By Angela Bole, IBPA Executive Director
[Originally published in the October 2013 edition of IBPA’s Independent.]
Last week, I received the following email from an IBPA member:
“I’ve been a member with IBPA since 2009–2010, and I would like to know if there is any book you can suggest regarding ‘the business of book publishing/industry.'”
It’s a great question! It got me thinking about all the books I’ve picked up over the years that have given me perspective on the business of publishing. There are manuals you could read that explain proper metadata and ISBN assignment, but what of the ideas, people, and projects that are daily making our industry tick?
Below are descriptions of six books and projects that have inspired the way I think about my work in publishing. Perhaps some of your favorites are here. Hopefully, you’ll pick up a few new inspirations as well.
Publishing for Profit:
Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers
Author: Thomas Woll
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Why it matters: Associated Press calls it the “Bible of the Industry.” I tend to agree. Publishing for Profit is practical and laser-sharp. Whereas many business books are broad in applicability, this book is specifically about publishing. It is an essential reference for small and large publishers alike.
Sound bite: “Publishing is ultimately a business of decisions. A careful reading of Publishing for Profit will show you all the ways that decisions about pricing, print runs, and all the other essential minutiae of publishing a book can threaten or enhance your publishing program” (from the Foreword by Dominique Raccah, founder and publisher, Sourcebooks).
Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto
A Collection of Essays from the Bleeding Edge of Publishing
Editors: Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Why it matters: O’Reilly Media publishes some of the most forward-thinking books about publishing. If you’re interested in the future of publishing and how we might navigate a truly hybrid digital/physical landscape, this collection of essays will give you plenty to think about.
Sound bite: “There is a greater shift afoot than just pricing and delivery mechanism, and that is what this book aims to explore. We want to examine how digital changes the process of making a book, as well as what we do with it afterwards.”
The Information Diet:
A Case for Conscious Consumption
Author: Clay A. Johnson
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Why it matters: Although The Information Diet is not a how-to book about publishing as a business, the concepts in it are important for anyone who publishes content. Johnson explains the role information has played throughout history, and why being conscious of the kinds of information you consume is essential if you want to be smart, productive, and sane.
Sound bite: “Information and power are inherently related. Our ability to process and communicate information is as much an evolutionary advantage as our opposable thumbs.”
Stories: How We Make Sense of Our Lives
Developer: Jonathan Harris
Why it matters: This community blog is a beautiful tribute to humanity. In a mixed-media melding of photos, videos, and text, people from around the world post their experiences and impressions about life. Here you will find 2,073 stories about First Loves, 1,103 about Home, 1,466 about Outsiders, 210 about Bedrooms. It’s so simple. It works.
Sound bite: “We were on a cruise ship from Åland (Finland) to Sweden. We watched as the ship came closer to land. Me with camera in hand, as usual. Then I saw he was sad, all of a sudden.
“—Are you upset about something, Folke?
“—Yes. I want you to stop taking pictures, and stand here with me and feel the wind instead, he said.
“And so I did.”
The E-Myth Revisited:
Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
Author: Michael E. Gerber
Why it matters: As independent publishers, you know what it’s like to wear every hat in the company. But what happens when you’re ready to grow? No one can continue wearing every hat and, at the same time, meaningfully expand their business. Indicating that 40 percent of small businesses fail within their first year, The E-Myth Revisited explains how to make the leap from wide-eyed entrepreneur to successful business person.
Sound bite: “The problem with most failing businesses I’ve encountered is not that their owners don’t know enough about finance, marketing, management, and operations—they don’t, but those things are easy enough to learn—but that they spend their time and energy defending what they think they know. The greatest business people I’ve met are determined to get it right no matter what the cost. And by getting it right, I’m not just talking about the business. I mean that there is something uplifting, some vision, some higher end in sight that ‘getting it right’ would serve.”
Developers: Blaine Cook and Maureen Evans
Why it matters: Poetica is a new tool that allows writers to work with friends and editors to make their writing better. The pared-down, intuitive interface means writers can collaborate on essays, poems, or even blog posts, in real time. It’s easy to control who has access to drafts, so users can run writing by close friends before revealing it to a wider audience.
Sound bite: Because it’s still under wraps, there aren’t any sound bites yet. That said, Blaine Cook is the former lead developer of Twitter, so you have to think the project has promise.
About the Author: Just before Angela became IBPA’s Executive Director, she was Deputy Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG), which fosters conversation and consensus across all sectors of the book business. Before that, Angela served for two years as BISG’s Associate Director and two years as its Marketing and Communications Manager.
Angela also serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of IDPF, the International Digital Publishing Forum.