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How to start a publishing business

The publishing business is incredibly popular with Russian entrepreneurs. There are 16,000 publishing houses in Russia. This is largely due to the extremely low cost of entering this market – the publication of one book costs no more than $ 5-10 thousand. However, it is extremely difficult to stay on it: the success of this or that publication cannot be calculated.

The publishing market is fairly open. This is due to its specificity. A person may read more or less books, depending on whether there is a good product on the market at the moment or not. And if he buys some book, he does it not to the detriment of another.

The diversity of participants also testifies to the openness of the market. Many publishing projects were conceived by their owners not at all as a business, but as a “good intention” to fill the existing gap in the market. Such an idea was, for example, at the heart of the Mann, Ivanov and Ferber publishing house. The founders faced the problem of choosing the necessary business literature. They organized a publishing house that specializes exclusively in business publications.

Before launching a publishing project, you need to understand its goals and capabilities: what books the publishing house will publish, what is the target audience of this literature, how to convey the product to the consumer, etc. If this condition is met, the chances of success are quite high: Russia is a country big, and any good book has millions of potential readers.

The price of entry into this market is quite low. The cost of issuing one book with a circulation of up to 10,000 copies is about $1. Accordingly, investments in the first edition will amount to $5-10 thousand.

But you will have to rely mainly on your own resources. Banks do not lend to the publishing business, because book publishing is considered a high-risk business. The risks here are as follows – a new book may not be in demand, the author may not write a new book within the agreed time frame or even go to another publisher, etc. Such force majeure circumstances are a common situation for the market.

There are two options for financing new projects in the publishing industry. The first is the attraction of private investors. The second is cooperation with large publishing companies. The practice is very common. Small companies in this case act as contractors: they prepare the product, a larger partner prepares the book directly for release, prints and sells the book through its distribution network. The profit is divided in half.This article may be outdated. More relevant articles on this topic:

For start-up publications, such cooperation is beneficial, they receive funding and good distribution. Large companies are also interested in this: small companies can be specialists in narrow niches in which universal operators are often not strong.

In the total volume of sales of literature in Russia, 20% is occupied by action literature, as well as applied and school teaching, 15% by fiction, children’s and teens, and 7-8% each by science fiction and fantasy, modern prose and business literature.

Only a very large company can afford to be a universal publishing house. This requires at least a large staff. In addition to the personnel issue, universal publishing houses have to solve a lot of problems associated with a large volume of diverse books: simultaneously work with several printing houses at once, have branched distribution, etc. A beginner cannot handle such problems.

The optimal startup model is to choose a narrow niche in which it is well versed: it owns the material, knows the tastes, interests and capabilities of the target audience, etc. Books on cooking, floriculture, home gardening, esotericism, psychology, etc. are always in demand on the market In a narrow niche, you can always successfully compete with a large publishing house.

For a start-up publishing house, the most difficult task is to find new authors. Firstly, already established authors will most likely refuse to work with a newcomer, if only because large publishing houses offer much more attractive working conditions. Secondly, the likelihood that a publisher will be able to successfully enter the market with a new author is extremely small. Thirdly, it is impossible to calculate whether the author will be in demand or not. Large publishing houses annually receive up to 2 thousand manuscripts, and only 400 of them are published, and only a few become bestsellers. And the profit from the sale of these 400 authors is extremely insignificant.

Start staffing by looking for an editor. In publishing houses, everything rests on the editors. They select those manuscripts that will eventually be published. They must have a good idea of ​​who the reader of the future book is, how to convey information about this book to him: so that the cover matches the content, the price is affordable for the target audience, and even choose the right sales channel (it happens that books become bestsellers in the catalog trade, but are not sold through stores at all, and vice versa). The sales director is the number two person after the editor.

To be an effective publishing house, it is not necessary to have a huge staff, as in some large publishing houses. A few people who develop the concept of the book and are engaged in its merchandising are enough, all other processes can be carried out by the publishing contractor. Most printing houses are ready not only to print the book, but also to carry out its full prepress preparation. Such a scheme of work, for example, in the Mann, Ivanov and Ferber publishing house, they work without staff, all the main work is done by three founders.

The second main problem of the market after the problem with the authors is the lack of an effective distribution system. In Russia, it is very difficult to bring a book to the reader: the country is large, but there are few bookstores.

All wholesale and distribution companies involved in the distribution of books from Moscow to the regions are focused only on large volumes and large publishing houses. The chances of a distributor wanting to work with a newcomer are low. And even the wholesaler’s consent to take a new book for sale does not guarantee its high sales – in the large volume of publications supplied by the wholesaler to the store, the book will simply be lost somewhere on the edge of the shelf.

The best way out is to start promoting your own book yourself. This is the only way to succeed in the publishing business. Establish contacts with retailers, convince the store that your book should be taken for sale, control how it will be displayed on the trading floor, buy advertising space in front of the store, etc. An important point: you need to count on all stores both in Moscow and in regions. You should not focus your efforts only on the three most famous Moscow stores. According to the experience of experienced publishers, sales of even bestsellers through them do not exceed 1-2% of the total circulation, while ordinary books are sold by single copies.

The main risks for a publisher are associated with authors. The list of possible force majeure situations is unusually wide and varied: disagreements with the authors, outbidding by competitors, the author “wears out”, ceases to be popular, etc.

Also, when starting a business, you should know two important points. Firstly, book promotion technologies on the market guarantee only 20% of success, 80% of it depends only on whether the reader likes the book or not. The success of books cannot be accurately calculated. Secondly, selling a publishing business is extremely difficult. There are no assets in the publishing business that would be of interest to an investor. Nobody needs unsold balances of books in warehouses. Everyone is interested only in the authors.

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