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Pandemic Revolution: What Independent Publishers Should Consider Before Making Their Next Move

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by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Founding Principal, Leadership Solutions Inc —

Peter A. Arthur-Smith

Three factors independent publishers should consider before making their next move.

In the July/August 2020 issue of IBPA Independent, Maria Dismondy, founder of Cardinal Rule Press, shared the story of how she launched and distributed a new children’s book as the COVID-19 curtain came down in mid-March. Through her leadership, she put a multipronged distribution strategy into play, including virtual visits, online book tours, live book readings, and home schooling support.

She ramped up people collaboration through new partnerships, a virtual summit, and virtual readings. She also displayed leadership through an emergency vision, support for her author, courage to test new ideas, and wisdom by pursuing insightful options. Strategy, people, and leadership—these are three axiomatic, interdependent factors that orchestrate momentum in any successful growth venture.

Let’s take each in turn and examine what they mean for the independent publishing industry.

  1. Strategy—What is our best distribution option in light of dramatic marketplace changes?
  2. People—Are our talented people equipped to meet these significant market changes?
  3. Leadership—Do we continue with conventional management or take a more enlightened leadership approach to address these challenging industry developments?


What is our best distribution option in light of dramatic marketplace changes? Our pandemic world has injected fresh thinking into virtually every marketplace. It has inspired renewed options for independent publishers, too, as they think beyond survival. Such circumstances are ripe for a new leadership approach, different than traditional problem solving, so let’s introduce option solving (OS). OS is a much more innovative and positive technique in giving us strategic direction. It draws upon our immense intuitive and creative capabilities, as well as our rational analytical talents.

Take a look at the example [above]. Each independent publisher can introduce their own appropriate rational question. Left blank are their considerations, because every venture’s situation is likely to be different. These could be: 1) We are a relatively new startup; 2) We have limited funds and resources; 3) We have to build our brand; and 4) We see great potential in our niche market. Depending upon the size, longevity, resource base, etc., of your firm, these items could be quite different from the example. These considerations need clear thought to help challenge your thinking at the right moment. They are designed to test your intuitive mind, along with the suggested options A-F, when it comes to decision time. In fact, it works best when you involve a key team or diverse group—ideally six or seven, including yourself. Greater numbers than that and you will be well advised to utilize a professional facilitator.

This team or group should have a thorough discussion of their four proposed considerations as well as the six options (A-F) shown. If you envisage other options within this range, feel free to change the ones given. You will also note two bookends; these are designed to provide boundaries for your highly fertile and random, intuitive minds. Again, you can change these if you wish, although any replacements should be yin and yang least likely options.

At this point, your team or group should take a solid break. This allows every participant’s subconscious mind to mull over what they’ve seen. When they return, they can quickly review the OS picture and then note their A-F choice on a scrap of paper—to be given anonymously to the meeting leader/facilitator and recorded so participants can see the vote tally.

They will now have the benefit of “wisdom of the team/group,” as well as gain its buy-in. Whatever option transpires should be immediately converted—while it’s still fresh in people’s minds—into an action strategy, encompassing an itemized what, how, who, when, and where (to consult allies). (Note: The “who” usually involves participants working in pairs to explore the “how” issues.) That choice now becomes your venture’s primary focus, since the combined intuitive vote is most likely your optimum solution—no second guessing, as that will nullify the power of the judgment call. This doesn’t obviate taking up any of the other options once your primary choice is fully up and running.

All of this can be accomplished over two to three hours either though a physically distanced, in-person session or via a Zoom meeting—anonymous balloting can be done by text/private chat messages with the latter. It’s a powerful way to discern what’s best for your firm during the foreseeable future.


Are our talented people equipped to meet these significant market changes? Typically we would turn to our conventional management playbook to drive through any changes. Three out of six of the most common drivers include: make it a horserace with your competitors, offer incentives to mobilize your staff, and provide lofty goals for your people to chase. These are external pressure forces that can too easily build resistance versus encouragement over time. The ante has to keep being raised to hold people’s attention.

Alternatively, you can pursue an enlightened leadership mode to orchestrate the desired personal growth and team changes. They will embrace at least three of the top six innate motivators, such as a compelling purpose, an engaging team camaraderie, and pursuit of mastery with new desired competencies. These provide a magnetic force that builds a thirst for “want to” rather than “have to.”

You will also find your people more productive working in compatible pairs rather than lone operators wherever possible. Compatible means being complementary rather than too much like each other. When people are too much alike, it generally reduces creativity and may eventually induce boredom. By asking appropriate pairs to take on your change initiatives, it will encourage collaboration—plus, two heads are so often better than one. They can combine their workloads and will likely enhance overall output due to the intrinsic forces that are often released when people work together.


Conventional managers are inclined to fixate on systems and processes to keep today’s business functioning, whereas leaders focus on people and progress to meet tomorrow’s market demands. We obviously need a combination of the two, with a particular emphasis on leadership, if we’re going to meet our post-COVID-19 challenges. If we’re too management oriented, it biases us toward the status quo.

By taking an enlightened leadership stance—that includes the intent to envision, position, engage, collaborate, and orchestrate—we are more likely to inspire and integrate our venture into a vastly more desirable future. Conventional management is more preoccupied with the need to project, plan, organize, direct, and control. While we require both sets to facilitate our venture’s forward momentum, the more we can tilt toward leadership, the greater progress we will experience. We can use management activities as an offset to sustain a reasonable level of stability.

Your enlightened leadership will also draw others to collaborate in every way possible to help your organization succeed. Ultimately, you will become greater orchestrators rather than drivers of your independent publishing firm’s ongoing success. That, in turn, minimizes anxiety and stress within your team or company so your people feel free to make their greatest contribution.

As independent publishers, you face a challenging and exciting future as part of the pandemic revolution. Take this opportunity to re-envision tomorrow in terms of your strategy, people, and leadership for brighter days ahead. Given the right lead, your people will step up to your venture’s new situation through the torchlight that you will offer as a leader in illuminating the way forward.

Peter A. Arthur-Smith is the founding principal with Leadership Solutions Inc., based out of New York, and is also the author of Smart Decisions: Goodbye Problems, Hello Options. He has drafted a potential new publication, Incisive Leadership Breakthrough: Embrace the Five Phases of Enlightened Leadership, which offers a slew of fresh leadership ideas that will be made available to a publisher within the not too distant future. Feel free to share your views at peter@ileadershipsolutions.com. © 2020 Leadership Solutions Inc. –MALRC. All rights reserved.

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