BERLIN — While Berlin has grown recently in terms of opportunity for artists and musicians, there haven’t been quite so many resources for writers. That changed this spring when Salt Water Media opened shop in town and the past few months have been more than encouraging, said owner Stephanie Fowler.
Located on Broad Street, Salt Water Media is a “one-stop shop” for writers interested in independent publishing, said Fowler. The facility has its own on-site printing press, the aptly named “Espresso Book Machine” which is able to produce a bound paperback book about every five minutes. There are only 40 Espresso presses in the country and just 80 worldwide. Fowler can also help prospective authors produce an e-book and can manage hardback manuscripts as well, though those are outsourced.
What sets Salt Water apart, she explained, is that it provides nearly every related service to independent publishing.
“If the writer needs cover design work, I have graphic designers, photographers, different people that I can tap to help create the cover art,” said Fowler. “If they need illustration, I have people that are available to me to help with that.”
Salt Water Media can also provide editing and copywriting and less conventional assistance with things like website design, social media networking and teaching a self-published author how to reach and engage their target audience.
“When you are an independent author, part of the big thing is that you have to become a brand,” said Fowler.
An independently published author herself, Fowler has personal experience trying to build that brand. In fact, one of the major motivations behind her decision to open Salt Water Media was to help other writers navigate the self-publishing process as it can be complicated and frustrating to enter into blindly.
It was an experience that Fowler went through only a few years ago when she independently published her book, Crossings, a collection of creative non-fiction stories set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Before deciding to publish the book herself, Fowler had sought to go the traditional route with an agent and a mainstream publisher. However, despite winning the Sophie Kerr Prize, the country’s largest undergraduate writing award, in college, Fowler was frustrated by publishers categorizing Crossings as “too regional” to pick up.
This led to Fowler’s decision to go forward on her own, an endeavor that was both rewarding and challenging, especially for a first-time author.
“I had a lot of control in the process and I went through the process and I realized that, wow, this is a really difficult process,” she said. “It can be very cumbersome, there aren’t a lot of answers, and it is just really dense. You kind of just step here and hope it works then step here and hope it works.”
With Salt Water, Fowler hopes to streamline that route for new authors by offering highly customized plans for how to independently publish as well as some guidance and advice on how to get the most out of the process.
So far everything seems to be going well in that direction, noted Fowler. Since this spring, several authors have already worked with Salt Water Media to design and create their books. And it’s not just Salt Water’s clients that have been welcoming, but the entire town, according to Fowler.
“As far as the local merchants and the business community go it has been like a neighborhood,” she said. “I like to joke that we’re the new kids on the block but nobody made us feel like we couldn’t sit at their table.”
Salt Water Media has fit in nicely with the arts and entertainment vibe in Berlin. The town holds several music festivals every year as well as monthly visual art events.
“Berlin is very big in arts and entertainment. They have the 2nd Friday [Art Stroll] going on and it seems to be very alive,” said Fowler. “There definitely seems to be a sense of community with the business people.”
Salt Water looks to make Berlin its home for many years ahead, with Fowler hoping that the company, and the others like it that are cropping up across the country, will help add legitimacy to the independent publishing industry. For many years, self-published authors have been marginalized, said Fowler, and often considered lacking in talent because they aren’t represented by major publishers.
But those publishers don’t find every single talented author and others simply want to pass the traditional route and retain control of their work through independent publishing, said Fowler.
“It would be my hope that in the next couple of years we start moving towards something in the middle between thinking that traditional publishing is the only way and that self-publishing is bad,” she said.
Fowler compared the situation to an unknown band signing with an independent record label. In those situations, the bands tend to be respected and viewed with a degree of legitimacy; something she believes will soon start to take place in the self-publishing industry.
For more information contact Salt Water Media at 443-513-4422 or firstname.lastname@example.org