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.

About Jen Talty

Publishing Consultant, Author of Romantic Suspense and Co-Creator of Cool Gus Publishing with NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer.

Posted on June 22, 2012, in Publishing, Write It forward and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. As an Indie author, I’m trying new things everyday. I’ll have my best four figure month yet so far. Now on to conquering five. ;).

  2. Helen W. Mallon

    This is great–you guys are doing a lot of leg work, and we benefit from your wisdom and experience. thank you! I’ve got an online publisher now, and it seems like they know what they’re doing, but it’s good to hear from people in the trenches. Thanks for the insights.

  3. I’ve watched the nonprofit sector change and watched the old guys cling to the way they always do things. I worked with a company for a year that wanted me to keep doing the same thing they’d always done only make it work. I tried to nudge them toward a different approach, but finally gave up. They are still managing, but they aren’t growing like they could have because they weren’t willing to try something different. I’m looking forward to the coming publishing apocalypse. It should at the very least, be interesting to watch. Good article. Good advice. Keep it up. – Tom King

  4. Love your blogs. They are very informative. Keep writing.

  5. Great post, Jen. I agree 100%. Things are changing so fast in publishing it’s breath-taking. No one can afford to be an ostrich anymore, not even the top 5%.

  6. Chris Redding

    My husband was just talking about how he’s noticed a trend that every time the DOJ files a suit against a company, that company is coincidentally gone within a year or so. Watchout Big 6.
    Also, you’ve inspired me to consult my marketing expert sister on what to do for my next release.

  7. Business as usual doesn’t really even touch the reality in the trenches right now. The current state of the venerable publishing industry is hardly business “as usual”. The combination of runaway production costs, emerging technology and the explosion of POD coupled with an overall shrinkage of the book market has every traditional publisher trying to salvage whatever they can. Their margin is being scraped down to the bone. They’re afraid of being closed down, so they are very, very selective. It’s only expected that “opportunities” for new authors would be limited given the conditions on the ground. The thing is, rather than bashing them; writers in the same way musicians threw off their own industry shackles beginning a few years back, can emerge in better shape than ever before. The means to success are more in writers control than ever before.

  8. If publishing is “business as usual” as a static line of thought… then eventually, “business as usual” changes, even though it might take awhile. But by then, it might be too late for those publishers who haven’t adopted.

    This follows the line of thought with our education system, a system where “business as usual” is changing no matter what (updating text, computers, going online etc…), and it’s too late for the education system itself IMO.

    Anyhow, great post Bob. You just keep continuing to raise the bar for the rest of the publishers out there. :)

  9. I’ve been reading here for a while but haven’t commented before now–great post, and great thoughts. I didn’t realize you were in Rochester–quite close to where I am in Fort Erie, Ontario.

    I’d love to know more about your decision to switch to CreateSpace from LSI. I’m considering the same but can’t help feeling that I’m missing factors.

  10. I just luuuvvv what you’re saying here, Jen! Terrific post and spot-on! Indie Epublishing is definitely NOT “business as usual.” And the key is that in our Indie Epublished World, readers rule, not corporate America shareholders.

    • Not speaking for Jen, I’d just say that my own books are with CS, for the simple reason that my pockets are not very deep, so the bundles deal with the premium promotion that gets my books into Ingram’s distribution catalog makes the difference.

  11. I don’t think publishing could ever be described as business as usual! Not lately and probably not any time soon.

    I’d love an explanation behind your decision to go with CreateSpace instead of LS.

    Terrific post!

  12. I’ll do a post later this week on why we decided to change from LSI to CreateSpace.

  13. Just wanted to say thanks for your always interesting and informative blog posts. Newly retired (teacher), I am working on my first books and trying to grasp the whole digital/indie process. Your words keep me focused, so when my work is finished, I can publish immediately. It hasn’t been “business as usual” since Christmas of ’91 (my take on the Web’s b’day)

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