Here we go with Chapter Four, the first of the production and sales chapters.
It’s been some time since I wrote the first version of Think Like a Publisher. Since I wrote those first chapters, Scott William Carter and I have taught three workshops by the same name, plus an advanced workshop helping indie writers make more money from their books. This fall I will be teaching a POD workshop on all the aspects of designing and selling paper books. (Watch for the announcement.)
And during those workshops and from comments and from hundreds of sources I learned a ton more information.
Plus the publishing company I helped start (WMG Publishing) now has a full-time employee and has published over 240 different book titles.
And the overall publishing business has changed as well. Amazing numbers of changes, actually.
As traditional publishers grab for more rights and become even more difficult to work with, more and more writers are moving to indie publishing. As they make the jump, they ask basic questions on how to do it, how to be treated with respect as a publisher, and even how to do simple things like setting up a publishing business.
An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher.
Think Like a Publisher 2012 is an updated version of the book from over a year ago, including some of what has changed and what I have learned over the last year or more. I’m sure in another two years I’ll do a third edition. Some things are changing that fast.
As time allows, I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. But the entire 2012 edition is now available in both trade paper and electronic editions in all electronic bookstores (Kindle, B&N, Smashwords and so on) if you want to jump ahead of these posts. (B&N link also has the paper version through Barnes & Noble.com) Make sure you get the green cover. The red cover is the first edition.
Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please.
I hope these chapters help you get a jump on learning how to be a publisher.
Production and Scheduling
The first three posts in this series were designed to be a unit and help you get set up as an indie publisher. You should have a business name picked out with a web site domain reserved, understand your upfront costs and have made decisions on how to deal with those costs. Then you should have done a rough guess on income and when each project might break even.
If I had to summarize those first three chapters, I would say this: “Be prepared, set up correctly, keep your costs down, and understand the possible cash flow.”
So the next logical step is the question: “How Do I Get My Books Out To Readers?” In other words, how do I produce and distribute my book? You can’t have distribution without production, so I am starting with production right now.
The first major steps in production are inventory and scheduling.
So to really think like a publisher, you need to understand publishing lists, deadlines, and how distribution must be planned far, far ahead of the actual launching of books.
Basic Production Schedule Organization
Traditional publishers have what are called “Lists.”
Lists are basically a publishing schedule of the books being done each month and how much attention each book will get.
In traditional publishing, the list works like this: If your book is number one on the monthly list, you get better covers, better promotion, and all the attention. And more than likely your advance was higher. If your book is in the number two or three slot, you are called a “mid-list” writer. If your book is down in the number five or six slot, good luck.
As an indie publisher, you also need to set up a publishing schedule and then, as best as possible, stick to it. And always remember one major thing:
Publishing is an industry driven by deadlines.
Trust me, if you don’t have deadlines, things will just slip by and books won’t get done or published.
A publishing business is a business of selling product. I know, as a writer, your story is your baby, your work-of-art. But once you move it into the publishing business it is a widget, something to be sold to readers to enjoy. You are in the sales part of the entertainment industry.
So as you start your business, you first need to know what inventory is available to you, what will be available, and what can be created.