Small publishers and self-publishers alike face many choices when bringing a book to market. Things like printing, marketing, distribution, inventory management and sales are all balls to keep in the air.
There’s no shortage of information on the best ideas to handle these business decisions but not a lot on the mistakes people make along the way. Here are some common (and very costly) mistakes made by both small publishers and self-publishers alike.
Shop the Smaller Publishing Houses
For authors going to traditional route, a big mistake is to only submit your work to the large publishers.
There’s a lot to be said about the exposure and experience the big five bring to the table however there is an element of safety in the way those houses review submissions.
Brian Klems points this out when talking about the submission process on writersdigest.com.
The element of risk is sometimes lost on larger publishers mostly because they are sticking to patterns and formulas that work. Authors may be more likely to land a deal with a smaller press house.
Printing without a Distribution Deal
Publishers large and small need to be careful about ordering a print run if they don’t have a place to sell all of those books.
Self-publishers are especially vulnerable to this misstep. Generally even small print runs can run into the several hundred copies. That’s a lot of books to store and manage if they are not sold right away.
Line up speaking engagements, get commitments from book stores (in writing if possible), fill your inbox with online pre-orders and in other words make sure there is demand for a title before it goes to print.
Print on demand or shorter runs using digital printing can be very effective for inventory management.
That allows you to more easily manage inventory and can be cheaper in the long run. Even though the cost per unit can sometimes be larger for shorter runs, it works out better in the end when there are not unsold copies sitting around that need to be managed or written off as a loss.
Not Hiring a Cover Designer
Cover design is a key part of sales. Yes we all say you should never judge a book by its cover yet that is exactly what people do when they are strolling through the book store or browsing online.
A cover is what initially grabs someone’s attention. It is the trigger that makes them pick up a title and read the back.
Design (much like writing) is done well by few people. This is one area that authors and publishers should not cut corners on because visual cues are incredibly important during the shopping experience.
Not Hiring a Professional Editor
Editing is a step in the process that often gets overlooked or cut out completely due to cost savings (most often with self-publishers). Sometimes authors just don’t realize the value that a good editor can provide to the whole publishing process.
Hiring an editor can…
- Catch easily missed mistakes: Often just having a fresh set of eyes on your project can work wonders.There may be things you’ve missed because you simply spend too much time with your book. Editors can catch technical and grammatical errors, issues with context and timing, as well as general issues with the flow of a book.
All things that are easily caught just by having someone who has never looked at the piece before read it.
- Recoup Time: When you pay for a good editor you are buying back some time. Editors can save authors from wasting time submitting work to publishers that will likely get rejected because of issues that could have been caught by an editor.
- Put your best foot forward: Even though an author has spent years developing their book, a good editor can help perfect it. Editors can help refine a story, perfect language and make a book flow better.
Printing More Books to Get Unit Cost Down
Small publishers and even large ones are often guilty of this. Of course in this industry companies are always looking for ways to save money however lowering unit cost can be deceiving.
While it’s true that the more books you print, the lower the cost, publishers and authors need to take into account the entire life cycle of that inventory.
If books sit unsold because of underestimated demand, it won’t matter how much money was saved on printing them.
When printing onDemand however, publishers can more easily manage inventory. Digital print runs generally have slightly higher costs per unit yet it allows buyers to more accurately control their inventory and no have left over books.
Paying for things you could do yourself
The publishing can (whether it means to or not) discourage authors from doing certain parts of the publishing process on their own. Many authors are just starting out and have very little money to throw at their book.
Even some small publishers don’t have huge marketing budgets for their titles. That means maximizing every dollar and only outsourcing things that you are not good at or cannot do yourself.
For example the internet has made a lot of marketing and website creation tasks extremely easy.
There are tons of blog posts and other literature on the web about how to use social media to amplify a message as well how to build a website on your own.
Putting all your eggs in one basket…Book
Authors and publishers need to put their energy into more than just one book at a time. This may be more challenging for authors who often spend years on writing only one title.
As tough as it sounds, generating more than one title can diversify you chances of being successful and making money with your work.