This Is Not a Fairy Tale; It Just Sounds Like One
by Frank Gromling
Once upon a time, there was a naive publisher who had a plan. His plan seemed to make sense. At least, it did to him. Or so he thought at the time.
So off he went to make great books, books by people no one knew. He was sure that he would make a difference with his great books. Remember, he was naive.
Fearing not, he created books of poetry. After all, he thought, everyone likes poetry. Right? Poetry books would be fun, and people would buy them, and all would be well.
Then a couple of sweet ladies convinced him that wonderful books for little children, books with colorful images and gentle words, would be great. After all, everyone loves children, and adults would buy these colorful books for their children and grandchildren. Right?
Soon, from somewhere out of his love of history, a nonfiction book evolved that looked at the difficult lives of two early American botanists. Everyone would like to read about botany and history and travels in early America. Right?
After that, other nonfiction books materialized, followed by a fiction trilogy about an adventurous and mystical cat. Oh, the fun the publisher was having! Success was just around the corner. Any day now, huge orders would come zipping in and all would be well. Or so he thought, naively.
Slowly at first, then faster and faster, the naive publisher realized that not all was well in his world. In fact, it was beginning to fold in on him. Reality, ever so cold, intruded on his dreams of proving that he could take relatively unknown writers and turn them into worldly successes as published authors, all in different genres and highly diverse markets.
Reality—in the form of nonexistent sales, high production costs, and authors who didn’t promote their own books—convinced the naive publisher to reevaluate his plan.
But what to do? Where to turn? Who could help? The naive publisher began an earnest search for answers, for he knew that failure was imminent unless he took immediate corrective action.
He set out on a new journey, this time with his eyes wide open and his brain fully engaged, to learn all he could in the shortest possible time. With renewed energy and commitment and a determined focus, the once-naive publisher sought out the best and the brightest in book publishing. He joined publishing associations and attended their programs, consumed their newsletters, talked with their members, and soaked up as much education as possible.
He read book after book by the recognized publishing experts and scanned trade magazines and the Internet for articles.
He sought out wise and successful publishers whose businesses easily identified them as ones to emulate. He studied what they did and how they did it, and then set out to follow their examples with his own books.
He even found the wisest of the wise, a person who had the knowledge, experience, success, and patience to work with the publisher in his search for knowledge. This wise one became the publisher’s mentor and, at last, the world didn’t look so bleak any more. New and positive plans began to evolve; a fresh wind blew, and life looked better.
Through all his searching, one major piece of information was repeated time and again: new publishers need to focus on a niche instead of trying to serve many masters. The mentor said, “Follow your heart. Publish about what you love and have a real passion for, but you must run your publishing company like a business.” You see, the mentor, being a wise and successful publisher, had learned that the naive publisher loved everything about marine life, environment, and conservation. He knew that the naive publisher would make much better books and have greater sales by concentrating on this niche market.
And so the decision was made to refocus the entire direction of the publishing house, to drop a diversified approach in favor of singular concentration on marine life, environment, and conservation. While the previously published books remain available for purchase, all the company’s talent and treasure are now directed toward producing the highest-quality books for its niche markets.
As if by magic, since the decision to focus on a niche, everything seems to be happening so much more easily for the once-naive publisher. Quality manuscripts arrive weekly from credible writers who have platforms from which to market. Opportunities for increased sales of nonfiction titles in marine life, environment, and conservation are presenting themselves, including some offered by several major organizations wanting to work with the publisher on special projects.
Professional cover and interior designers, editors, and other craftspeople somehow are hearing about the publisher and making their services available.
Even the fiction trilogy, the one about the adventurous and mystical cat, is doing very well in the market. It’s almost as if the refocusing of the company created a totally new energy that has reached over to the other books. Whatever the reason, the once-naive publisher is much happier with the results.
Is this the end of the tale? No, not by any means. There is so much more to do, so much more to learn. But a new plan is in place, and the publisher works the plan every day. He evaluates it regularly and is prepared to improve it as circumstances may dictate. There is no longer any room for naivety in this publisher’s world. Dreams? Sure, lots of room for them, but not for naivety.
As he sits alone in his office at the end of another long, rewarding day, he wonders how many other new publishers will allow their naivety to blind them to the road to success that they deserve. He smiles and turns off the lights and computers, knowing that others can avoid the mistakes he made if they will only read his story in the Independent.
Frank Gromling, publisher/owner of Ocean Publishing, Flagler Beach, FL, is a former board member of IBPA and former president of Florida Publishers Association. His radio show, Cover to Cover, streams nationwide on the Internet at wnzf.com every Saturday morning at 11:30 ET/8:30 PT. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386/517-1600.