by Carlene Sippola
Lessons Learned from Noah’s Ark
Recently I came across several sets of pointers on how to lead a more productive, happier life that are based on metaphors from the Noah’s Ark story. As I read them, I immediately saw how these lessons could be applied to my publishing company. On the theory that you may find them useful in yours, I’ve adapted them for our industry.
Plan Ahead: It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built the Ark
No matter how small you are, create a business plan and write marketing plans for each project. These plans will serve as guides to your publishing journey. Creating a business or marketing plan will force you to think about what-ifs.
What if your first book takes off like a rocket, and you need to reprint in a month? Would you have the capital to do it? What if 90 percent of your first print run is still sitting in your garage after six months? How will you continue to invest in new projects? What if the downturn in the economy shrinks your sales by 30 percent? Can you recover?
Good plans keep you on the right track and help you handle the unexpected.
Remember, We Are All in the Same Boat
Learn from each other. Join your regional publishing association and attend the meetings. Network with other publishers in your area. Attend IBPA’s annual Publishing University. One of the interesting things about independent publishing is that most of us started out the same way. We made it up and made it happen. Let’s share with each other what we learned along the way.
Speed Isn’t Always an Advantage: The Snails Were on Board with the Cheetahs
Two things came to mind when I read this.
First: Sometimes it makes more sense to start out small and let things flourish. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You might decide to release a book at a regional level, learn what worked and what didn’t, and then roll out your plan nationally. This is a safer and often more productive way of releasing a new book. The successes from the regional release will serve you well as you approach national buyers.
Second: Be careful not to publish a book before it’s ready. Many of us have put books “on the fast track.” Sometimes that works out, but far too often mistakes are made that could be avoided. It might be better to wait until the next year and know you have a better product, better marketing plans, and better marketing materials.
Build Your Future on High Ground
Luckily for Noah, he had the ark. You can keep your company on high ground by educating yourself about publishing. Read the industry magazines. Attend workshops and seminars. Make your business plan and use it as a guide. Pay attention to what’s working for your company, and keep the long shots to a minimum.
At least once a year, build an educational event into your schedule that takes you away from your normal routine, preferably outside your state. I always find it invaluable to contemplate my company from afar. It’s hard to do that when you’re caught up in the day-to-day operations of the business.
Stay Fit (Financially): When You’re 600 Years Old, Someone May Ask You to Do Something Really Big
Read, take classes, go back to school—do whatever you need to do to understand the financial aspects of your business. Then pay attention to the numbers. This is assuming you have a written budget, which I highly recommend. I have seen many publishers produce a book before they have assessed its profitability. You can’t do too many of those and still pay the bills.
Pay attention to where you’re spending your money. If you stay financially fit, you just may have the resources needed to do that special project that falls in your lap.
For Safety’s Sake, Travel in Pairs, at a Minimum
I interpret this lesson with a bias toward establishing a niche. I believe a company will do better if it establishes a clear niche with good marketability, which means working in tandem with booksellers and other intermediaries working in that niche.
Just some of the advantages of publishing a group of books in one genre are:
- You become an expert in your genre and can become the booksellers’ go-to publisher for those types of books.
- You will attract authors in your area of expertise.
- Your customer base becomes a built-in audience for all new products.
- You can develop sales channels that will serve every book you publish.
- Your marketing plans will be easier to develop.
- You will more likely be able to publish a series, with all the marketing advantages that brings.
When You’re Stressed, Float Awhile
Noah didn’t have a choice. I’m sure he had some really stressful days, but all he could do was float. The lesson here is, Don’t kill yourself trying to run and grow your business. Many of you probably have your business in your home. It is still important to go to and come home from work.
Take time to play and relax. If you can’t afford to hire help, use interns. There are a variety of ways to creatively insert fun and relaxation into your day.
Remember, the Ark Was Built by Amateurs, the Titanic by Professionals
Publishing is a constant learning process. Take it one step at a time, and have fun.
I’ll be waiting to hear from you. You can reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.