by Orna Ross CEO of ALLI
There are three kinds of self-publishing author, distinguished by their reasons for self-publishing and their attitude to readers and the business of author-publishing. At ALLi, we give them different names, so we know who we are talking about, and how to best serve them. ALLi Director Orna Ross is here to tell us about the three different types of self-publishing author.
Three Kinds of Self-publishing Author
1) The Self-Publishers
Those we think of as “the self-publishers” are primarily interested in writing, and the content of the book. Though they may also enjoy the tasks associated with publishing, they have relatively little interest in the business side of things. They “publish” their work in the sense of making it public but they don’t give much time or thought to other aspects of publishing, like marketing, rights licensing or running an author-publishing business.
For these writers, the publication is primarily self-expression of self, hence the moniker. They may, or may not, produce well-crafted writing and may or may not produce well-crafted books — but they are less interested in reaching readers than in expressing something and putting it out there. Often, they are publishing a book for family, friends or their own community.
Many self-publishing writers go to great trouble to create a great book but even if the craft is not perfectly executed, this does not mean that the effort itself is not valid, or in some cases even noble. We all know that writing is magic, a powerful agent of healing and transformation. What is not so often acknowledged is that so too is the act of publication. For a writer, and a self-publisher, a less-than-perfect book is often the way to a better one and the snobbery that has traditionally been meted out to these writers’ efforts is ill-judged, as snobbery always is.
Self-publishing is giving voice to many previously unheard writers and themes and democratizing access to book publication. This should delight anyone who claims to care about writing and writers.
2) The Indie Authors
These are the writers who are working to become fulltime author-publishers. Some arrive at this stage from having produced a book and now wanting to take it further: find readers, earn money, set up in author business. Others know before they’ve formatted a word that this is their ambition.
Becoming an indie author is not just about learning and doing the day-to-day labor of editorial and design and social media and author business or finding the tools and techniques and platforms that allow them to publish their book(s) well. Success in this challenging field usually calls for personal growth and a change of mindset. Indie authors are the core of ALLi’s membership, “indie”, not because it allows writers to borrow some secondhand cool from the worlds of film and music but because an independent growth mindset is core to what we do: our most defining feature, our most essential tool.
At ALLi, we spot when a self-publisher goes indie. The defining difference is that they think beyond the first book. They start setting and meeting creative goals and intentions. Soon they are finishing more books and reaching more readers, learning from their mistakes, experiments and explorations, and taking the lessons into the next book.
It takes the writer on the creative ride of their life and most need a good deal of help and support at the start to understand what it is to be an indie author and meet the new ideas and challenges. If they come to self-publishing thinking it’s second-best to trade-publishing, they can go through a tough time at first, and are more likely to fall away, defeated not so much by the work needed, as the attitude they’ve brought to the work.
Those who stay the course begin to engage with, not resist, the work inherent in good publishing: working with suitable beta readers and editors; understanding where their books fit in the wider publishing ecosystem; learning what genres and format and categories fit their projects; discovering what they have to say; finding their voice.
If they come to self-publishing thinking it second-best to trade-publishing, they can go through a tough time at first, and are more likely to fall away, defeated not so much by the work needed, as the attitude they bring to the work. Those who stay the course begin to engage with, not resist, the work inherent in good publishing.
3. The Authorpreneurs
Authorpreneurs are succeeding in author business. They have adopted an independent, creative growth mindset and embrace the idea that marketing and business, as well as writing, can be creative. They have mastered three different sets of skills: writing good books, publishing them well, and running an author business, a significant creative and commercial achievement.
And they are consciously applying entrepreneurial skills and mindset and digital tools to making a sustainable and ongoing living as an author.
They know how to promote, market, sell and profit from their writing, not as a once-off, but through the dedicated application of one of ten possible business models.
