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Lessons I’ve Learned

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Why is the PMA-L Listserv indispensable? I’ll let you see for yourself through this month’s column.I asked the following question a few weeks ago on the listserv: “What three lessons have you learned in your book publishing career that would have saved you both time and money if you had known them in advance?”We received so many wonderful replies that it’s hard to recap them here, but read on and you may find one or more thoughts that will help you along the way.

From Joseph Allison, Jordan Publishing:

Run a marathon, not a sprint. The timelines in publishing are very long. So budget your resources for the long haul. The world won’t even know you’re in the race until you’ve completed several laps.

From Ana Maria Gallo, Ana-Libri Press:

Make a business plan and a very detailed schedule. Use them to motivate your efforts and reward your accomplishments. Know that it’s there to benefit you, and if it needs changing, do it!If you truly want to become a professional, whether it’s your second job on evenings and weekends or a second career, take the time to rank in order of importance a list of what you want and its cost . . . Be penny-wise but don’t undervalue your own time.Ask for help. Not only do people love to share, but if you are a small operation, it keeps you in touch with your peers. And if you frequent this list or newsgroups, you have a virtual water cooler on what is new, interesting, and important.

From Bonnie Marlewski-Probert, K&B Products:

The books that I think will sell like hotcakes usually bomb, and the ones that I think are ridiculous sell and sell and sell. In other words, the lesson is that I should not publish books that I like to read, I should publish books that my customer would like to read.

From Jan Yager, Ph.D., Hannacroix Creek Books:

Believe in your product and your authors and make sure everyone involved with your company knows that it will take lots of personal effort to make a book successful.Define for yourself what constitutes “success” for you and your books. Keep remembering that definition. If you define success only in terms of the number of sales, you may be disappointed if you are not on the bestseller list.Pick and choose the people you associate with (and do business with) in this industry as carefully and as wisely as you pick your best friends. It is pivotal to take the time to build a network of caring people with integrity that sincerely want you and your company to succeed (and to whom you also offer your support and knowledge) to help you through the tough times and to celebrate the triumphs!

From Scott Bilker, Press One Publishing:

Failure is not an option. Put that statement on your desk and read it each day.Make sure you always target the library market. Most of my big premium sales can be traced back to someone taking the book out at the library.

From Catherine D. Ker, Freewheeling Press:

If you’re an extremely small independent publisher hoping not to lose money following your dream, it really helps if your book fits into a well-defined niche where there is a demand that no one else is filling. (Editor’s Note: Cathy is a publisher of bicycle touring guides about a very scenic, well-known area.)

From Jim Cox, Midwest Review of Books:

Successful publishing requires a form of life-long learning. Set aside 15-30 minutes a day to read literature on publishing and marketing.The creation of a business plan for marketing a book is a key factor in the selection process of which manuscripts/authors you should publish. Don’t wait until your books are back from the printer to craft your marketing plan. Planning for promoting, distributing, and just plain selling your books should begin at the very starting point of the publishing process and continue until the last book in the last edition is turned into cash.

From Sylvia Bambola, Heritage Publishing House:

Think long term. It may take two or more books before you click.Be generous (but not stupid) with promotionals and books, and “when in doubt, send it out.”Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.

From Sharon E. Buck, River Press:

Don’t confuse activity with producing results. Too many people fail to realize that just because you are busy you may not be producing results. Make your time count. Constantly asking yourself, “Is this moving me closer to my goals?” will help to keep you focused on producing the results you want.

From Linda Grobman, The New Social Worker Magazine:

Find experts to review your manuscript before you publish your book. Make sure they are experts who will honestly evaluate your book. Tell them to be brutally honest, and then listen to them.

From Aron Trauring, Maxima New Media:

Always study and learn from the successes and failures of others.Listen to everybody. Decide for yourself.

From Lorilyn Bailey, Author/Publisher:

Don’t ever think that your first effort at designing a book cover is any good-no matter how artistic you are-especially if you’ve never before designed one. Hire a professional book designer the first time, but be sure to review samples, review work, and compare rates.

From Dominique Raccah, Sourcebooks:

A great book sells! It really pays to put in all of the effort and energy to create a wonderful book, because consumers can really tell and appreciate the difference.Get and keep a consumer perspective on your books. Your loving the cover, title, topic, etc., is less important than how the public will respond.Test every book and author in terms of publicity and promotions. Put your time and money behind the books and authors that are showing they have the potential to go the distance.

From Robert Goodman, Silvercat:

This is a business. Treat it that way. You can’t just say, “I’ve got nothing else to do, so I might as well write or publish a book.” If you aren’t going to be as serious about this as you would be about a real job, question whether you want to begin in the first place. Be as ready for your failures as you are for your successes.

From Cynthia of Thriving on Thrift:

It always takes more money and time. REPEAT: It always takes more MONEY and TIME.

From Rod Colvin, Addicus Books:

Hire a professional copy editor for every book. Make sure he/she knows what real copyediting is. A degree in English won’t cut it.Hire a professional proofreader for every book.Train authors early on to communicate with you by e-mail or fax.

From Jim Donovan, Handbook to a Happier Life:

If you think the world at large is your market, you’re in big trouble.

Learn who your buyers are . . . and go after them.

Learn the five magic words: Could You Please Help Me?

Turn to this list first with your questions!

There were many, many more useful ideas from this thread. If you are not currently a member of the PMA-L Listserv, I suggest visit our website (http://www.pma-online.org) to get all of the commands for this great, informative list filled with people sharing their successes and concerns daily!





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