Publishing is a business of Business as Usual and that is very bad…
I have a fundamental problem with the idea of “business as usual”. Not in the sense that we have to run a business and it has to be done on a day-to-day business, but most business today are fluid and if you don’t keep up with the fluidity, well, for those of us living Rochester, NY it’s one word: Kodak. My father worked for Kodak way back in the day as a Regional Sales Rep for the Motion Picture Division and even then he said (mind you this is way back in the late 70’s) that if Kodak didn’t move with the times when it came to cameras they’d be a hurting company… Of course, Kodak was really a “film” company but you know there is this little thing called digital that seems to be turning many businesses upside down and inside out.
Well, not my business.
Bob and I have been in business together since December of 2009 (officially). Since then, we have changed or modified our business plan every 6 months. We just did it back in January and we’re doing it again this July (already making notes in Google docs for the Cool Gus Business meeting at Thrillerfest). It’s exhausting and often times frustrating, but our industry is changing and we have to make adjustments or we’re going to go down with the Titanic (even though we got off a long time ago).
Business as usual is a form of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Perhaps making a very slight adjustment like reducing print runs and deciding to remove DRM from eBooks. Well, I guess better late than never. Yes, I know, authors are screaming that I think smaller print runs are a good thing. How about lower advances? I once said that it wasn’t just publishers that had to change the way they think and do business, but that the author had to as well. Funny thing about change, most of us don’t like it. It took Bob a good year to wrap his brain around what we were doing. Not that I got there any sooner, but my perspective was different. I’d never been traditionally published and I read eBooks.
My perspective is still different and it’s always changing. We’re watching authors sign up for this indie thing and these were the same authors who thought we were nuts, and told us so. Good for them to join us in our nutty ways. Seriously. Welcome aboard. Glad you got off the Titanic. We’re also watching authors go to what we termed a long time ago as the Hybrid author. Good for them to spread their eggs from one basket to the other. Makes perfect sense.
We’ve also decided to switch over from Lightning Source to CreateSpace for our Print on Demand books. This was not a change I was open to a couple of months ago (ask Bob about the email when he asked me about it and my response was do you enjoy making my head spin and watching me spit pea soup?). But we’re switching because after meeting with the CreateSpace people at BEA and having a few conference calls with our personal team, well, it’s the right thing to do. My exorcist moment is over.
One of the other things we are doing different and are going to be discussing more at Thrillerfest is our conference schedule and which conferences and conventions will we be attending… and why. The why is a big part of our discussion. Our thoughts on conferences have changed drastically in the past year. We’ve attended conferences we swore we’d never go to. But its not just the conferences we’re attending, but our attitude and goals have changed. BEA was an eye opening experience for both us. We first realized what a great team we make, but we also realized that how important it was for us to do the things that are out of our comfort zone (one of these days I will get Bob to ask for directions and I might wear shoes that are comfortable).
Bob also has me doing a conference call with a tech company about some new innovative product (that I’m not sure I understand yet, but Bob says he gets it) and how we might be able to use the product and connect with readers. Bob and I tend to listen to all pitches, then discuss, then decide to try or not. We try a lot of things. Some work. Some don’t. And some are just before their time.
The author can’t afford business as usual. As much as Bob wants to lock himself in a room for 6 weeks and finish his current book, he can’t afford to not attend to business things (though he does have me to take care of much of it), but the point is there is no such things as business as usual if you want to succeed and stay on the top.
Ah, but you say the top 5% of publishing is business as usual. Yep. But you know what? The top 5% is going to be replaced someday its not going to be from the people who are doing business as usual.