Publisher’s Update – Looking back on Year Two
January is the anniversary of Parvus’ founding. And so I’m going to take some blog space and look back on Parvus’ second year. Be forewarned, this is NOT a post about how awesome our books are (though they are), it’s a 10,000’ review of what it’s been like to grow a small publisher.
One would think that January is a great time to reflect back on the past year, given that it’s the turning of the calendar and all that. But it’s also the month that 1099s are due to all of our vendors. And K-1 forms are due to the company’s owners. And I have to close the books on the prior year. And we pay royalties.
And, and, and…
I think you get the point.
That’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned over this second year of being the publisher here at Parvus Press. It’s that the business end of the business is vital to the creative side and I’m pleased we didn’t launch this business years ago. We just plain wouldn’t have the experience managing budgets, projecting expenses, and all those other things that have kept the company moving. Seriously, if you don’t have a firm understanding of the concept of cash flows, you should think thrice before launching a business because…
Everything is More Expensive Than You Expect
The second-most important thing I’ve learned is that everything is more expensive than you expect. Sure, careful planning can control for a lot of variables, but not all of them. Somebody’s going to get sick and cause you to miss a deadline. A contractor is going to fail to deliver on a contract and you’ll have to scramble to get somebody else. You’re going to screw something up because you were working until 4 AM because you’re a small business owner and that’s what you do. Everywhere along the way, you’re going to have small errors that increase your costs. Which is fine because…
Learning From Small Mistakes Prevents Big Mistakes
There are days where I chomp at the bit to grow this business faster. But that way lies doom. We designed our careful growth to minimize the impact of small mistakes on the business. During Vick’s Vultures, we learned that there is no substitute for a real copyeditor. Imagine if we had six books coming out that first year instead of just one? We’d either release six error-riddled books or we’d have thousands in un-projected costs. Screwing up small helps us grow big. Which is frustrating because…
Nobody Sees Beneath the Duck
The publishing business is a perfect fit for that old duck metaphor. Calm on the surface, furious motion underneath. Look at Parvus’ website right now. We have three books released and, it would appear, two books we’re working on.
We’re actually working on seven. And we’re about to open for more submissions.
Working on seven books at once is a LOT of work. But we can manage it because…
Communication is Magic
When our business is running well, the Parvus team members are communicating frequently and clearly. When it’s not running well (Thankfully, those days are rare), our team isn’t communicating frequently or clearly. I’ll give you one guess as to which is the cause and which the effect. I’m not going to dwell on this other than to say that open, honest communications between team members is some seriously powerful business magic.
And rather than continue to bore you, I’ll finish up here by sharing a random list of other stuff I’ve learned this year which has been vital to building a publishing company:
- Save money by printing ARCs in a trim size that fits a USPS one-rate box (Digest Format does not)
- Just because you’re offered distribution doesn’t mean you should take it
- Contracts are useless if you don’t enforce them
- Royalties for one novel are complicated but fine and you can handle that in a spreadsheet.
- Royalties for two novels are complicated and a headache but you can handle it in a spreadsheet.
- Royalties for multiple novels with multiple authors require you to use your accounting software in new and annoying ways.
- It’s worth your money to pay somebody to set QuickBooks up the right way the first time.
- Trust your instincts
- RAISE YOUR DAMN HAND! Never assume somebody else has something in hand or that they’ll take care of something. If you see something that you think even might maybe just slightly need to be changed, say it. Chances are, others have concerns, too.
- Don’t spend a dollar until you ABSOLUTELY MUST. (I spent quite a bit on equipment for some promotional efforts at the beginning of the year and, it turns out, don’t have anywhere near enough time to use it yet. That’s spent money which won’t give me a return for another year)
- If you have to choose between saving money and doing the right thing, you shouldn’t run a business. Because it’s not a choice. Always do the right thing. Always.
- Be CLEAR with EVERY requirement that goes to a vendor or subcontractor. There are a LOT of assumptions in this industry. And none of them are consistent. Some cover artists assume they’re doing the cover titles, text, and layout. Others assume they’re not without an added charge. Others don’t do it at all. Some assume a cover means a full wrap-around for front and back. Others assume it just means a “digital” or front cover. Spell out your expectations and double-check that the vendor understands before money is sent or work begins.
- On art: Don’t commission the cover before you have a firm handle on how long the editing will take. Otherwise, you’ll pay for a cover to sit on a hard drive for six months where it can’t earn you any revenue or attract eyeballs.
- Don’t fear ignorance. Being ignorant of something and keeping quiet about it is a failing. Being ignorant of something and asking is you showing your desire to learn, grow, and be informed. Embrace your ignorance while you slaughter it with knowledge.
- There’s never enough time. Trust others to help lighten the workload.
There’s more, but that’s a good representative sample to start with. It’s been a great year for us here at Parvus and we really can’t wait to show you what we’re working on next. So come back soon. FLOTSAM’s coming in March and you’re going to love that book. It’s one of my favorite debut novels ever. And then we’ve got some great YA Fantasy coming in the summer, a badass anthology in the fall, a new Union Earth Privateers adventure, and we really can’t wait to give you a look at an awesome new hidden world fantasy coming just in time for Halloween.
Thanks for staying with us these last two years and supporting our amazing authors. Tell a friend about a Parvus book, won’t you? As ever, feel free to engage with us on all the social platforms or to email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for being Parvus People, and here’s to an awesome 2018,