1. Book Sales Only, One Outlet
2. Book Sales Only, Multiple Outlets & Formats
3. Book Sales Plus Speaking or Performance and Other Content
4. Book Sales Plus Teaching
5. Book Sales Plus Reader Membership
6. Book Sales Plus Influencer Income
7. Book Sales Plus Patronage
8. Book Sales Plus Affiliate Income
9. Book Sales Plus Rights Licensing
10. Combination Model
Authorpreneur is a made-up word (author + entrepreneur), a new word for a new kind of job. Some dislike it, thinking it faddy or forced, but it is gaining traction in the self-publishing sector because there is no other word that so well describes this kind of author. Authorpreneurs have always been there. Charles Dickens, for example, ran business model number three, incorporating lucrative performances of his books into a regular writing routine that generated millions of words. Dickens understood the value of his copyright, running lengthy legal battles over infringement of his work in the US. Today digital tools and tech are seeing entrepreneurial authors emerging in far greater number.
This has led us to transform what was previously our Professional Membership to Authorpreneur Membership. More on that next week.
OVER TO YOU
Which of the three kinds of self-publishing author are you? Do you think there are other types of self-publishing authors?
The following was provided by Constant Contact & The Hartford Insurance
Looking at Amazon’s behemoth status and involvement in myriad industries, it can be hard to imagine the company started as a small business operating out of a garage that exclusively sold books online. Since Jeff Bezos launched the company in 1994, he’s grown Amazon to hit a $1 trillion valuation.
Although it’s an impressive milestone, Amazon wasn’t the first company to reach a $1 trillion valuation; Apple was. Coincidentally, Apple also started in a garage. It then went from building computers to expanding its product line by offering phones and consumer services.
Both Amazon and Apple started as smaller businesses with a fraction of their current budgets. Through bootstrapping, managing cash flow and stretching their business’s budgets as far as they could go, Bezos and Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were able to grow their respective companies.
One of the most common reasons that startups fail is because of money issues, according to CBInsights. Avoid the pitfalls and learn how you can set up a home-based business to make your early budget work. There’s no guarantee you’ll become the next Amazon or Apple. But you can learn from their founders’ experiences and use them to help your small business succeed.
How You Can Start Your Own Business With No Money
You don’t need to rent office space to start your business. Even if you don’t have any money, you can start a home-based business. This gives you the opportunity to focus on getting your company off the ground, without having to spend money on rent and utilities. In fact, 33% of small businesses in 2017 started with less than $10,000.
To start your own home-based business:
- Know your local regulations. Make sure you understand what’s required to start your business. This includes the structure of your business, tax numbers and necessary licenses.
- Get insured. Your homeowners or renters insurance likely doesn’t have coverage to protect your home-based business. Get the necessary business insurance to protect your company from different liabilities.
- Designate a space in your home. Pick an area in your home that will serve as your business space. This will be important when it’s time to file your taxes because it can qualify you for a tax deduction.
- Setting up your space. Get a desk, computer and any other necessary equipment for your business space. This is going to be the area you operate your business, so make sure you have access to everything you need. And don’t forget about ergonomics.
Starting as a home-based business is an approach Apple took. Jobs and Wozniak sold their personal possessions and they used available resources to operate Apple. They gathered in Job’s parents’ garage and used that as their place of business. Without having to make monthly payments, Jobs and Wozniak could focus on building computers and trying to make money for their company.
They also used resources readily available to them. Jobs and Wozniak requested parts at their jobs and spent time in the garage putting together computers. They’d make money by selling their computers to hobby computer makers and eventually working with local shops to secure purchase orders. One of Apple’s first deals was to supply a local store with 50 computers. But Apple didn’t have the money or resources to fulfill the order. So, Jobs leveraged the order with another store to get the parts on a loan. This allowed Jobs and Wozniak to get the parts they needed and they were able to fulfill their order.
How can you use Apple’s experiences for your own small business? Jobs and Wozniak put their efforts into running their business. They only spent money when it was necessary. And when they didn’t have money or resources, they found creative ways to get around it. Although we don’t recommend that you use resources at your day job to support your small business, we believe bootstrapping is a must.
Bootstrapping is a term that refers to small business owners starting a business with little to no money. Any money that comes into the business is put back into it to continue its growth. Business owners practicing bootstrapping don’t spend money unless it’s absolutely necessary.
It’s a principle Bezos utilized in his early stages of entrepreneurship with Amazon. Bezos stretched his financial and physical resources as much as possible. He secured nearly $1 million in investments and his parents also contributed a portion of their life savings. Needing to spread that money as far as he could, Bezos had to get creative. When his staff needed desks to work, he built his own – out of doors. Nico Lovejoy, the fifth employee of Amazon, told CNBC that Bezos researched desk sales and found doors were significantly cheaper, “so he decided to buy a door and put some legs on it.”
