The Wisdom of Successful Publishers

September 1999
by Bob Erdmann, Publishing Consultant

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Countless times, I’m asked, “Have you seen many changes in your forty years in the publishing industry?” The answer is always “Yes, of course. And far more in the past ten than the previous thirty.” The biggest change? Undeniably in technology and its effects in the areas of production, graphics, and particularly in statistical analysis. New technology, as we are all well aware, has caused an explosion in independent/self-publishing. Today, literally anyone with an idea, access to a computer, and a checkbook can become “a publisher in a day.” Becoming a successful publisher isn’t quite so easy!
Recently I was asked to speak to the San Diego Publishers Alliance on the “10 Secrets of Success in the Book Business.” I thought the best preparation for this would be to reflect on experiences that I have had with ever so many publishers over these four decades and set aside those characteristics which were common to the publishers who have achieved the highest quality of success over time.
In my experience, the following 10 characteristics are those that are most common among successful publishers. Most certainly, each of the 10 requires an education in itself and I can only touch upon them in this article. A number of these are so very, very basic and fundamental that, for some of you, I will be preaching to the choir. But sadly, many others will hear them for the first time.
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