The old joke defines a consultant as someone who borrows your watch and then proceeds to tell you the time. If a consultant writes a book, however, that is a different matter. And what more appropriate topic for a consultant to write a book on than publishing itself. That’s just what Tom Woll, president at Cross River Publishing Consultants, has done.
Over the years I’ve read a number of books on publishing, and in most I have found several helpful ideas I have been able to implement. Woll’s Publishing for Profit is no exception. Periodically over the next few weeks I’ll be summarizing one or more chapters of the book at a time, highlighting insights and commenting as I go.
Woll’s introduction appropriately (and perhaps with tongue firmly planted in cheek) begins with a literary allusion–publisher as Captain Ahab, maniacally pursuing his Moby Dick even to his death. I don’t know if Woll is
suggesting that publishing success is elusive like a white whale or that people who set out to publish books are as hopelessly arrogant as they are woefully ignorant. Both can be all too true. It’s not necessarily the founder who ends up at the bottom of the ocean (especially if, as is often the case, he or she is an entrepreneur); it’s often those who work for the founder. Over time, however, reality catches up with great and small alike. Without following much of the advice in this book, an organization can go belly up.
The problems that smaller publishers face, in Woll’s experience, differ in degree but not in kind from those of larger organizations. Financing, structure, editorial acquisitions, scheduling, production, sales and marketing, fulfillment, accounting–all face the same issues.
So where does one start? Woll starts with commitment, consistency and credibility.
Commitment means, among other things, not losing sight of the fundamentals: finding sufficient funding, staying on task through rough times, creating quality products readers want, getting the word out, and providing excellent fulfillment and customer service.
Consistency concerns what the marketplace (vendors and readers) can expect from you in producing quality products on a regular basis. Even two books every year, if they are published consistently, can do the job. Retailers, wholesalers and others begin to know who you are and what to expect.
These two factors result in the third. Credibility comes from fulfilling your commitments and being consistent. What makes credibility so difficult to achieve are the slings and arrows of outrageous publishing fortune that conspire to undo your efforts: an author is late delivering a manuscript; your printer wants some or all of your money up front; your long-nurtured contact at a major outlet switches jobs.
What people think of you simply matters. It can mean the difference between making it or not.
Getting into publishing is easy. Staying in is hard.