by Terry Nathan
SEGUE to Better Times
Times are tough. There is no question about it. Our economy is in a tailspin, gas prices are soaring, housing prices are tumbling, and everyone is unsure as to when things will get better. It is unsettling, to say the least. Add the uncertainty of a presidential election, and, WOW, this is nerve-wracking. Industries across America, including the publishing industry, are feeling the stress. So what do we do to weather the storm? Take a deep breath, relax, and SEGUE through to the other side.
Drastic times call for simple measures. That’s right, I said simple measures. Overcomplicating things will do nothing but bog you down, so keep it simple. I am not saying don’t stand out from the rest. On the contrary, please do stand out from the rest, just do it in a way that is very obvious and very simple.
In today’s world, the options are endless. This is a good thing, because options mean opportunities. It is also a bad thing, because too many options often blind us. As a publisher, you need to keep your plan simple. Don’t worry that you may be missing something; you probably are, and that’s OK. You can always alter your plan later. The key is to create it, get it going, and keep it moving forward.
And when you’re working on your plan, remember that readers have the option to choose between your book and many others. Make it as simple as possible for them to pick up and purchase your book.
Elevate the quality of your books. In other words, do what you do now, only do it better.
Pay closer attention to all the details—writing, editing, design, packing, shipping, everything. Customers will always reward quality, and if you produce a quality product, those customers are sure to come back for more.
Generate interest in your books. Energize your marketing plan.
Selling books through traditional channels only (bookstores, libraries, and major online retailers) is not your best plan, especially during times like this. You need to extend your marketing reach in ways you might never have thought of before.
You know your book better than anyone, and you are the best person to come up with ideas about reaching its readers. I am confident you can do it. Almost every person I have met in this business has an unbelievably creative mind. Use it.
This is one my favorite parts of the publishing business. I know you will come up with creative and innovative ways to sell your book. You are welcome to call our office or write to us if you want to test some seemingly crazy ideas. Please use that creative mind; you’ll be happy you did.
And now for the best part: many times implementing these kinds of ideas is inexpensive or even free.
Understand your role. If publishing is your primary business, you are welcome to skip this section. But many of you think of publishing as a second business. And some—but I really hope not you—think of it as a hobby.
I talk with hundreds of new publishers each week, and one of the sentences that often comes out of my mouth is, “You have to treat publishing as a business.”
Tough economic times make this message even more important. We are all in this business of publishing because we have a message we want to share with the world. Writing is the creation of that message, and publishing is the delivery of that message.
Do you qualify as a publisher? If you don’t, and you find yourself tasked with delivering the message, you should really reconsider your role. Success requires committing to the business of publishing and delivering that message in practical and creative ways.
Evaluate your audience. In my opinion, the most important thing to do during tough economic times is go back to Marketing 101, which tells us to identify our audience, find out what they need, and deliver it.
Too many of us create a product and then try to shove it down the collective throats of everyone who will stand still for it. Being all things to all people usually means you are not being enough to any one of them.
Now, I realize that many of you already have books that need to be sold, and you may not have taken the time before you published to plan properly. Not to worry. There are options to move the stock you already have; you just need to be more creative and work a little harder. For future books, and even revisions to the current books, I hope you incorporate this marketing philosophy. I think you will find that your books are a lot easier to sell.
And if you ask your target audience about their needs and views, guess what? You will have customers in line for your next book before it even comes off the press.
Even during these tough economic times, the publishing industry remains relatively stable. As we are just weeks away from knowing who the next president will be, I am hopeful that our economy will stabilize soon and begin heading back in the right direction. In the meantime I will continue to SEGUE my way through these tough times, and I will also continue to read books. Lots of books.