From Artist to Author to Publisher: Merrimack Media’s Jenny Hudson

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Jenny Hudson has been a visual artist her whole life. She taught art at both the high school and college level, and she’s worked as a graphic designer and web designer for most of her career. But several years ago, she found a new outlet for her creativity: writing fiction. Hudson would get up at 6 in the morning, write for a few hours, and then get to work on her day job laying out websites. After enough of these early morning writing sessions, she had completed a novel.

Hudson was surprised to learn that finishing her book wasn’t the hard part. An outsider to the publishing industry, she struggled to get a foot in the door and found that literary agents often preferred to work with authors who had already been published. So, she says, she took matters into her own hands.

“Being a graphic designer, I thought, ‘Okay, this is a skill I would like to learn,'” she says. “So I figured out how to paginate a book, and I researched and published a novel through CreateSpace.”

Sounds great, right? Local designer steps outside of her comfort zone, writes a book and publishes it herself, garnering acclaim from friends, family and critics alike. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Hudson. “The feedback was pretty bad!” she recalls, laughing. (She’s being hard on herself; more accurately, she says she didn’t know what she didn’t know and would do a lot of things differently if she was to re-publish her debut.) Already halfway into her second novel and not ready to give up just yet, she didn’t let herself get disheartened—instead, she continued researching and learning how to successfully self-publish books. Eventually, other independent authors started coming to her for help putting out their own works.

And so, almost five years ago, Hudson founded Merrimack Media, a full-service publishing company that now offers everything from the nuts-and-bolts work of editing and designing eye-catching jacket art to long-term strategies like developing a social media following and creating a successful marketing plan. Today, she’s published over 50 books, many of them by local authors, and she now has a catalogue of titles and a few sales reps on her payroll.

Hudson doesn’t claim to have the publishing industry down to a science just yet. “Every book is a snag,” she jokes. “Every book has its own issues.” She’s had production problems, distribution difficulty and almost every other complication that could plague a small business owner. But more than just a snag, every book is also a learning experience. She’s corrected the problems that plagued her business during the early days, and she’s learning how to more effectively market her authors. Merrimack Media has a YouTube show called the Author Connection where Hudson interviews area writers, and beginning July 14 she’ll be speaking with authors on a bimonthly show for CCTV. You’ll also be able to catch up with her writers at the SoWa Market this summer.

“We’ve got lots going on, and lots of enthusiasm,” Hudson says. “The cool thing is that a lot of authors that I deal with are people who are maybe just retired or they’re in a transition, and they look at this as a new life.”