by Terry Nathan
The Rewards of Reaching Out
In this column I address the topic of reaching out to others, and what that means to you. More than address the topic, I hope to encourage you to reach out to others to develop a professional network. It may just give your books and your company the competitive edge needed to make it in this crazy world of book publishing. According to R.R. Bowker, 411,000 books were published last year, and with those sorts of staggering numbers, every little bit helps.
This is not a new concept. As a matter of fact, almost 400 years ago Captain John Smith and a group of explorers invited a group of “Independent Americans” into their village. At first they thought this group was dangerous, and even feared them, but in the end the locals helped teach them to survive. Of course, there is much more to that story, but we are here to talk about publishing.
My dictionary defines networking as “the building up or maintaining of informal relationships, especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities.”
Networking takes many different forms, and it can be a very powerful business tool. You can network in many ways, the most obvious being through local, regional, or topical publishing groups. Originally these groups met in person, but in today’s technological age, you can network through online communities as well. When you develop a network, you have a place to turn whenever you are faced with a challenge, and you also have a way to hone your publishing skills.
A good place to start is the IBPA Web site, where you can search the list of Affiliate publishing groups located throughout the country. Once you start reaching out, you will be amazed at how quickly your professional network develops and how extensive it becomes.
If you prefer, you are welcome to call the office for details on how to get started.
Mentor, according to my dictionary, is “somebody, usually older and more experienced, who provides advice and support to, and watches over and fosters the progress of, a younger, less experienced person.”
The publishing industry is a giving industry. At one point, IBPA offered a mentoring program that matched experienced publishers with new ones. Unfortunately, the program did not work well, but it was not for lack of interest. The challenges in a mentoring relationship are chemistry and geography. These relationships need to develop naturally, and if you include yourself in a network of publishers, you will find that they do.
Most publishers, especially independent publishers, reach a point in their careers where they develop a strong desire to give back. Talk to other publishers; go to meetings, publishing conferences, or professional retreats. If you put yourself out there, I can almost guarantee a mentoring relationship will develop for you, as either mentor or mentee.
Alliance is defined as “an association of two or more groups, individuals, or nations who agree to cooperate with one another to achieve a common goal.”
Strategy is defined as “a carefully devised plan of action to achieve a goal.”
This kind of reaching out is a bit more challenging. You need to let down your guard, open your mind, and explore options you never thought possible. But while this is the trickiest way to reach out, it can also be the most valuable, the most rewarding, and the most surprising.
One of my favorite people ever, Rudy Shur, taught me a lot about strategic alliances. Rudy is a very successful publisher, and I have the utmost respect for him. I call him sometimes to let him know about challenging situations—a group is trying to take advantage of a relationship with us, or a new competitor has popped up. And almost always, he completely surprises me with an angle for addressing the challenge that never crossed my mind.
When considering your strategic alliances, think not only of complementary groups, but also competing groups. I know it sounds odd to contact your competitor and open a dialog on working together, but I guarantee there will be opportunities there. Maybe there are ways to cross-promote your products, share lists, or just brainstorm.
I am not suggesting you sell your business secrets. I am suggesting that you reach out and explore ideas. Your competitor is probably more like you than any other publisher in the industry, and if you manage this sort of alliance correctly, it could prove to be your most valuable. You may think I’m off my rocker, but what do you have to lose? I think one of the most famous expressions ever is, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
The thing about strategic alliances is that the options are endless, and the potential is explosive.
The End Result: Synergy
Synergy is defined as “the working together of two or more things, people, or organizations, especially when the result is greater than the sum of their individual effects or capabilities.”
The end result of reaching out is bound to have a synergistic effect on your business. You’re not going to hit a home run with any of these ideas, but you will slowly and steadily solidify your position as a viable publisher, and as a publisher others will turn to for your specific type of book.
As a parting note, I suggest one very simple thing: Be nice to other people. We all lead very busy lives, and at times our tolerance level and patience can go right out the door. That’s normal. But remember, people like nice people. If you are nice to others, and you reach out to others, you are going to be better for it. Whether that means more profitable or more fulfilled I don’t know, but either is a good thing.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I am very thankful to be a part of this wonderful publishing community.