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Independent Publishers Share the Biggest Publishing Lessons They Learned in 2019

Thursday, December 19, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Christopher Locke
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It’s hard to believe, but 2019 has almost come to a close. Since IBPA’s motto is “Helping Each Other Achieve and Succeed,” we want our members to learn from each other’s successes and challenges from the year, so we asked our community:

Please describe the biggest publishing lesson you learned in 2019.

IBPA members shared interesting and valuable insight based on their experiences. Check out their answers below:

Rob Broder
Be patient.

“Be patient. You don't need everything to happen at once. You don't need a bunch of books every season. Stay steady and things will happen. If you spend all your money on making books, cash flow will be tricky when marketing and reprints are needed. We released four books in 2019, but printed seven because we needed to do three reprints from previous titles that were selling well...not something we expected. A good situation to be in for a small press, but juggling the money and timing was tricky. And juggling the marketing budget for the year was a bit of a balancing act. There's a lot of waiting in publishing. Waiting for a manuscript to be finished, waiting for the illustrator to finish the art, waiting to design each page, waiting for the printer to print the book, waiting for the reviewers to review your story, waiting for the books to be shipped to your distributor, and waiting to see if the book sells well and is well-received. So I have learned to take a breath, go for a run, and be patient. :-)"

Rob Broder, Publisher, Ripple Grove Press

Seth Dellon
Go direct to consumer.

"A friend who works at a Big 5 publisher told me a few months ago that they ‘suck at going direct to consumer.’

Indie publishers' ability to be nimble and their tendencies to be savvy and innovative makes all of the unpredictable ways that direct-to-consumer is manifesting theirs for the taking—especially if indies are willing to go places that bigger publishers aren't."

Seth Dellon, Director of Strategic Development, Publishers Weekly

Christopher Locke
Continue to promote all titles.

"One of the great perks of being on the IBPA staff is that I also get to be an IBPA member, so I love getting a chance to participate in our various marketing programs. I was curious to do the IBPA Media Outreach Program for the second book in my YA series, which had just published in 2018, but after talking to IBPA’s Director of Marketing & Programing Lee Wind, he suggested I promote the first book in my series instead of the second. Book One, Persimmon Takes On Humanity, published back in 2015, so I was concerned that the media would think of it as ‘old news’ and not be interested, but Lee smartly felt that since it’s a book series, it’s better for them to start with the first book, no matter when it was published. I was pleasantly surprised that because of the eblast we sent out, I landed an interview on a podcast (one that’s perfectly aligned with the animal themes of my series) and Midwest Book Review reposted a great review my book had received from an Amazon customer in their online book review magazine Reviewer’s Bookwatch in April. Both opportunities led to more book sales.

"Oftentimes, we focus so much of our marketing strategy on the launch of a book and then a year later we quickly move on to the next project, but it’s always beneficial to continue to promote all our titles. Readers just want to read good books; they don’t care when they were published.”

Christopher Locke, Executive Assistant & Member Liaison, Independent Book Publishers Association

Cathey Nickell
Overcome your fear.

"Overcoming fear was my lesson for 2019. As a children's book author publisher, I'm always looking for ways to connect with other authors, editors, publishers, and book sellers. As such, I attended a large Texas writer's conference, hoping to expand my networking base and learn more about the industry. I went alone and didn't know anyone there. On the first night of the event, there was a cocktail party in the hotel ballroom, and the conference director told us to 'go around, have fun, and work the room.' I'm not overly shy, but when I heard those three words—work the room—I was seized by panic. This was the first time I'd ever felt that much fear; I physically could not do it. I walked out of the ballroom, checked out of the hotel, and drove three hours straight back home. I wasted all the money I had spent and lost out on many positive opportunities, simply because of fear. I had allowed my insecurities to dictate my results. After some self-reflection, I swore to myself that I would not do that again. When another conference came along a few months later, I attended. This time, I chose a path of courage, engagement, and risk. I worked the room!"

