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A WRITER’S PERSPECTIVE: ELLEN CAMPBELL ON PUBLISHING

The backbone of the book industry is the people that make books possible—writers. Without their words, pages would be blank, shelves empty, and the book industry obsolete. 

Author Ellen Campbell, a retired psychotherapist, has been writing for twenty years professionally but saw herself as a writer for most of her life. Campbell’s love for writing began from her love of reading, and her start in publishing came after both national and personal tragedy, 9/11 and her parent’s death shortly after. For Campbell, it was a wake-up call to follow her dreams of writing because life is unpredictable and Campbell believes that it is best to seize the moment. 

“I’m someone who’s a life-long reader”

-Ellen Campbell on reading

Since then, Campbell has published four books with two independent publishers. Her first book, Contents Under Pressure, was published by Broadkill River Press and her other three books, Gold Seams, Known By Heart, and Frida’s Song, published by Apprentice House, a publishing house that is run out of Loyola University Maryland, completely by students. Contents Under Pressure and Known By Heart are two anthologies of short stories with her other titles categorized as literary fiction novels. Lyrical and focused on humanity, Campbell’s writing is highly influenced by local Maryland culture, her work as a psychotherapist, and the beauty in the mundane.

The World Of Publishing

 In Campbell’s experience, independent houses are very open to quality work and emphasize diverse writing. In addition, the independent experience was ideal for Campbell, who was not interested in large-scale, commercial writing; “{independent houses} are often open to submissions who are coming to writing later in life”, Campbell says. However, Campbell’s work has touched many readers as her books are sold at large retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

Publishing, for Campbell, has been hands-on. She got to reread the edited versions, give input, attend design meetings, and promote her book. Marketing, according to Campbell, is really where the author gets to contribute the most in the publishing process as the author must use their network and social media presence to sell books. It is notable that independent publishing houses rely on the author more during the process. At Apprentice House, specifically, Campbell, and other authors,  have been able to work on every step of the publishing process.

Authors as Teachers

This reliance on the author is partially due to the fact that Apprentice House is a publishing house run entirely by students at Loyola University Maryland as part of the communications curricula. Campbell is encouraged by the number of students interested in publishing. She also reflects that the students teach her equally as much about books and she enjoys answering their questions about her work. 

“It’s a mutual learning process between students and author”

-Ellen Campbell on publishing with students

Students feel the same, as many are aspiring writers or want to further their work in the publishing industry. One Apprentice House student, Erin Hurley, ’23, states that “this class has definitely taught me what it’s like working with professional authors.” Hurley wants to continue working in the publishing field post-graduation, which is rewarding to Campbell, who has acted as a mentor to many young writers and book considers. Her goal is to keep the book industry alive and thriving, and passing her legacy to students like Hurley is a step in that process. 

Books Save People

The independent book industry is essential to Campbell as she believes that independent publishers keep books alive. With technology expanding constantly and attention spans getting shorter and shorter, many people believe that print is dead. Campbell disagrees. She believes that books keep people grounded and are there whenever people need stories to escape. She believes that there is something precious about the book industry, especially in the current times; people need stories more than ever. The industry keeps books accessible and available for all, which is a gift in unprecedented times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Campbell is active in the book community and has advocated for books to connect with others over the past two years. 

“I’ve spoken to so many book clubs via zoom, people really needed books to step back and reflect,” Campbell says. 

***Author’s note: This was originally written as a final project for my multimedia storytelling class. It has been republished here with permission and you can view the original publication here: https://bookindustrypostcovid.myportfolio.com

Elena Johnston is the Co-Campus Correspondent and Editor In Chief of Her Campus LUM. She is a Sophomore and a Global studies and Communications double major with a concentration in Public Relations/Advertising. Elena is currently the Albrecht Fellow Intern for public affairs and programming at the World Trade Center Insitute. She previously interned this summer with the Frederick Maryland Chamber of Commerce for Communications and was also chosen as a University Innovation Fellow, an international fellowship for leadership and development. Outside of academics, Elena is involved with theater on campus and is passionate about photography, writing, design, and activism.
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