February 18, 2008
Easy to Get In. Hard to Stay.
"It is easy to get into publishing. It is hard to stay."
I've mentioned this adage here before. The first half is drawn from the fact that virtually every facet of the publishing process can be outsourced with relative ease and relatively little expense. You can contract an author to write the book, a freelance editor to edit it, a typesetting firm to set it, a designer to create a cover, a printer to print it, a marketer to promote it, a distributor to sell it and an accountant to keep track of the money. You don't need any employees. All you have to do is coordinate what everyone else does.
The fact that a hundred thousand people and organizations do this every year is also testimony to the truth of this axiom. Self-publishing is easier and more popular than ever.
Most of these don't want to be publishers, however. They just want to be published. So if you are one of the few that intend to stay in the business, you'd better do as Thomas Woll suggests and hire some people. In my continuing series, in chapter five of Publishing for Profit he offers advice primarily to startups and small publishers about the four positions that are most key to fill: editorial, sales/marketing, finance/business and operations/fulfillment. Of these four, "no matter how small or large your publishing program [the two] you should oversee and monitor in-house" are editorial and sales/marketing.
Editorial makes sense since what product you will create and sell is at the heart of a publisher's identity. Also, while it isn't necessary to do your own selling,
every publisher must control and oversee its sales from in-house. Only in this way will the publisher truly understand where its sales are coming from and know what is selling. Without this essential knowledge, the company can't plan properly or understand the dynamics of its book sales and of the market itself. And outside sales personnel will simply not take the time to understand your books. That is your responsibility and it demands an in-house sales manager or coordinator.
Don't over hire, Woll warns. Keep your staff, as he says, lean but not necessarily mean. Don't fall into the temptation of hiring industry superstars either. "If someone comes to your company merely for a few extra dollars, that person will probably leave you for some other company offering still more money." Better to build loyalty with a unique vision of what you as a publisher are doing that no one else can, and with employees who have the freedom and ability to make a positive contribution. That's a foundation for publishing that lasts.