The Business of Storytelling

Inkwater Press founder and president Jeremy Solomon and creative director Masha Shubin. Inkwater Press founder and president Jeremy Solomon and creative director Masha Shubin.

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A great story is irresistible. That is why stories lie at the heart of any robust branding campaign.   “We humans understand on a primal level that our stories define our past and ground our present. Stories remind us of who we are and who we want to be,” says Jeremy Solomon, founder and owner of Inkwater Press, a Portland-based publishing house. “A story well told can play a huge role in determining the course of an expanding business or a political campaign. That said, it is vital to be in control of your own story.”

Jeremy has been in the business of books and stories for decades, starting as a literary agent in New York and Chicago. He  founded First Books in 1988, a publisher of corporate relocation guides, then Solomon Exam Prep, a financial education publisher, before founding Inkwater in 2002 when revolutionary print-on-demand technology significantly reduced minimum print-run size.

Since then, almost 1,500 books bear the Inkwater Press brand.

Jeremy views the book industry’s move to print-on-demand as a positive for authors, readers, and  the environment.  “Not only has print-on-demand reduced the barriers to publishing, it also reduces the environmental damage caused by overprinting and having to destroy unsold books,” says Jeremy.

The rise of Netflix and other streaming services shows that the thirst for long-form narratives is alive and well, an arena in which books will continue to excel.  “Just ask J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin,” says Jeremy.
 
“What was the last book you read? Or the last book you loved?” Jeremy asks.
 
“If you can answer these questions, you understand the exceptional power of books to communicate stories, ideas, and information.”
 
At Inkwater, a team of book experts work alongside authors guiding clients through the process, providing a full range of publishing services, from editing and ghostwriting to book design, distribution, marketing and just plain listening and offering sound advice. “We focus on editorial and design quality and then offer guidance on printing, distribution, promotion and marketing based on the unique characteristics of each title,” Jeremy says.”
 
We want authors to publish a book that they will be proud of.”

JEK 0252Editor Alan Solan and Jeremy Solomon confer about a project.

From complicated design projects like the work Inkwater delivered for Chick Tech, a Portland-based nonprofit organization supporting women and girls in technology education and careers, to Becoming a 401(K) Millionaire created for Peter Fisher of Lake Oswego-based Human Investing, Inkwater can pivot to meet the demands of any publishing project.

“I was glad to have a team of experts to work with,” recalls Ken Koopman, the author of People Before Profit, the biography of Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill, and Unlikely Brotherhood, a true story about race relations between a former police officer and an attorney in Portland, OR. “The coordinated approach from start to finish worked so well for me that I returned a second time.

Inkwater’s connections to the broader world of printing, distribution, and tracking sales helped make my job so much easier.”

Inkwater’s longevity and reputation for TLC derives from its focus on the heart of a good book — editorial and design quality — as well as the ability to adapt to an ever-changing industry. From the rise of Amazon and the decline of traditional bookstores to the birth of e-books and the rise of audiobooks, the publishing world has undergone multiple revolutions. When e-books hit the scene, many thought traditional publishing was in its final days, but the allure and value of physical books persists.
 
Evolving trends and technologies related to development and writing, editing, design, book production, and marketing continue to transform the business.
 
Inkwater welcomes change. Creative Director Masha Shubin continually seeks to identify technological advances both within and outside the book industry to be utilized to Inkwater’s and Inkwater’s authors’ advantage.  For example, the company’s MagicBox book cover option offers Inkwater authors 3-D, 360-degree viewing of their book that can be embedded into any website. Other emerging technologies include the use of VR goggles to experience a book excerpt in a unique, interactive environment.

JEK 0455Sean Jones test-drives  virtual reality goggles.

“We see the continuous change as an invitation to push the limits of innovation,” Masha says. “But we also seek to use current technologies in new ways.” A recent Inkwater redesign of Dracula garnered widespread attention for its design features that amazed experienced printers and continues to lead sales for Inkwater’s Classics series.

Inkwater’s in-house tech team develops apps and other tech-enhanced options for businesses looking to add digital value to the book project. “Our love of old-fashioned books brings us all together,” Masha says, “but we embrace new technologies and ask, ‘Okay, how can this help businesses tell their story in an authentic, compelling way?’ How can we make their brand come alive and demand attention amid all the noise?”

JEK 0334JEK 0340Innovation is the name of the game at Inkwater.

The agile company can either handle the entire publishing process or provide à la carte services, such as ghostwriting, editing or marketing. Most authors and organizations opt to have their books published under Inkwater’s brand for the standard of quality that it represents in the industry. Inkwater also helps organizations publish under their own imprints.

“The people of Inkwater are positive and patient,” notes former OHSU leading physician John H. Fitchen, MD, author of Life through the Lens of a Doctor-Birder, tales about his two passions, medicine and birds. “Around a small table, and eye to eye, we brainstormed on how best to plan and execute the publication of my book.”

The marketing team offers customized strategic plans that align with the overall brand and goals of each title. “We explore trends when shaping customized strategies for reaching specific audiences,” says Jeremy, “whether through a national or regional multimedia advertising and marketing campaign, development and maintenance of social media platforms, booking for speaking engagements, outreach to professional networks, online and traditional media, bookstores, libraries, Instagram, Facebook and other social media, events planning,  old-fashioned direct mail and more.”

JEK 0397Marketing coordinator Katie Browne.

When members of the team or authors with whom they have worked describe the company’s publishing process, a common theme arises: care. Inkwater shows incredible care as it shapes each project into a source of pride for everyone involved.

Mark Chussil, who chose Inkwater Press to publish Nice Start: Questions Only You Can Answer to Create the Life Only You Can Live, describes the ultimate outcome best: “Working with Inkwater meant I could publish what I intended: a book wholly from my heart.”

In these days of emotion-driven sound bites that claim to hold your truth, it is critical that the story of who you are, where you have been, and where you are going, come directly from you — whether you are speaking as an individual, for a business or organization,” said Jeremy. “No one can tell the story of why what you do each day is so compelling, so important, the way you can. Inkwater enables authentic storytelling.”

 


Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.

 

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