You can make bootstrapping a critical part of running your business. It’s not just about being frugal. Bootstrapping can make you think of your business differently and force you to be resilient.
Stay away from debt. Bootstrapping is all about using your current resources and money in a way that gives your business the best opportunity to grow. Putting your business in debt defeats the purpose of bootstrapping.
Don’t mix personal and business funds. This can be a critical mistake for small business owners. Keeping your personal and business money separate from each other means you won’t misspend or have issues with taxes.
Look to the local community. Whether it’s for marketing or getting advice, go out into your community. If you need advice about your business, you may not have to hire a consultant. Your community may have free resources for small business owners, like SCORE or Small Business Development Centers.
Be a jack of all trades. If you’re bootstrapping, you’re going to need many skills. Being a well-rounded business owner means you can handle issues as they come up. You’ll have to learn how to handle tasks that are outside of your skillset. This is also great because when you can finally hire someone to take on these responsibilities, you’ll have some background knowledge on how to do the job and manage the employee.
Create a prototype. Creating a prototype or small-scale version of a product or service can let you test the waters. If there’s a lot of interest in your business, product or services, you know you have a place in the market.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Bezos is famous for detailing the ideas that failed as he and his team tried to expand Amazon. In a 2016 shareholder letter, Bezos described Amazon as “the best place in the world to fail.”
An important element to bootstrapping is understanding your financial resources. One of the best ways to know what your business’s finances look like is through a budget.
How Do You Set Up a Small Business Budget?
Creating a small business budget gives your business a good opportunity to grow. With a budget, you’ll know how much money you have on hand and the amount coming in and out of your business. Despite the benefits of creating a budget, 61% of small businesses didn’t have one in 2018.
If you don’t have a budget for your business yet, don’t panic. Take a look at these steps to help you get started with creating your first budget:
- Look at your revenue. Calculate how much money your business is bringing in. If you’re just starting your business, you can estimate how much money you think will come in. When you’re estimating, it’s better to be conservative than overly optimistic. If you pick too high of a number, you could put yourself in a tough financial position.
- Subtract monthly expenses from revenue. This will give you an idea of how much money you have leftover in a given month. If it’s a positive number, your business was profitable for the month. If it’s a negative number, that means your business lost money. But don’t be alarmed. Not every business has a profit each month.
- Count your monthly expenses. Even though you may not have regular monthly bills like rent and utilities, your business likely has some expenses. Total up your total expenses in a month. This includes any items your business pays for. Simply put, this is money going out of your business.
- Flexible expenses. These are expenses that relate to running your business and can change from time to time. For example, implementing your marketing plan can cost your business money. As can buying more office supplies for your business. If you find you had a profit one month, you can use the extra money to pay for these other expenses. During slower times of the year, your business may have to be more frugal.
- Build a rainy day fund. The unexpected can happen. And if it does, you want to be sure you can cover it. Set aside some money to build up your rainy-day fund, which is also called a contingency account. A good rule of thumb is to have at least six months worth of expenses saved.
Updating Your Small Business Budget
Businesses change and evolve constantly. As your business changes, you should revisit your budget to make sure it’s still accurate. The budget you created when you first started may not be applicable after being in business for a few years. You may have a lot more income or increased expenses. Updating your budget gives you an opportunity to see how your business’s finances are changing.
There’s not a simple answer of how often you should review and update your budget. It’s dependent on each small business. In the early stages, it might not be a bad idea to review your budget on a monthly basis. This can be especially helpful if you created your original budget before you had any income coming into your business.
Once your business is a bit more established, you can update your budget after every quarter. The goal is to make sure you know how much money is going in and out of your business. And you want to be able to prepare for slow seasons and large expenses or bills ahead of time.
Moving Your Business Out of Your Home
Some home-based business owners may come to a time when their company has grown enough that it can move out of their house. A variety of factors can result in you moving your business into its own location, such as:
- Space. If your home office is no longer big enough for you to continue running your business, it may be time to start looking for a new place.
- A bigger team. When you started your home-based business, you were probably the only employee. But as your business grew, you may have hired your first few employees.
