The Andes: A Case Study In 2018, I published The Andes: The Complete History of Mountaineering in High South America. It is the most detailed and complete history of mountaineering in the range, with over […]
In July, I presented a talk at the Eastern Sierra Book Festival. The organizer asked me to give an update on trends in the publishing industry. I decided to spend the allotted 30 minutes discussing current market forces that impact not only independent authors and small publishers but also impact any business competing for an audience’s valuable time.
The first two market forces are Our Competition and Our Content. These synergistic forces are evolving faster than many large businesses can adapt.
The third force is Amazon.com. In particular, I will emphasize the importance of diversification away from Amazon while continuing to use their platform.
I do not recommend being both the author and sole editor on a writing project. However, sometimes it has to be done. Here are some basic tips that will help you edit your own writing (it’s not easy, but it’s possible).
1. Leave it.
- Once you are finished with the first draft, set down the pen or close document for at least a week and forget about it during this time. The longer you can leave it be, the better. This exericse will help to give you a fresh set of eyes when you go back to edit the writing.
Note: As of mid-2019 this post is 5 years old. Some aspects may be dated. However, the core lessons hold true for the new author looking to self-publish or an entrepreneur looking to start a small publishing business.
When a new publisher is looking at printing options, there is a temptation to print too many copies. The more books the publisher orders, the bigger the discount the printer will give. It is very easy to fall into the trap of asking for a quote for 1,000 copies and ordering 5,000. The discount of 25% to 50%, or even more, that the publisher would get by ordering 5,000 copies causes the publisher to forget everything discussed in the book pricing chapter.
I was guilty of this mistake, once. Then I vowed to never again forget one simple rule: print only what I have sold. Today it is easy for a publisher of any size to use offset printing, Print-on-Demand, or electronic formats to publish their books. These options allow the publisher to develop a game plan that will stick to this simple rule.
Creating a solid business requires good accounting and budgeting practices. If the publisher does not know where the money is spent, how much is spent, and why it is spent, then the publishing house is going to fall. The way to answer where, how, and why is through good accounting and budgeting.
Here are some accounting basics for publishers that I have learned over the years, including the importance of dedicated accounting software, cash flow, budgets, foreign currency sales, and royalties.
Creating quality control protocols is just as important for the book publisher as it is for the factory. At the end of the day, book publishers are producing a product that will be mass manufactured on an assembly line and, hopefully, consumed by many people. The implication here is that we need to take great care in producing the books we publish, from design and editing to marketing and distribution.
Here is how it is going to happen.
- The new publisher establishes an imprint with one or more books that will sell.
- A website is built for the imprint. This includes a book submissions page with information on how to submit book proposals.
- The initial books are successful and penetrate the market, the publisher gains new contacts in the industry, and the imprint becomes known.
- Authors and others learn of the imprint and the submissions roll in.
- An undisciplined, new publisher sees these submissions and gets excited. This enthusiasm leads to taking on projects that the publisher doesn’t know how to market.
- Alternatively, the disciplined publisher browses the submissions, finds no leads and thus rejects all submissions, and then continues with the original business plan.
Book pricing is difficult and a bit like cold fusion—many people claim to have discovered the key to success, but none can prove it. That being said, there are steps that publishers can take to eliminate some of the magical guesswork from the process of setting prices for books.
Publishers must always remember why prices exist. Prices exist to create profit. The publisher should strive to generate their desired profit from the primary audience. Understanding the primary audience and the price elasticity of the book within the primary audience is critical to designing success and achieving profit goals. What follows is the method that I use to decide prices for books.