10 Possible Survival Strategies for Publishing Companies

Once upon a time, a publisher’s success was regulated by how long it took to print a book, how much it cost to print that book, and how many copies of the book could fit on store bookshelves. Once upon a time, the name of a publishing company helped define the quality of the books they printed. If it was HarperCollins, it had to be good, and if it was from some little mom-and-pop company, it had to be sub-par, right?

Those days are long since over, especially because of the rise of the digital age. If a reader can download the book onto their phone or computer, they have no need of a physical copy of that book. Publisher’s names are almost obsolete—instead, readers will check Amazon or Goodreads ratings to determine if the book is of good quality.

Guy Kawasaki, twelve-time author, has come up with ten potential strategies for traditional publishing companies to thrive amid today’s economy. In no particular order of importance, they are:

  1. Give up on Data Rights Management (DRM). Essentially, Kawasaki states that DRM doesn’t stop thieves, and it only inconveniences the customers. Most importantly, “there are two kinds of companies in the world: those who try to minimize losses and those who try to maximize gains.”
  2. Embrace Amazon.com. Since Amazon has begun to flourish, it is best to learn from the example the site provides.
  3. Search through Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Unbound, and Pubslush for potential books to publish. These sites show which potential books are popular and most likely to sell, and you should try to get your publishing hands on those books first.
  4. Imitate SlideShare. LinkedIn recently purchased this site that allows people to upload their PowerPoint presentations. You could create an eBook equivalent of SlideShare for your company’s website or start up a new website for just this purpose. The point is to make the books accessible in multiple markets.
  5. Enable “buy once, read anywhere.” Readers don’t want a selective reading experience when they purchase an eBook. Make that eBook available across multiple platforms (much the way Amazon Kindle has) and you’ll see success. Additionally, if a reader purchases a print version of very popular books, it may be advantageous to provide them access to eBook versions too.
  6. Create your own freelance market. New or inexperienced authors, if not signed with a publishing company, often have difficulty finding good freelancers to do copyediting, design, book production, marketing, etc. for them. You could start up a website that links these authors with high-quality freelancers. It just might turn more heads in your company’s direction.
  7. Create a seed fund. Kawasaki recommends that, instead of partnering with a competitor or their services, allocate a decent-size dollar amount to provide authors with seed capital. You could allow potential authors to “apply” for grants or scholarships of around $5,000. That’s just enough money for them to pay someone for freelance editing, design, and marketing with a little left over for living expenses. You would receive 10-15% of all sales as compensation.
  8. Create a scouting system for self-published books. If you look around for authors that have self-published their books, you can determine through minimal effort how popular their books are. You then make a point of making those books available to a wider audience for the benefit of readers, the author, and your company.
  9. Supplement your authors’ marketing. It’s become popular to focus on authors that already do their own marketing. But if they already market for themselves, what do they need a publishing company for? By supplementing what your authors do, you provide the opportunity for a book to become infinitely more popular than it would be without your help.
  10. Support public libraries. A lot of publishers make it nearly impossible for public libraries to loan out eBooks to patrons. Publishing companies have “a moral obligation to help libraries foster literacy and enlightenment.” Plus, the more people who borrow the book, the more free advertising and sales you will likely get (especially because a lot of people prefer to buy the book instead of borrow it).



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Stephanie Cullen has long been an avid reader and writer. She is currently in the process of developing new ideas and writing no less than a dozen different book ideas. It's a tad chaotic, but she thrives on it. Stephanie received her Bachelor of Science degree in English from Utah Valley University, and is currently working on her Master's of Professional Studies in Publishing. She hopes one day to become a successful published author, as well as a wife and mother.

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