Turning the page on self-publishing

October 6, 2014
Amy Dove
MBA alumna earns nod from tech sector with 2014 executive of the year award.

A book publisher may seem an unlikely choice for a technology award, but it is clear why Tammara Kennelly won the accolade.

The Royal Roads University MBA alumna is the 2014 VIATeC Technology Award Executive of the Year, a nod to her forward-thinking approach to a more traditional way of sharing information.

“We are not a technology company, but self-publishing is really relying on technology,” says Kennelly, president of FriesenPress. “We use technology to make the whole process easier for our authors. Instead of focusing on the technical bits, they can focus on the creative aspects and we handle the rest.”

The Victoria-based outfit has a staff of 45, which helps authors with everything from production to sales. FriesenPress publishes an average of 1,400 books a year with a busy schedule of 800 titles in production at any one time.

Self-publishing has come a long way from what was once viewed as a vanity press and Kennelly is quick to point out titles on Chapter’s bestseller’s lists and award-winning publications. Such success is being driven by talented authors who now have access to an ever-growing pool of technology-based tools.

“It’s just such an empowering process where the author keeps the rights to the book. All we are here to do is facilitate the production. It’s no longer in the hands of the traditional publisher to say what’s good and what’s not,” she says. “Put it out there and let the public decide.”

That’s where technology plays a large role. With websites such as Good Reads providing a robust selection of reviews it is easier than ever to find good quality self-published books, Kennelly says.

Back at FriesenPress, advances in technology have made it easy to format books, increasing the level of professional polish to the publication. From sharing proofs between author and editor, to meeting requirements for different e-books and hard copy printing, there are a lot of considerations. Printing technology itself has changed drastically allowing authors to publish with lower risks, Kennelly says.

“It used to be that you had to print a whole bunch of books, so you would end up with a garage of 1,000 books and you never knew how many you were going to sell. Now they use print-on-demand technology and they print them one at a time as they are ordered. That technology is so empowering.”

Helping authors achieve their dreams is a driving force for Kennelly, and an attitude that she extends to her staff as well. For her, it is the people behind the publications that matter most. In this regard, lessons from the Royal Roads’ classroom have played a significant role. With those strong business fundamentals and leadership skills to build operations around, Kennelly is just as attuned to the office culture, as she is the bottom line. With 400-per-cent growth in revenue in the first six months of this year, it’s time to dream big and plan.

“We need to decide who we are and what we want to be, and then move forward. It will be fun to have that ability to say let’s really grow now, let’s stretch.”