Five ways to build a startup that keeps on growing
Setting up a publishing business can be a great idea, but in a market dominated by a few giants, many have justifiable concerns about how to break through. In so many ways, a publishing startup is no different from any other kind of startup. You need a plan and a purpose, together with the right digital solutions. Once a potential publisher understands what their product will be and how they’re going to market it, the job becomes much easier.
If your business is going to be a success then you need a clear picture of where you’re going, so you want to address some of the main concerns right from the start. Here are a few to get you started.
1. Sourcing Content
It’s all very well starting up a publishing business, but you need something to publish and that something needs to be able sell in sufficient numbers to make a mark (and a profit!). Many publishers start out by specialising in a particular niche, such as gardening or comic books (or automobiles – check out our interview with Octane Press), where they have knowledge and expertise. This means that sourcing content and identifying a market is less of a leap into the unknown because they can focus their efforts on a a specific type of subject matter.
If your plans are more far-reaching than becoming a specialist publisher, you need to gradually broaden your sphere of interest. If you don’t, it becomes easy to trap yourself in a narrow field that consumes your business, leaving authors and customers unable to see beyond it.
2. Raising Capital
As a new publisher, you need to raise significant capital in order to get your first book published and on the shelves. Fortunately, publishing startups have many of the same financial options as other new businesses, from private finance and investments to loans, grants and early revenue. But they can also take advantage of a new route to market.
Social media based crowd-funding is a unique new development in our modern world, but it’s not something you can just switch on and off. Crowd-funding works best when it’s used for a specific project, particularly when it’s for a book that’s generating a lot of excitement and interest. Essentially, crowd-funding is akin to sponsoring a publication to make it happen and, once you reach a certain threshold, you can raise extra cash by encouraging people to buy pre-print.
Bear in mind you’ll need to refund your backers if you back out of publication, and your campaign is likely to need marketing support if you hope to hit your goal. And if you’re planning on publishing in quantity, consider using a service like Patreon that allows people to pledge per project, instead of as a one-off.
3. Selling and Distributing
Breaking into the large high street book retailers isn’t easy, which means you have to look elsewhere in the short term. But there are alternatives, the internet being the obvious one. However, a slightly more imaginative approach can reap rewards too.
If your publishing output has some sort of geographical focus – such as local authors – then there’s often mileage in teaming up with a local bookshop. Likewise, if you’re a niche publisher then clubs and societies in your field might want to stock your publications.
4. Raising Your Profile
How you raise your profile will depend upon your sales and distribution process. As well as traditional methods – such as advertising and public relations – many publishers are taking advantage of social media sites, so they can provide ongoing updates for each new release.
Events can be a great idea too, from huge trade fairs and busy launch parties to pop up stands and live readings. A small bookshop, for instance, will usually be happy to do a book signing or publicity event. And if you’re focusing on a niche, fan forums can introduce your brand to new readers across a wider geographical area.
5. Maintaining Business Efficiency
Getting started is one thing, but how do you stay efficient as your company starts to grow? With so much initial business taking place across the internet, it’s important to effectively track, record, and secure your interactions.
Early adoption of enterprise technology is important for any new startup. You’ll need a scalable system to keep track of everything that happens, and it’s vital to avoid the inefficient legacy systems that plague your more established competitors. Incorporating a customer relationship management (CRM) system will help you to meet modern-day customer expectations, and digital solutions can also be used to manage rights and permissions for materials, as well as for keeping an orderly inventory of your output through a title management system.
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