Publishing Strategy

Developing a publishing program in an institution, expanding a program or self-publishing as an individual have many requirements in common. The following discussion was written by Kitty Maryatt with additions by Sandy Tilcock and can be considered a six-point plan for establishing a program of action.

I. Define your mission statement.

Find a model that can help you pin down your goals:

  • traditional publisher: bring together a writer and an image-maker and arrange for the printing, binding, marketing and distribution
  • publish your own individual work and do everything yourself (self-publisher)
  • publish collaborative efforts between the printer, artist, writer and binder, any one of whom could be the instigator of the project

II. Look at specific models.

  • Black Rock Press, University of Nevada at Reno, Bob Blesse: publishes four to five books per year. Bob Blesse is both Rare Books Librarian at the University and publisher at Black Rock Press.
  • Knight Library Press, University of Oregon at Eugene, Sandy Tilcock: intends to publish primarily previously unpublished writers/artists from the region, two books and four broadsides per year. Has been in development phase for two years. Business plan: the goal is to break even within two years. Startup funds were obtained by private donation. All work will be done in-house. Sandy is Director on a 12-month contract. An advisory board has been established; the Director answers to the Board. Her direct supervisor is the Head of Special Collections. Sandy’s Lone Goose Press facilities are being leased by the University Library for their use; the contract allows her to use her press 14% of the time. Sandy will develop a workshop schedule and possibly teach a class for the Fine Arts Department once a year.
  • Scripps College Press, Claremont, CA, Kitty Maryatt: publish student/professor collaborative fine press books, two per year (one book per semester), edition size usually 60 books. Students are the artists and writers, letterpress printers and binders in a class called Typography: The Art of the Book. Sometimes the students have to find poetry/prose that they will get permission to print and use this as inspiration for their own writing. The professor sets the parameters for the project, teaches them what they need to know, helps them do research and sometimes joins in with her work. You can read about the assignments on our Scripps College Press web page under publications. Each student gets a book. There are 17 standing orders. Books are sold through catalogs and book dealers and at events. The Press was established in 1941 as an experimental teaching laboraory. The Press started printing collaborative books when Kitty arrived in 1986.

III. Identify personnel required.

  • Overseer of publishing program (who may do all or some of the following)
  • Decision maker: decide what kind of book will be published: choose writer and artist (possible steering committee on what gets published); and how to publish book: choose printer and binder; develop production schedule
  • Procurer of materials: buy paper, inks, type, binding materials
  • Record keeper: accept book orders, arrange to send books out, keep financial records: who has paid, who has not yet paid, deposit checks, write out invoices, keep track of books sent out to exhibitions or events
  • Shipping department: package and mail out books, match invoices with records, verify that books get to destination, ship to exhibitions, events
  • Catalog developer: develop catalog, continue to add entries to catalog for latest books published, arrange design, printing and distribution of catalog
  • Inventory: tracking, storing, and retrieving books
  • Marketing: develop list of target buyers to determine who gets letters and catalogs, arrange programs at book stores, arrange readings/events/publication party, arrange food/drinks for events, arrange publicity for events, arrange for sales personnel at events
  • Exhibitions coordinator: develop exhbitions of Press, enter books into juried exhibitions, keep track of which books are currently in exhibitions, work with marketing director on publicity

IV. Identify a timeline for publishing.

  • How many books to publish each year will determine schedule.
  • Plan the schedule of operations for each book: deadlines for writing, imagery, design, procurement of materials, printing and binding, writing catalog entry and hosting publication parties and other events (you can see the Scripps College Press schedule on our web site under calendar)
  • Work with the marketing planner to develop dates for public events

V. Develop a marketing plan.

  • Develop list of institutions & individuals who buy your kind of book
    • Check with Rare Book Librarians to identify institutions
    • Ask people who sell books like yours to help you with lists
    • Ask people who buy your books to suggest other individuals.
  • Identify book stores who would carry your book; they get a discount: 20% off if they order one book, 30% for two, 40% three or more
  • Find a book dealer who would be willing to work with your books; they might get 30-40% off as do regular bookstores who order more than one book (Califia in San Francisco helps to sell the Scripps College Press books)
  • Send a feeler letter/card: this is the kind of book we publish, include price: do you collect this kind of book? Do you want to be on our mailing list?
  • Send postcard/prospectus for book with a personalized letter; add information about the press with a list of past books
  • Follow up with a phone call shortly after
  • Make an appointment to show the book, or send book on spec
  • Develop a web site to show off books; show perhaps 4-5 pictures of the book, maybe pages turning in QuickTime movie
  • Keep track of all purchases on a master list
  • Send letters/announcements 2-3 times per year, and preview what books will be coming up
  • Develop standing orders, who get typically 20-25% off; send them extra things, like broadsides developed for a project or extra pages from books
  • Keep a display copy or more for exhibitions
  • You might keep back some copies for later sale
  • Make slides/photos of books and send to people who talk about books
  • Arrange for books to be in exhibitions, mention them in your letters and on web site, keep track of awards
  • Organize a publication party and readings, events to draw people in to see your book
  • Print a broadside for an event that would be available as a keepsake or for sale
  • Develop a spread sheet to budget all costs and to plan for a profit: include line items for materials, fees, production costs, marketing costs (one example suggested that 65% of total sales would be break-even point)
  • Design a catalog of all books with price and description and send out to targeted individuals and institutions
  • Work with the development office: these books might be a way to bring in new people as donors
  • Develop connections with other publication entitites on campus: gallery, university press, public relations, alumnae organizations

VI. Establish a budget.

  • Work with someone who can develop a spread sheet for your needs (try QuickBooks): factor in supplies and materials, writers and artists fees, printing and binding costs, marketing costs, payroll for overseer, interns, students
  • Writers and artists fees are negotiable; Sandy Tilcock: suggested fees for previously unpublished prose of under 1500 words: $500-750, over 1500 : $1000-1250. Normally the writer and/or artist will get one book
  • Collaboration: you might split the books for sale between collaborators, but make it clear what your sales base is, so there won’t be conflicts
  • Decide if need to establish a profit: suggestion that 65% of sales should mark break-even point
  • Establish sales price of book by balancing all above factors, taking into account number of copies to be published in the edition
  • Further evaluate sales price by doing a market comparison, like real estate sales: go to a collecting library and find books like yours and compare prices
  • Establish who gets the funds: do you have control over the sales receipts? Do you have to be self-sustaining? Where do you get the start-up costs? (Example: Kitty started the Scripps publishing program with $150 for paper and boards and found some left-over bright turquoise bookcloth to use: these sales gave us money for the next book and recognition so that eventually we got a bigger budget for materials)