Pearls from Publishing University
by Dane Batty
I am a new publisher who could be called a self-publisher, but I like to call myself a micro-publisher. It has better connotations. With my first book scheduled for release one month after Publishing University, I was excited to hear that I’d been awarded a scholarship to the event by IBPA and its Northwest Book Publishers Association affiliate.
I had already committed to publish using print-on-demand and having a Web-only presence because the traditional publishing path seemed expensive, labor intensive, and stale, and because I don’t ever do anything the normal way anyway. And I knew that, despite my MBA, I needed help with understanding the barriers in the book business and with marketing my book. Those needs drove my choices for classes.
Insights on E-books and More
In one session, Mark Coker of Smashwords (which distributes my e-book) explained why he thinks e-books will change the industry. Since e-books can be sold anywhere and everywhere on the Internet, everyone with a Web site can sell books. I got my first look at an e-book this year in both Kindle and Epub versions, and they are really cool. They won’t take the place of p-books for me, but they will have their place for sure.
In another session, Dave Marx of PassPorter Travel Press said that people need to see your product seven times before they will make a purchase. This little slice of wisdom seems consistent with experience in other industries. It made a lot of sense to me, as it reconfirmed that marketing doesn’t have immediate results, and only constant effort will make marketing worth your investment in it.
In a panel discussion featuring mainstream book reviewers, someone in the class asked whether the New York Times had reviewed Tinkers, the indie book that won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and with an embarrassed eye-roll the reviewer said, “No. We would like another chance at Tinkers. We missed that one.”
Another question from the audience was, What are reviewers’ pet peeves? One of the panelists stated quickly, “How much time do we have?” It was my turn to roll my eyes at that. The New York Times reviewer said that he didn’t enjoy it when self-publishers mask themselves as indies, and that he could easily tell by going to their Web sites—if a publisher has only one book, that’s a dead giveaway.
The main theme was that reviewers don’t want to work very hard. The more a publisher or publicist can tailor a submission to an individual reviewer and provide the detailed info that reviewer wants, the better the chances of getting reviewed.
E-books were a hot topic throughout this year’s Publishing University. At another session chaired by Mark Coker, the most interesting topic was the production of e-books for cell phones. E-book visionaries see 5 billion new possible book buyers—the 5 billion people with cell phones, a device many use to introduce themselves to books in electronic form.
Other tidbits from this session:
• E-books are great for short stories; small, free book teasers; and other works that
wouldn’t or couldn’t be traditionally published.
• With e-books there are no backlists; content can be easily updated.
• You can sell e-books from anywhere on the Web.
• Reviewers haven’t embraced e-books yet or are not yet set up to review them.
A panel of up-and-coming book-publishing CEOs had some good ideas for me as a new publisher, since most of the panelists came from other industries. I’ve seen that traditional patterns in one industry can be broken only by people with fresh ideas that come from outside it.
A few of the panelists recommended that small publishers like me go out and buy backlists. Given the recession, there are surely publishers hurting and willing to sell older titles. This is one way to go from self-publishing to independent press overnight.
Acting On It
Portland, OR, where I live, is home to the granddaddy of independent bookstores, Powell’s Books. The day job that I held for a decade, while I wrote my first book and started my publishing company, was one block away from Powell’s. Every lunch hour for nearly the past 10 years found me in the store using the free wi-fi, so it was very gratifying to find my book there after I got back from Publishing University.
There it was, on the shelves, just begging to be purchased. I immediately used some knowledge I had gathered from listening to a podcast I had bought from the 2009 Publishing University and repositioned my book on the shelf to gain more exposure.
I came away from the Publishing University experience with many more ideas, plus direction, confidence, contacts, and new friends. Thanks to all I learned, I feel I can take my new publishing business to the next level and start bringing on new authors in the near future.
Dane Batty is the owner of Nish Publishing Company. His first release is the self-published title Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber: The True Story of Leslie Ibsen Rogge, One of the FBI’s Most Elusive Criminals. To learn more, visit nishpublishing.com.