Cathey Nickell, Author Publisher, Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn and Arthur Zarr’s Amazong Art Car

Teri Case
Nurture your subscribers and mailing lists.

“My biggest publishing lesson of 2019 is that subscribers and mailing lists need to be nurtured because they are your readers on the street. These lovely subscribers are the people who care about your books and will share them word-of-mouth. They are the supporters who will buy your future novels and tell their friends about them. Respect and reward their precious time and commitment. Don’t flood them with irrelevant emails, but don’t ignore them either. When you have something relevant to share, whether it’s about the book or a story that is on-brand and shares a similar message or theme, send a newsletter. Ask them what’s important to them? Thank them for their time. Keep them close."

Teri Case, Author Publisher, In the Doghouse

Jason Paul
Find "perfect" partners.

"In early 2009 I began the long, yet rewarding journey of becoming an independent publisher. Now ten years later, through maintaining a driven, solution-focused and goal-motivated mindset; my dream, Lightning Bug Lights, has become reality.

"One of the biggest obstacles that I have faced on this journey, which was such an integral part of creating Lightning Bug Lights, was to find the perfect illustrator—an illustrator who could fully capture my vision and then bring it to life. Once I found Stefan, from there all the pieces began to fall into place. Stefan and I were in constant communication. We did everything that we could to ensure that we were constantly on the same page through the book’s development.

"Fifteen months later after countless video chats, texts, and emails, Lightning Bug Lights' first test print was completed by BookBaby. After the test print was completed, there were two small errors that I found while reviewing the print. Immediately, my focus went into correcting those errors before the final print and official launch of Lightning Bug Lights.

"I always believed myself to be a patient person; however, this journey truly tested my level of patience and helped me further develop that skill."

Jason Paul, Author Publisher

Leslie Turner
Try new business initiatives, practices, and relationships.

“In 2019, we tried a lot of new business initiatives, practices, and relationships in an effort to grow, but found that several of these efforts were non-starters, leaving us short of our publishing goals for the year. We were more focused on business than on the business we’re in. Sometimes you can work so hard at growth that you veer off-course. Going too fast and ignoring the signs of trouble ahead is exactly what sunk the Titanic! We turned our ship around by completing a great deal of infrastructure improvement and training, and giving ourselves an honest head-to-toe examination, an on-going process."

Leslie Turner, Founder & Publisher, Encourage Books

Kathryn Sparks
Be a resilient editor.

"The biggest lesson and takeaway from 2019 for me was learning how to be a resilient editor. Delays happen! And they can come from all parts of the publishing process, but learning how to bounce back, work with your team, and still publish on time is key."

Kathryn Sparks, Manager of Consumer Publishing, American Academy of Pediatrics

IBPA is grateful to all the indie publishers who shared their experiences from 2019 with the IBPA community! We hope that 2019 proved to be a successful year for you, and that 2020 holds even more enriching experiences!

If you have a 2019 publishing lesson learned that you’d like to add, we would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Also, for more insight from your fellow indie publishers, check out the article we ran at the end of last year: “Independent Publishers Share the Biggest Publishing Lessons They Learned in 2018.”

Share your own publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to For more details about the types of stories we're seeking, click here.

Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (such as, you published a book about space exploration and now it's being read in a live video feed by astronauts from the International Space Station), unique news (such as, you published a book about cycling and now the author is riding a bike across the U.S. for their book tour), or human interest stories (such as, you visit shelters every weekend to read books to the dogs and cats there).

Though launching a new book isn’t the focus of our Spotlights articles, IBPA is happy to share that exciting news on social media. Please contact with the launch date, your book cover, your book title, your book's genre, a link to where readers can learn more about your book, and your Twitter handle.

For good news in general about your publishing company (your book received a wonderful editorial review, you have an upcoming speaking engagement, etc.), use the hashtag #IBPAmemberGoodNews on Twitter and IBPA will amplify your good news!

Whether you have news or not, all of us at IBPA are cheering you on!

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