- Customers. Depending on your business, you may have clients or customers visiting your home. This can get hectic and pose some liabilities.
If you’re looking for business space, there are a couple of things you want to keep in mind. From location and size to finding an agent, these factors can help you find the perfect space for your business to move into.
Think about the physical aspects. Think about the location of your new office space. Where do you want to be located? How big do you want the space to be? Some businesses may want to be located near a busy main road, while others are satisfied being in a quieter area.
Work with an agent. A commercial property agent can help you find the space you’re looking for. They’re like real estate agents but specialize in helping you find the building you need for your business.
Take tours. A potential new home for your business may look pretty in photos, but consider taking a tour. You may get a different opinion after seeing the space in person.
Go over the paperwork. As with your home, you’ll have paperwork to go over when you decide on a place to move your business into. Go over it carefully and negotiate any changes you may want.
Starting a home-based business is a big decision. Getting it to be as successful as Amazon or Apple isn’t a guarantee. But you can use their experiences to help you get your business up and running. Maintain a budget for your business. It’ll put your business in a good financial situation and you won’t be surprised by any large expenses. And practice the principle of bootstrapping. Stretch your resources as much as possible and spend money only when necessary to grow your business. Eventually, your small business may be successful enough to move out of your home.
The soon-to-launch platform aims to give booksellers an edge against the e-tail giant
By Judith Rosen | Publishers Weekly
At Winter Institute in Memphis in 2018, American Booksellers Association board member Christine Onorati of Word in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J., asked Andy Hunter for suggestions on improving IndieBound.org. The ABA’s consumer website has been unable to effectively convert customer traffic to sales. Hunter, who cofounded digital magazines Electric Literature and Literary Hub, as well as Catapult publishing house, responded five months later with Bookshop, a mobile-friendly website with one-click ordering à la Amazon that is designed to benefit indies.
Since then, the ABA, Morgan Entrekin of Grove Atlantic (Hunter’s partner at Literary Hub), and Will Hearst, chairman of the board of Hearst, have come on as Bookshop investors; Ingram (which will handle inventory and customer fulfillment) as a business partner, When the site launches in January, it will sell physical books and digital audio but not e-books. It will also discount, but not nearly as deeply as Amazon; it has no plans to go beyond 10%. Bookshop will also experiment with various thresholds for free shipping.
With the rapid timeline between development and launch, there has been little advance news about Bookshop, which was announced in the ABA’s Bookselling This Week e-newsletter in September, just before the opening of the first fall regional trade show. A Bookshop representative was at most of the shows to discuss the website, but it was too early for a demo. To ensure that it addresses booksellers’ needs, Bookshop’s seven-member board includes three booksellers: Hannah Oliver Depp of Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, D.C.; Kelly Estep of Carmichael’s in Louisville, Ky.; and Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla. The board will meet for the first time next month.
Hunter told PW that in building Bookshop, he wanted to solve three problems, beginning with the fact that few independent booksellers do meaningful business online. In addition, authors and publishers need an affiliate program whose sales support independent bookstores. Right now, Amazon offers the only viable affiliate program for book purchases. If authors and publishers want to support indies and link to IndieBound, they have to forego revenue. Bookshop plans to give affiliates a larger portion of sales than Amazon.
Hunter noted that affiliate sales account for 20% of the average digital magazine publisher’s revenue and are growing in importance (and he should know, as a digital magazine publisher himself).
Bookshop was designed to help bookstores financially in several ways. Ten percent of the list price of every book sold through the site goes into a pool that will be distributed every six months to ABA member stores that opt in as Bookshop partners. Those who use the platform to sell books through links on their own websites, newsletters, and on social media will earn 25% of the list price of each book sold in addition to their share of the revenue pool.
If a bookstore doesn’t have a website that sells books, Bookshop can give it a site. But, Hunter said, Bookshop has no intention of competing with IndieCommerce and building websites with features such as those that allow customers to order online and pick up in-store, which have driven sales for some indies.
Hunter also stressed that “we’re in it for the long haul, and there’s no venture capital behind Bookshop.” Bookshop is a B-Corp, with a mission to benefit the public good, and as he and his backers see it, “bookstores are a public good—they are central to the community around books, a gateway into reading for so many of us, the place where authors connect with readers, and essential advocates for books in their communities. Bookshop’s sole purpose is to support them.”
