What would make you want to read this book?
With apologies to Dr. Sigmund Freud, “What does a reader want?”
That and other questions were answered at the annual Independent Book Publishers Association Publishing University in San Francisco a few weeks ago.
Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA from here on out because, phew, that’s a long name, and I don’t get paid by the word) is the largest national trade group for independent publishers.
There are some 3,000 members — independent book publishers, self-publishers, small presses and mid-sized publishers — all those small companies and individuals producing books outside of the Big Five trade book publishing houses: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.
The Big Five have big staffs to select, edit, design and market books. The little guys have to do the exact same work with minimal staff, sometimes just the one caffeinated soul running the company.
That one person may be reading submitted manuscripts, negotiating contracts, editing copy, working with a design team, securing ISBN numbers and registering book info on a number of sites, deciding print specs, pitching to distributors and wholesalers, fulfilling orders, organizing author promotions, pitching to book reviewers, converting books to e-books and entering books in contests. And that is an abbreviated list.
It’s a steep learning curve, particularly for self-publishing authors who think their work is done at the end of rewriting. Contraire. Their writing is done, but the hard work of book production and sales is just starting.
With few barriers to entry for self-published authors, more people than ever need to learn the skills behind making a successful book, and unless you’re just publishing for a small circle of friends and family, by a successful book I mean one that will sell.
That’s why groups such as IBPA are invaluable resources, and the Publishing University was both a crash course in publishing for beginners and an exchange of best practices among the experienced and savvy for the benefit of all.
For the local self-publishing wonks, I’ll be giving a more detailed presentation on What I Learned at IBPA Publishing University from 6–7 p.m. Friday for the Western Colorado Writers’ Forum at the group’s new offices, 740 Gunnison Ave.
The event is open to the public with a $10 entry. It’s free to members, and you can join at the door. A mixer will follow.
There is a lot to learn about self-publishing. I’m learning all the time. I look forward to sharing what’s worked and hasn’t worked for me, both in publishing books through The Daily Sentinel and in my previous experience. In turn, I’ll be learning from the audience.
Go to westerncoloradowriters.org to find out more about this event and others sponsored by the forum.
Getting back to what readers want, I found this study shared by IBPA Executive Director Angela Bole particularly interesting:
Top 7 Reasons For Buying Books, according to Bowker’s U.S. Book Consumer Demographics & Buying Behaviors Annual Review from 2011:
■ 14 percent — Author
■ 13 percent — Topic/Subject
■ 9 percent — Series
■ 7 percent — Price
■ 6 percent — Looked Through the Book
■ 5 percent — Friend Recommendation
■ 5 percent — Title
Although I’m not surprised that author is at the top of the list, I would have guessed price would be lower and a friend recommendation would be higher. I’m also surprised that “Cover” wasn’t on the list, but perhaps that’s just a given.
Finally, this from author and presenter Jason Lewis resonated with me: “If you never take calculated risk, you’ll live your life in one valley and never know what else is out there.”
This is a good reminder to all of us — readers, writers and general life adventurers — to get out of our rut and see what’s in the next valley.