We Asked 8 Independent Publishers About Their Biggest Business Challenges, This Is What We Learned:
We recently asked 8 independent publishers from around the world about their biggest business challenges. From our conversations we were able to extract 5 best practices that will make the life of every established or burgeoning independent publisher easier.
Independent publishing is a labor of love, and the ultimate reward that comes along with this profession is the freedom to publish books that you believe in. You have, for better or worse, complete control over each and every aspect of the business. All the international publishers we got the chance to talk to always brought the conversation back to “freedom.” Some spoke of being able to give new voices and perspectives a platform. Others, the possibility of discovering and publishing overlooked works. Or bringing global literature to an English-language audience. Being small, means being able to devote your undivided attention to each book and author you publish. If we’ve learned anything from all of these conversations it’s that: bigger is not necessarily better.
However, independent publishing is not without its challenges. Of the many obstacles referenced, some transcended borders, whereas others were a direct result of the publishing house’s geographical location. Nonetheless, any problem you face is manageable, as long as you keep these best practices in mind:
1. Wear many hats, your budget will probably not allow you to do otherwise.
That said, when hiring a team, look for people who have varied backgrounds, who are not afraid of trying different things, and can multitask. In a nutshell, a jack of all trades has more longevity in today’s publishing market. Make sure to work with people who believe in the project as much as you do. Dedication will give you much-needed energy.
2. Always think outside the box when coming up with different ways to generate income.
You may not be able to generate income purely from sales and your backlist of books. A creative solution can include starting your own crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, or even signing up to platforms like patreon, which will secure you a stable monthly income. A successful benchmark to keep in mind is Mcsweeney’s, which launched successful campaigns in both formats. You can give their Kickstarter Campaign a look here, or their Patreon page a look here.
3. Don’t be afraid to talk money.
You will be responsible for financial decisions that can result in many different outcomes. To limit pitfalls, you can take a crash course in accounting and business development. This will allow you to know the basic ins and outs of bookkeeping, managing cash flows, margins, budgeting, and many other seemingly simple but key skills that will make running your own business easier.
4. When looking for logistical solutions don’t be afraid to step outside your borders.
Dealing with logistics, including printing and delivery, might be a challenge, especially if you come from a country that does not have a developed infrastructure in publishing. However, there are always creative solutions to these logistical problems, like finding printers in other countries, and teaming up with the right distributors early on. E-commerce, POD (print-on-demand) can also be a good and viable solution. Take the time to strike up the right relationship, as a strong bond with key people, local and abroad, will simplify your life in the long run.
5. Get on board the social media train.
As countless books are being published every year, it is becoming more and more difficult to stand out in the crowd. If you don’t have the financial means for public relations, or to ensure the right coverage, do not be discouraged: we live in the age of social media! With the right online marketing savvy you can reach any audience with few means and concentrated efforts. So be on the lookout for free online guides that break down the ins and outs of social media. We suggest you kick things off with Facebook Business, which provides you with a comprehensive overview.
As we continue to partner with and talk to independent publishers, we promise to continuously update this list, providing you with the best practices for running an independent publishing house. In the meantime, remember to always keep these tips in mind:
- Wear many hats
- Think of creative ways to generate income
- Don’t be afraid to talk money
- Don’t be afraid to look beyond your borders for logistical solutions
- Get on board the social media train
If you need help getting your books to the right audiences anywhere in the world, give Bookwitty’s book distribution program a look here. We also provide publishing houses with e-commerce solutions that can help them expand their reach and income with very little effort.