To allay concerns that Bookshop—like Goodreads, which was an indie favorite before it was bought by Amazon—could be sold to the e-tailer, Hunter said that the company’s corporate documents state that it will never sell Bookshop to Amazon or any top U.S. retailer.
What About IndieBound?
When IndieBound was introduced at BookExpo America in 2008, the country was in the midst of the Great Recession and independents were closing at an alarming rate. The website had an ambitious mandate: to help ABA bookstores compete with Amazon for online sales, promote books that independents can get behind, and encourage consumers to shop locally for books.
But the website’s cumbersome ordering process prevented it from generating meaningful sales. With the expense and time involved in keeping up with changes in online retail, IndieBound continued to lag. Following requests from the boards of both the New England and the New Atlantic booksellers associations to fix IndieBound’s shopping experience, which they said was decades behind other online retail sites, ABA tested “buy now” buttons during the 2015 holiday season with little success.
In August, PW ran a Soapbox column in which Paul Swydan, owner of the Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Mass., voiced a different complaint: that ABA should enhance its website with ratings and reviews like those on Amazon and Goodreads. “Yes, we have IndieBound, and I pepper authors with their IndieBound links on Twitter,” he wrote. “But authors want to have a place where they can see what people think of their books.”
Though Bookshop was created to address those concerns, IndieBound won’t be going away. Clearly, it won’t try to compete in terms of e-commerce. Instead, as ABA’s consumer website, it will continue introducing favorite indie books and authors with buy buttons that function as affiliate links to Bookshop, encouraging shopping local with lists of bookstores, and offering information on indie-wide promotions such as Independent Bookstore Day. As for Swydan’s concerns about ratings, Bookshop will link with Book Marks, which aggregates reviews. Initially, Hunter had wanted to use Goodreads, but Bookshop changed course as a result of bookseller feedback at NEIBA.
An earlier version listed Ingram as an investor. Instead it is a business partner. That version also implied that booksellers who sell books through links on their websites, newsletters, and social media would not participate in the revenue pool. However, they will participate in the pool as well as earn a percentage of the list price of the books that they sell.
A bachelor’s degree in creative writing online sharpens one’s writing abilities, and prepares them for employment in an array of industries, including publishing and advertising. The need for writers and editors is expected to grow moderately over the next decade, and nearly every business and organization needs writers in some capacity to produce copy, presentations, or other customer-facing deliverables.
What Will I Learn in an Online Writing Program?
Some creative writing bachelor’s degree online programs focus on literature, while others require students to create a portfolio of work upon graduation. Many also teach business and professional writing to prepare students for the job market. While curriculums and coursework varies, most students complete some iteration of the following courses.
Creative Writing: From fiction to poetry, creative writing lets students freely express themselves. This course explores the fundamentals of story structure and proper prose format, among other forms of writing.
Literature: Students examine the great literary works from around the world, in a variety of genres, and analyze themes, styles, and cultural significance.
Non-fiction Writing: Non-fiction writing conveys factual information, and includes magazine and newspaper stories. Likely topics include the elements of style and format, as well as how to find sources.
Rhetoric: A well-written essay persuades someone to view a topic from a different perspective. This course addresses rhetorical techniques, figures of speech, and composition.
Business and Professional Writing: Whether writing marketing materials or using search engine optimization techniques, students develop writing to help businesses achieve their goals in a variety of publications and formats.
by Jan Sikes
No one can dispute the fact that the publishing industry has changed drastically over the past twenty years. No longer is traditional publishing a writer’s only option. But, with that freedom comes an entirely new set of challenges.
A positive financial impact to the Texas economy is one of the most significant results of the Indie publishing boom. Yet, even with the growth in sales tax revenue from the new publishing generation, Texas authors and writers are all but ignored. That is one challenge that is being met head-on by an organization created specifically to help Texas authors.
May has been designated as Texas Authors & Writers month with a variety of programs created to promote the great works by these authors. This includes bookstore events and, most importantly, the Lone Star Festival on May 20, in Seguin, Texas.
The Lone Star Festival is exclusively for Texas authors, artists, and musicians. But, the celebration is for everyone who enjoys supporting these artisans. Lone Star Festival is part of the Book Festival Network, which is only one of the many programs that B Alan Bourgeois has created to help support not only Texas authors, but Indie authors around the world.
