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The Transition from Self-Publishing to Independent Publishing

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by Rob Price, Founder, Price World Publishing

Rob Price

In my time on IBPA’s board of directors, I’ve learned that many IBPA members are self-published authors seeking to transition from self-publishing to independent publishing. Often, these authors get into publishing because they have a story to tell or something to say, but they tend to feel overwhelmed when thinking about the business side of things. Having known this feeling first-hand when I transitioned from self-published author to independent publisher, I’ve laid out five keys to making the process go more smoothly.

Never forget that content is king. Everything starts and stops with content. You can have the world’s greatest marketing campaign in place to create awareness for your book all over the globe, but if the book doesn’t offer anything valuable or compelling to readers or if its quality is poor, its success will be limited at best.

Positive online reviews and word-of-mouth referrals are enormous factors in a book’s overall sales and you will get neither of these with subpar content. And negative reviews can cripple the book’s chances in its cradle.

But your content has to be more than valuable and compelling. It has to be impeccably edited. A lot of self-published authors make the mistake of foregoing a thorough and professional edit and find that the decision comes back to bite them hard.

Although it’s always possible for an occasional mistake to slip through the cracks, blatant typographical errors, improper grammar, usage mistakes, and the like can diminish a reader’s confidence in a book and sometimes convey the notion that the author and/or publisher is careless. Also, preventable flaws may lead to reviews that are negative because of sloppy copy, not because the reader disliked the book itself.

Run your publishing company as a business. Unless you’re starting a publishing company as a hobby or to help friends or family members see their words in print, your bottom line should be profit. Although there are certainly differences between running a publishing company and running, say, a tire company, some things are true for all successful businesses.

Namely, you need to be able to produce a quality product at an affordable cost, get the word out about the product, and sell it at a price high enough to generate a profit after covering your expenses.

In addition to becoming familiar with business basics for areas including accounting, marketing, management, and sales, running your company as a business involves attention to the following sub-points:

Always be professional. This applies to both behavior and appearance. Be prepared to invest in things such as a company logo, letterhead, envelopes, and equipment.

Know when to delegate. Many steps are involved in publishing a book, and it is likely you will need help with at least some of them. Even if you were an expert in everything from editing and design to marketing and sales, you would probably not have time to take on all of these responsibilities and still run your business from a more macro level. Time is money, and your time is valuable. Knowing when to delegate and to whom to delegate are essential aspects of any business.

Establish great relationships. When you’re hiring a company or an individual to perform a task for you, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals and make everybody earn your business. Anyone you hire should impress you in terms of quality, timeliness, and cost. Obtain quotes and samples from multiple providers and have them sell themselves to you before making your selection. Once you find service providers you like, establish and maintain good ties with them, since you may be working with them for years to come.

Be flexible and adaptable. As the last couple of decades have shown, adaptability is extremely important in the book industry. Not that long ago, there was no such thing as an online bookstore, and just a few years ago, only techies knew much about a thing called an e-book.

Is print dead? Is it alive and well? Our industry is changing as quickly as any other in the world, and the only way to survive and thrive in such an environment is to be ready to adapt. One of the benefits of being a small publisher is that we generally have less bureaucratic red tape than our larger brethren, and it is much easier for us to react quickly to changes occurring in the market.

It is very important to make sure your organization is agile and has procedures in place to alter directions as new developments inevitably befall our industry.

Know your risk tolerance. Starting any type of business is inherently risky. Fortunately for today’s prospective publishers, advances in technology have not only brought down the barriers for entering the publishing industry in general; they have also given publishers tools for operating in less risky ways. Chief among these is print-on-demand, which gives more risk-averse publishers a way to avoid tying up lots of cash in inventory that may never sell (see POD (Print on Demand)”).

Balancing the risks and rewards of any given option or decision is something all publishers need to do. If, after considering all factors, you decide that a given option’s risk outweighs its potential reward, then you will want to forego that option. If you find that the potential reward outweighs the risk, then you will likely want to move forward. The risk with a bulk print run is paying for many books that may never sell. The reward is that if they do sell, you earn more profit because your per-book cost is low. Naturally, the opposite is true for the risk and reward with print on demand.

Think education, education, education. The axiom “Knowledge is power” is as true in book publishing as it is in any other facet of business or life. How do I find a good distributor? What are the best ways to promote my list? The fact that you are already a member of IBPA shows that you understand how important it is to educate yourself. Continue doing research on publishing in general and on your genre(s) and subject area(s) in particular. Constantly be on the lookout for ways to improve your business or make your business more efficient.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask others for help. People in our industry tend to be very helpful and accommodating. As many of you have seen at Publishing University and elsewhere, more often than not, they will be willing to help out where they can.

Rob Price, the founder of Price World Publishing, began his career in publishing as a self-published fitness author when he was 19. He now works with aspiring authors and publishers through his new venture, GatekeeperPress.com.

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