Recently we asked our members, “What are the five most pressing problems facing you today?” As I started reading the more than 500 pages of responses, I turned page after page of varied comments. Two patterns soon became apparent: one for publishers who had been in business for less than five years and another for publishers who had been in business for more than 10. So fascinating!
The newer publishers were mostly concerned with:
This included getting a distributor and/or working more effectively with a wholesaler to control both payments and returns, as well as warehousing and fulfillment issues.
A myriad of challenges were noted from finding the money and the best targeted lists, to getting the best return on invested dollars and time, to making sure consumers know the book exists, which meant knowing how to get and use cost-effective publicity, including reviews, other media coverage, and author interviews.
Issues included obtaining money for print runs and finding and paying good freelance talent.
Comments touched on everything, including how to find and afford good help as well as how to avoid burnout while trying to hold a full-time job in another area and be publisher, author, warehouse manager, and bottle washer in the chosen second career of publishing.
The publishers who had been in business for a longer time seemed to be mostly concerned with:
- Managing cash flrder3C/B> (See pag!”¡3# if this is a concern of yours.) Issues included keeping a finger on the pulse of the market to find out how to tailor publishing programs, as well as finding capital to continue each year and trimming expenses without sacrificing quality.
Concerns were finding new authors and subjects with commercial potential, trying to guess what the reader would like in one to three years time, and acquiring those “evergreen” titles that go back to print forever.
This included new technology for inventory and software management, for printing, and for generating sales through Web sites. Responders asked about when to use it, when to ignore it, and how to get the best results.
Generally this involved how to squeeze percentages out of the ever-decreasing net on each title.
Issues identified were how and when to hire new people, finding qualified staff, salary ranges, working with challenging authors, separating the good from the “not-so-good” consultants, finding good agents to help develop and sell into new markets, and avoiding burnout.
Comments were made about sales and returns, in terms of control as well as continuing to get new product onto the shrinking bookstore shelf.
How to allocate the right amount of time to the right departments.
This is a very quick summary, and I hope to develop a grid in the future utilizing 100% of the responses (which are still trickling in). We’ll present this grid in the November or December issue of the Newsletter.
Some of the responses were humorous. One publisher, for instance, referred to himself as a juggler trying unsuccessfully to keep all balls in the air at the same time, and another stated that one of his most difficult problems was “increasing difficulty in lifting heavy boxes due to advancing age.” A lot of us can relate to that!
All the responses will undoubtedly be a main topic of discussion at the November Board of Directors meeting as we plan for the rest of the year. Since we received more than 1,500 from our eblast of 3,200, we consider them truly indicative of our entire membership. The comments are a big help in getting a real picture of what PMA members need and in attempting to respond to your challenges.
I want to thank each one of you who chose to participate in this quick survey.