The Corner Office: Change, Distribution Top List of Challenges for Indie Houses
• What would be your advice for indie publishers trying to weather this economic storm?
Binford Kichler: I write a monthly column for our association magazine, the Independent. Several months ago, the topic of my column was “Ten Tips for Tough Times.” My top three favorites are:
• Keep marketing. During a slump, cutting back on marketing is tempting. After all, if nobody’s buying anyway, why should you invest all those bucks to persuade people when they’ve already made up their minds? But assuming nobody’s buying is a slippery slope.
To cite just two examples, libraries must still serve patrons, and schools must educate children. Sure, budgets are being cut, but your challenge is to persuade buyers that your titles are the best value for their shrinking funds. When the economy (and budgets) recover, who do you think those same buyers will think of first? Certainly not those who lost touch with their customers.
• Explore new ways of slicing, dicing and repurposing your existing content. Think “outside the book.” Are your titles available as e-books? Kindle editions? Audiobooks? Large print? Can you offer your content for sale by the chapter? What about turning illustrations into calendars or note cards? You’ve already invested in the up-front creative costs—now’s the time to get creative with new income streams going forward.
• Join IBPA. Twenty-five affiliate groups around the country provide invaluable in-person networking opportunities, benefits save publishers’ money, online education programs allow publishers to increase their professional knowledge without leaving home, and cooperative marketing programs reach buyers at a fraction of the cost of going it alone.
• How are you positioning your own company, Patria Press, to go “beyond the book”?
Binford Kichler: Our “Young Patriots Series” of historical fiction for children ages 8-12 is available in audiobooks (CD and MP3), Playaway audio [a small audiobook player with digital content preloaded], all possible e-book formats and the Kindle. We have sold nonexclusive electronic rights to a large database that supplies libraries and will be seeking more electronic rights opportunities.
In addition, since each one of our books features the childhood of a famous personage in American history, we are always exploring publishing partnerships with associations/entities that have a relationship to one or more of our titles—for example, a historic site or birthplace.
The joy (and challenge) of being an independent publisher is the ability to “turn on a dime” to take advantage of opportunities—and the freedom to mine that niche that may be 2-inches wide, but 12-miles deep.