Hard Lessons about Publishing
So, I was thinking back tonight on publishing and whether I had learned any hard lessons that I could pass on. [Surely, yes!] I then realised, of course, that as much as I can impart these things to other people, it is in fact true that some of these hard lessons can only be usefully learned from by actually making the mistakes yourself.
I've seen a number of books published recently that we've tried to help on here. As much help as we've given them (and some have been very sheltered by our help) I think to really grow they need to be out there being buffeted by the wilder winds on their own and their creators need to learn the hard lessons that Andy, Matt, Joe, Malc and I have experienced first hand.
Still, that is not to say that we can't share our lessons so that other can, at best, avoid them, or at worst realise they are not the only ones to make the error.
- Don't send a book to the printer too near its announced launch date
- Make sure that your printer communicates well
- Make sure the name of the book is on the spine
- Put the price on the cover, somewhere
- Don't put the price on the cover in two currencies in case one of them collapses
- Don't announce a launch date unless you can be sure you'll hit it!
- Do be clear about print costs and commissions from sales channels so that your pricing suits the market and gives you a suitable profit. (I'm thinking of retail via IPR especially, made much easier by the new commission structure. But also of Lulu's wildly variable pricing system.)
- Do check font embedding permissions before committing time and emotional involvement to a layout.
- Do assess your skills realistically. Consider getting help in for areas where you're less strong. Accept that there's a learning process and what you do now will look flawed when you've gained more experience. (Kill typos and take their stuff!)
These are some of the things I applied to my book. I didn't necessarily learn them through publishing, but they were easily transferable.
- Know your budget and cost structure early on and keep an eye on it so that you can control those costs and keep your margins fruitful.
- I worked on a different paradigm of planning than Tim. When I had an idea that the game was nearing go-time, I made my release date public. I had my printing and layout times planned, with contigencies in place. Nothing blows procrastination out of the water like a deadline.
- 'You cannot please everyone all of the time' has never been more true. Accept it. Move on.
- NEVER EVER BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP OR ADVICE!!!
- Take everything printers say with a pinch of salt. Some are great, some not so great. Never, ever take timescales as gospel. Always factor in more than you think you need.
- Never mention supplemental material by name unless you are definitely going to release it, have a firm date and have the text in hand. You can create expectations that simply are not going to be met if you do otherwise.
- Don't put all you eggs in one basket. Spread yourself around when it comes to sales channels and distribution methods. That means if one group goes under, you don't lose all your stock or money owing.
- If you think your book should be a large, lavish hardbound thing, ask yourself why? Look at your printing needs very, very carefully.