The Authors Marketing Guild, previously known as the Texas Association of Authors, was founded by Bourgeois with the sole purpose of educating and helping authors market their work. Marketing is undoubtedly the hardest part of writing books, and he has some entrepreneurial ideas and innovative ways of doing that.
Started in 2011, as The Texas Association of Authors, it quickly expanded to encompass a non-profit, DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Texas whose purpose is to help put books into the hands of adults and children who can’t afford to purchase them. Through DEAR Texas sponsorship and promotion, book festivals soon sprouted, providing authors with a place to connect one-on-one with readers and sell books.
Add to that yearly conferences, utilizing professionals in the marketing field, from whom authors can receive one-on-one mentoring and sharing of ideas, and a solid marketing service begins to emerge.
But the growth of this complex organization did not stop there. In 2014, Bourgeois created the first of its kind museum dedicated to preserving works by Texas authors from the past two-hundred-years to present time, for future generations to enjoy. The Texas Authors Institute of History is currently an on-line endeavor with plans to turn it into a physical museum where people of all ages can visit, learn about Texas authors, and have educational opportunities in the field of writing.
What’s the bottom line? All of this takes time, money, and people.
In 2018, there were over forty-five-thousand authors in the United States. Currently, in Texas, there are an estimated 10,080 authors, a number which grows on average by ten percent each year. And, while Texas is a big state, as with most other states in the U.S., authors receive little support.
Why is this? The Texas Commission on the Arts designates the largest portion of its budget to visual artists with only a tiny percentage going to authors.
Again, Authors Marketing Guild is fighting to change this. In 2016, a proclamation presented in the House of Representatives, declared the Texas Association of Authors to be a valuable organization working toward better education through reading, in Texas.
And even with all of that, nothing changed. Authors are still all but ignored by the government, even though they bring millions of dollars into the economy each year through their work.
As a self-published author, I know the struggle up-close and personal. As with most authors, I have to work a separate job to support my passion for writing and publishing books.
When Amazon opened its doors to authors for self-publishing, they also opened their pocketbooks to take the lion’s share of authors’ profits, as well as compromising the integrity of quality authors by allowing unedited works to be published. Indie authors are fighting that stigma every day, and even though progress has been made, the fact remains traditionally published authors receive more respect than Indies even though they produce high-quality works.
And while the choices for authors today are varied, none carry a silver bullet or guarantee of success.
With over a million new titles uploaded to Amazon each year, the market is saturated. Combine that with the fact the there are fewer readers than ever before, and you quickly get the picture. The idea of making a decent living writing books is pretty far-fetched. So why do authors do it?
True writers have a passion for telling stories. They have a burning desire to create, and a spine-tingling love affair with words.
It takes a group effort to create a change. It also has been said that before the change, comes great chaos. We are in publishing chaos. Now it’s time for a change, and through the efforts of organizations like Authors Marketing Guild, progress is being made. But it can’t be done by just one man. It takes a group of like-minded dedicated people.
If you are one of the estimated 10,080 authors in Texas who would like a hand-up when it comes to publishing and marketing your work, this organization could be your answer. Will Authors Marketing Guild sell your books for you? No! But it will give you the education, tools, and most up-to-date and relevant tips to help you publish and sell your work, and maneuver through the publishing maze.
For more visit https://authorsmarketingguild.com/
NOTE: Richard Charkin’s article below is mostly directed to the UK publishing world. However, we feel that there are many things that you as an indie author, small press, etc., should consider as we deal with COVID19 and the changes that are happening in the publishing world.
We are here to help you and to work as a team to give you as many opportunities as the big publishing companies offer their authors. But, it takes ALL of us to come together and think outside the box and crate programs that work for you.
Coronavirus Worklife: ‘Forget all the failed attempts at finding synergies with multimedia corporations,’ says Richard Charkin to publishing’s leadership. ‘Try again.’
