, but weren’t sure how many people would be interested. Perhaps we should give the idea serious consideration.

      If you’d like some resources on where to start with Facebook and Twitter, we also recently did a crash course for writers. You can find the first in our series on Twitter here and the first in our series on Facebook here. You can also find other information on social media and marketing in our “Marketing for Writers” category. Hope that helps.


  4. Jeff made these candid remarks about us “writer” in this part of his interview.

    1. Most of them are “introverts”, after all.
    2. But it’s likewise intimidating to the “wallflower” novelist.
    3. It’s left a lot of authors “quaking” in their shoes.
    4. That “scares” a lot of authors—novelists, especially.
    5. So if you’re an author…don’t “stress” out!
    6. . . . don’t “worry”, you’ll be able to go back to just writing.

    * Is it just me – or is he painting a rather dreadful picture of the typical writer?

    “I personally am not a worrisome, stressed out, fearful, introverted wallflower, quaking in my shoes   all the day long.”

    The Bottom Line:
    If I get published some day, I will gladly do what ever is necessary to market, promote and be an advocate for what I write and the choice will be mine (and mine alone) if I choose to hire an “author services” to do it for me.

  5. Most of the aspiring novelists I’ve met just want to write whether they’re introverted wallflowers or not – but there are many writers like Marcy and I (and you) who are willing to do the marketing involved with selling a book. But most places we go, we find ourselves in the minority. For most of the writers we’ve met, there’s a huge learning curve when it comes to social media and marketing. Glad there are some mavericks in the world willing to step up and lead the way into new territory.

  6. I would agree that there’s a learning curve in marketing and social networking, but it is learnable if you’re interested. My encouragement to writers is to find one thing they’re good at in marketing and do that extremely well. I happen to (weirdly) enjoy twitter and facebook and blogging, so I do that. But then again, I don’t fit the introvert profile either.

  7. NJ, that’s a great post. It’s so true that most of us don’t have the time or skillset for publicity. I already can’t keep up with Facebook and LinkedIn. I don’t know how I’ll add Twitter to the mix. Do you know how long it takes to edit a useful piece of information down to 140 characters? I think my biggest frustration is that publicity work just robs me of writing time, of which there’s already too little. There’s no joy in writing 2,000 words a week if they all go into blog posts and Facebook updates instead of my book.

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