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Director’s Desk: Ignorance Is a Long Way from Bliss

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There’s a question that clicks into my brain so many times when I’m speaking with people on the phone each day. Whether I’m offering advice or hearing about problems for which I have no solutions, what I want to ask them is, What did you do to prepare to enter the profession of publishing, and how many years did you study? Followed by, What did you do to prepare to enter the career you previously chose, and how many years did you study for that?

Each day, we speak with teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, psychologists, and other professionals who are thinking about starting a new career in publishing, or about beginning to publish while they keep their day jobs, in the hope that one day they’ll be able to move from their current careers and become full-time publishers with lines of books and great backlist. And each day, I’m amazed to find out that many of them leap into publishing after simply reading an article or a book or just purchasing a computer and some software. Then, voilà, they think, “I’m a publisher!”

Can you imagine becoming a teacher or doctor this way? While a few people may be able to enter any career they wish with minimal study, most of us require more intensive preparation.

Misconceptions Can Be Minefields

Today, for example, I received an e-mail from a PMA member who was upset at Amazon.com and referred to this company as a distributor. After I explained that Amazon was a retailer, similar to B&N and Borders but without a storefront, this same person complained that Ingram and Baker & Taylor were not actively selling his title. He hadn’t grasped the fact that these companies are wholesalers or understood what functions wholesalers perform.

Misconceptions like these, about what particular vendors should be doing for publishers and what we should be doing as publishers, arise daily. When people are starting out as publishers, many believe that once they get Ingram and/or B&T to accept their titles, they can just sit back and wait for the orders to roll in. Or, if they are lucky enough to find a distributor to work with them, they assume that the distributor’s role is to sell the book to the public, and they fail to see or act on the fact that distributors sell to retail outlets.

Basically, a publisher’s job is just beginning once the printer delivers the book; yet so many think that when the books hit their doorsteps, they can complacently fold their hands in their laps and wait for the public to rush out and buy copies.

I hear my question echoed several times a day by the other people in our office. “What is your marketing plan for this book?” they have to ask, time after time. Believe it or not, each book needs its own marketing plan, and more so today than ever before, given the drastic changes in the world of book publishing. A marketing plan, in my opinion, should be written before you even send the book out for editing and design. Definitely before you send it to the printer.

Where to Learn What You Need to Know

Now that I’ve raised the question, I will also offer a possible solution. You’ve all probably received information on PMA’s 2004 Publishing University in the pages of this newsletter and/or directly by mail. I know of no other place where you can get a comprehensive education about this profession.

Over a three-day period, you will be given the opportunity to learn about all aspects of publishing–editorial, design, production, business planning, marketing and sales, and new technology. All the sessions at the University are taught by professionals who are currently working in the book publishing industry and who candidly share what they’ve learned–from both successes and disasters!

After this intense three-day program, you’ll probably need a week to decompress, but I guarantee that, to use a former participant’s comment, “The PMA University is an undergraduate, M.A., and Ph.D. publishing program all rolled into one. I wish I had come before I published my first book, but it allowed me to develop a publishing program rather than a publishing pot-shot!”

PMA’s Publishing University is the answer to many of your most pressing publishing questions. Sign up by using the reservation form included in this newsletter, or go online at www.pma-online and sign up immediately!

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