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Board Member’s Memo: A Publisher’s Dream Should Include Making Money

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PUBLISHED MAY/JUNE 2019

by Robin Cutler, Director, IngramSpark —


Robin Cutler

Members of the publishing community deserve to make money from the stories we tell.

Humans all over the planet have a common trait that defines our species: we are storytellers.

It is a great thing for us as publishers to be in service of shaping and disseminating stories that through time and place continue to propel human growth and achievement. Every day, the human story is being edited, amended, and revised by authors and publishers regardless of geography, gender, age, and skin color. It’s heady stuff if you think about it-that you as a publisher are essential to our global collective and unfolding story that fulfills a basic human need.

In my role as Director of IngramSpark, I work with thousands of new authors and publishers every year who enter our profession. They generally start out rather modestly learning the ropes using their own content. From that first book, it doesn’t take too long before book two, three, and four are launched. The ones who are the most successful share these common traits:

  1. They start with a unique and well-written story that entertains and/or informs.
  2. They invest in professional help with writing, design, distribution, and marketing.
  3. They work hard to cultivate and grow a direct readership using social media.
  4. They earn revenue in alternative ways alongside selling book products.

When I ask authors about their goals in becoming a publisher, it is a rare individual who answers, “I want to make money,” as if there is something wrong with that. They typically say it’s something they’ve always wanted to do, or that someone has told them that this story should be published, or they are on some sort of mission. If you ask most people who want to start a business what their goals are, making money is always on the list. Why is it that the typical author/publisher is not in it for the money?

I just heard your laughter echoing in my ears because you are probably thinking: “What money? Everyone knows you don’t become a publisher to make money.” I hear your thinking. However, I know many author/publishers who are very entrepreneurial in their approach to creating a brand around themselves and their content and can support themselves comfortably through their publishing business. For them, the book product is part of an overall strategy to earn revenue that often includes paid speaking, becoming a subject expert, and repurposing and merchandising content in creative ways. And I applaud them for overturning the assumption that a publishing business can’t be profitable. It can and should be, first and foremost.

If your publishing business isn’t where you think it should be, review the previous bullet points and honestly assess if each book you’ve brought to market has been attended to from a profitability point of view. The good news is that books have a long life and can get a do-over. Rather than publish more unprofitable titles, look at your list and try something new with one or two titles that are truly unique in subject matter and for which there is a definable audience that you can wrap your arms around. Drive the audience back to your website or to your own social media and engage with them in meaningful, creative, and profitable ways.

You can earn a good living in this noble business of publishing. Be open in sharing your experiences of what works with your fellow IBPA members and others who are part of your publishing tribe. As a publisher, remember you are contributing to the human story, and for that alone, be proud and be prosperous.


Robin Cutler leads the development of IngramSpark as an Ingram Content Group service for indie authors and publishers. During her career, she has published over 1,000 books as assistant director at USC Press and CEO and founder of her own trade imprint, Summerhouse Press. Cutler most recently worked for Amazon/CreateSpace. She has broad knowledge of indie, academic, and trade publishing and is an expert in content creation, distribution, on-demand models, and author strategies. Follow her on Twitter @rcutlerspark and be sure to check out IngramSpark on Facebook and Twitter. Visit the website at ingramspark.com.


IBPA Member Benefit: IBPA members receive discounted rates on Lightning Source and IngramSpark. Both options provide title visibility within ipage® — Ingram Content Group’s B2B database utilized by approximately 39,000 domestic and international booksellers and librarians for comprehensive title information, stock availability, and ordering. Click here for more information.

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