Publishing Perspective Editor’s note: Richard Charkin refers to the Boris Johnson government’s efforts to segue from ‘Stay Home. Protect the National Health Service. Save Lives’ to the reopening slogan ‘Stay Alert. Control the Virus. Save Lives.’ Bookshops in the UK have been provisionally approved as non-essential retail allowed to open starting June 1. In the one hour since our last check at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the UK has added 317 new COVID-19 cases. Its death toll: 34,716.–Porter Anderson
By Richard Charkin – Published in Publishing Perspective May 18, 2020
‘Actively Pursue Relationships’
Last month I wrote about the importance and value of rights deals in the publishing ecosystem. Their currency will only mean more going forward, not least because of inexorable changes in social behavior, literacy levels, and the emergence of new technologies for entertaining and informing readers.
When the UK government last month announced the removal of VAT on ebooks and audiobooks in order to help readers though the pandemic while bookshops were closed, I and many others celebrated a victory for the pleasure and centricity of reading.
I was taken aback by the number of people complaining that this gesture was making life relatively harder for traditional booksellers because they already enjoyed no tax on books. The ability to turn good news into bad is dispiriting, to say the least.
It’s also dispiriting to read articles in the general media describing how the book trade might emerge from this crisis. Learned literati describe how their excellent local bookstore will reopen shortly with new social distancing measures in the shops, how literary festivals will once again flourish, how publishers will adapt by selling more books direct-to-consumer, how everything will be okay for the publishing world we love so much.
What these articles fail to mention is the pandemic’s economic impact on the total publishing world, most of which is invisible or of no interest to literary journalists.
How can libraries survive when governments worldwide will be cutting expenditure wherever they can? How can university students afford to buy textbooks? How can academic publishing ride the waves of reduced international collaboration, higher costs, and lower print runs? And how can any bookshop compensate for the loss of even a few percent of its customer base, having been accustomed by the pandemic to buying from online booksellers and one huge and comprehensive “everything store” in particular?
And will new readers experience their stories through many different media return to the printed book itself?
I’m an optimist. The book trade is resilient and has overcome many challenges. It will, I’m sure, pull through this time, too. But it’s surely going to require new thinking, new products, new distribution methods, and new courage.
‘Our Supply Chain Is Expensive, Cumbersome, Slow’
Here are a few ideas to start discussing or dismissing now.
• Embrace varied ways of helping authors communicate with their readers: Not just ebooks and audio streaming.
• Actively pursue relationships with new and old media businesses, reaching out beyond books and bookshops.
• Extend your relationships beyond selling rights to other publishers: Focus on clients who need high-quality content but cannot create it themselves.
• Either help the likes of Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney, etc. to find the best material—or compete with them
• Forget all the failed attempts at finding synergies with multimedia corporations: Try again.
• Persuade authors that the publisher is their best partner in exploring these other opportunities so that authors will grant publishers the necessary rights.
• Empower individual editors and publishers to take responsibility for the success and failure of their projects. Teamwork and input from other departments—such as sales and marketing—is important but should be advisory and not mandatory: That tends to distribute and dilute responsibility.
• A corollary: Cease gathering hordes of people to “help” make decisions. This is time-wasting and overhead-generating, and it rarely improves the end result.
• Shorten the supply chain between the manufacture and the purchase of printed general books. Envisage the current chain: Binding machine spits out a finished book complete with jacket; the book is transferred to goods-out at the plant; the distributor transfers it to a lorry, which drives to its goods-in point at the warehouse; it’s moved to the bulk store; from there to the forward store; from there to goods-out, then onto the wholesaler’s lorry to goods-in at the wholesaler, bulk store, forward store; then goods-out, lorry to bookseller, into the bookshop storeroom; from there to the shelf and the potential purchaser. Of course, some stages are sometimes bypassed. But there are sometimes even more stages based on chain bookstores’ investments in their own distribution facilities or when exporting and multiple documentation stages need to be added. Just imagine the costs of all. We need to rethink.
• Not only is our supply chain expensive, cumbersome, and slow, but it’s also environmentally unfriendly: Printing more books than you need intentionally to cover the inevitability of returned copies; printing more copies than you need to “improve” the margin; printing copies thousands of miles, by air or ship, away from the marketplace.
• As some positions in publishing become less important or less cost-effective, be creative in building new roles in the new economy to protect your business and to respect your workforce.
And finally in an echo of the British government’s attempt at a slogan for our time: Stay agile. Protect our industry. Help save the world’s most important cultural and educational asset, literature in all its forms.