As a small publisher, we learn to wear many hats. And we don’t just decide in the morning what hat to wear that day; we may change hats hourly or … any minute now.
What sort of hats do we wear most days? The hats below may seem in random order, but often our days are like that. I do a lot of these things; but, thankfully, not all of it by myself.
Our main task, besides producing great books, is to create demand for those books. We believe in each Cladach book’s author, message, artfulness, and ability to touch hearts and minds. So we must continually look for ways to convince potential readers that these books will give them enjoyment as well as strength, encouragement, and inspiration.
Manuscripts, drafts, proofs, on the screen or printed out, all need editing. Either Cathy or Christina—or an editor or proofreader hired for the job—goes through the copy with a fine-tooth comb, digging, refining, clarifying, cleaning up, and polishing.
Once we upload book data to places like Bowker, Ingram, Amazon.com, BN.com, Baker & Taylor, and the Library of Congress, that information disseminates all over the internet and in book data retrieval systems worldwide. It is important that the data be accurate and up-to-date, and checked and updated regularly.
The publisher receives queries and proposals daily, both through email and snail mail. She tries to answer them in a timely fashion, but sometimes queries “fall between the cracks” of slush piles, old emails, and busy days. This is probably the hardest job because it’s hard to say “No,” which has to be said to the vast majority of queries and proposals. If an author and their query does pique our interest, we usually ask for a full proposal and 1-3 sample chapters. Prospective authors find us online and in lists of publishers, including the annual editions of Christian Writers Market Guide. We also meet writers and find manuscripts to publish at writers conferences. The publisher enjoys meeting and talking with writers (but that doesn’t make saying “No” any easier. We have, however, said “Yes” to several good writers and their books, at writers conferences). And then, still in my acquisitions hat, there are contract offers and negotiations and agreements. Then onward and upward together with a new book in view!
As book sales trickle in—and occasionally a bulky order knocks on our door, so to speak—the plus side of Larry’s spreadsheet increases and we try to forecast expenses and how many books to print, the best use of advertising/publicity budgets, what percent royalties and advances to offer authors, what retail prices to put on books, etc., etc. Profits aren’t real impressively high, but Cladach stays in the black, and we often remind ourselves that we are doing this as ministry—though it has to be done in a businesslike way in order to continue.
Larry may call or visit a store to check sales, restock consignment shelves, or we may let stores know about a new title and that they can order through the two major book wholesalers. We receive direct orders from individuals, authors, stores, libraries, and nonprofits in the U.S., U.K., and beyond. Larry processes the orders with accounting software and keeps meticulous and conscientious records and produces reports, as he is the one who usually wears this hat.
The buck stops here. Decisions have to be made, staff meetings and communications directed. Fortunately, we really enjoy creatively brainstorming together.
I guess you could say that’s what I’m doing right now in writing and developing this material. Cathy and Christina (and our authors) develop content for editorial and marketing purposes, to be shared as book descriptions, back cover copy, web content, bios, blog posts, other social media posts, letters, newsletters, press releases, etc.
So we’ve written an article or post, we’ve developed and produced a paperback book, we’ve published a web page. Now we can convert the paperback file into an ebook file, the post into tweets, the graphics and description into a video trailer, the web page content into an ad or an email. Get the idea? Gotta be creative and keep thinking “outside the box.”
All the Cladach staff have worn this hat at one time or another. But Larry has expertly taken on the job and wears this hat almost daily. Our warehouse/shipping department is lined with cartons of books and is all set up with packing supplies and a handy table for sorting, labeling, packing, etc. Then trips are made to the Post Office and to FedEx, which are handily close by. This hat is fun to wear. We love sending out books! Go, team Cladach!
Here’s another job that’s fun but can eat up time and requires a constant, steep learning curve. Very satisfying to the artistic side and creative urges felt by this publisher. We use top of the line software to design book pages and covers. Many of our book covers have been designed in-house, but we have contracted with graphic designers and artists for a number of our designs and cover—as well as interior—art. Besides the books themselves, there are web pages, promo pieces like postcards and sell sheets, and other design output required in the course of our publishing days. We keep this hat handy, usually near the computer.
The book cover is designed and tweaked, the text edited and proofed, the pages formatted, the book data disseminated, the forthcoming title announced. The book must then be printed! This involves organizing and sending out specs, studying and comparing print quotes, comparing choices of papers, finishes, bindings, etc. Decisions, decisions, often feeling like guesses, about how many books are expected to sell and how quickly, how active the author will be in promoting their book, how wide a market can we reach, should we print a larger quantity and pay much less per copy and have a lot of stock on hand and use up our cash, or print a small quantity and preserve cash flow, though we pay much more per copy, or should we go with print-on-demand? Once we’ve decided on the printer, and we’ve used several reliable book printers/manufacturers, the biggest decision is “how many books to print?”.
This has become an important hat to wear at least a while each day. Social media is where readers are hanging out and we can connect and get acquainted and talk about some of our favorite things: life-changing ideas and experiences; the daily life of faith, work, family, and wonder; our Creator and Lord who initiates every good thing; the creativity He inspires; new and talented authors; and … books! You may connect with us here on this blog, on Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and? Who knows what’s next. One thing for sure, we’ll find a hat for it!