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Which Hat Do I Wear?

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(Editor’s Note: The following outline comes from a Publishing
University 2000 workshop titled “Which Hat Do I Wear: Scheduling for the
Start-up Publisher.)

I. What Comes First?

 

A. At first, do most tasks yourself.

1. Save money.

2. Learn your business, your strengths, and what you like to do.

3. Learn which tasks are best done by others.

4. Decide when you can afford to farm out these tasks.

B. If you can’t afford anything else, hire a good editor.

1. I hire up to three editors per book at different stages.

2. I hire for the following types of editing:

a. Developmental

b. Line

c. Copy

d. Proofreading

C. Depending on your needs and strengths, consider hiring these
freelancers: editors, artists, photographers, graphic designers, cover
designers, fulfillment houses, and accountants.

D. To find professional freelance help:

1. List your company in as many places as you can so the freelancers
can find you. Examples:

a. PMA Web site

b. Books in Print

c. Literary Market Place

2. Use the PMA Newsletter.

3. Get references from publishing colleagues.

4. Join local and national publishing groups to network.

a. Freelancers join these groups too.

E. Some freelancers are a better fit with your company than others.

1. They become an ongoing part of your company, almost like employees
or partners.

2. I prefer to hire people who are passionate about nature and
science.

 

II. Changes I Made after Our First Books Came Out

 

A. I choose topics more carefully.

1. The topic of the book can make or break sales.

2. Some topics will sell better than others.

B. I learned the children’s market is even subdivided into smaller
markets.

1. Knowing the market is critical.

2. A marketing plan should become one of your first steps.

C. I found you can’t be all things to all people.

1. For example, I can’t write the best nature books for a national park
and also have books absolutely suitable for the school market.

2. It’s possible to try and span the slightly different markets, but be
the best at one niche first.

D. I learned that the cover sells the book.

1. This is a hard pill for an author to swallow.

2. Cover design and interior design are important steps.

E. I now involve editors early on in the process.

1. Editing can lead to rewriting and redesign.

 

III. Company Start-up Decisions

 

A. What kind of publisher are you going to be?

1. Come up with a concept or idea for your company.

2. Decide if you’re going to be a niche publisher and what niche that
will be.

3. Decide who your audience is (e.g., adults or children).

a. We do action-packed nature books for children which sell primarily
to natural areas like national parks and forests.

B. Be sure you can be passionate about your choices, as it is going to
be a lot of work.

C. Come up with a concept for your overall design or look.

1. Decide if you will have a series and a preliminary series
design.

D. Find unique ways to finance your company.

1. I did place specific books at first. This provided money for entire
print runs, which in turn financed our company.

2. We did not need to take out a loan from the bank for years.

 

IV. Individual Title Start-up Decisions

 

A. Choose your topic and title carefully, being sure they have buyer
appeal.

B. Start with a marketing plan.

1. Be sure you know who your audience is.

2. The book will be written for that audience and designed to appeal to
that market.

C. Involve editors in the process early on, as rewriting and design are
likely to change with developmental editing.

D. Involve artists and graphic designers as needed.

1. You may also change the design with their input.

 

Nan Field is a nature author and publisher (Dog-Eared Publications of
Middleton, Wisconsin). One of her children’s titles, “Leapfrogging Through
Wetlands,” was a 1999 Ben Franklin Award winner.

 

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor August, 2000, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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