Literary Architects, LLC works with authors to combine the quality and standards of traditional publishing with the flexibility and control of self-publishing. Literary Architects' publishing professionals specialize in selecting and partnering with committed authors to produce trade-quality books, consulting with authors to plan and execute custom sales and marketing strategies, and providing authors with fulfillment and distribution of their books.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Power of Outside Help

Since we began Literary Architects, I've been amazed at the number of ways that small business is more functional than many big corporations. There are a million reasons -- some obvious and others not so much. But one of the best things I've loved about the start-up experience has been the access to outside help. Yesterday, we had a vitally inspiring, challenging, comforting, and exciting meeting with one of our advisory board members on our industry and far-future strategy. The coolest part? Having great interaction with someone who's interested in our success -- so much so that they'll volunteer time for our advisory board. (I think this every time we meet with one of our advisory board members -- it's such a great concept.)

Why is outside help so much more accessible in small business? In a corporation, if you're working on a new project, a business unit, or any other sort of venture requiring specialized expertise, you're pretty much limited to what you know or have access to in house. If you can't get help, you just wing it. Going outside for help is too time consuming and expensive. No one ever has any budget, so you try to educate yourself as much as you can with research, but otherwise, between you, your boss and anyone else involved, you go with what you've got. You end up trusting a lot of people who may or may not really know what they're doing and hoping for the best. You may be grabbing books and taking crash courses on what you need, but otherwise, you're on your own. (Which is pretty ironic in a big corporation when you think about it.)

Small business? We've found it to be completely different. I've never felt less "on my own" in my life. Experts? Between the three of us, we have a broad range who have sincerely offered their help. And what do we do? We take them up on it as often as possible. Latest in web usability studies and design? We talked to an expert about that. Latest in content on demand technologies? We have an expert on that. Latest in business, financial, and professional publishing? We've got a great contact. Typically, when we really reach an impasse, we know someone who's brain we can pick. We've been so lucky to have friends, professionals, former colleagues, and mentors who've offered to help. And our best move? We ask lots of questions, as often as possible.

Why does this back-and-forth work in small business? People like to help. They like to be associated with new ventures and if they've been supportive of you, personally, or your projects in the past, they're likely to want to again. Never underestimate the power of personal relationships. Plus, if you ask an expert for advice on their topic (say, audio production), chances are they'll think of you when it comes to your topic (that is, publishing). When you start a new business, lots of good people will offer to help -- and my advice? Take them up on it. Sure, you should have a good idea of whether or not they're going to be real help to you, but if you know subject matter and topic experts, business strategists, web experts, lawyers, accountants, and other top notch professionals, pick their brains. Let them in.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Taking the Plunge

I love this business! Yesterday I had a great conversation with a former colleague, a woman who is one of the most creative and enthusiastic special sales reps I've ever worked with. (In publishing, "special sales" is a sales channel encompassing the selling of books to outside third parties for branded, bulk sale opportunities like a premium or custom publication.) She was a great matchmaker helping publishers and authors alike brainstorm opportunities. Over the years, I changed jobs and imprints and so did she, but I knew I could always count on her to look at creative ways to help authors expand their reach. We've been working together for almost 10 years!

So, imagine my excitement when yesterday she called to let me know that she's going out on her own! She's making the leap, taking the plunge, jumping into the deep end of the pool, and opening her own consulting practice. Woo-hoo! Good luck, Debbie, and welcome to the entrepreneurial side of publishing. I look forward to brainstorming -- and even working together again -- in the future.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Marketing Your Book Starts During the Writing Process

Renee's post on goal setting and a marketing seminar I attended got me thinking about the book marketing process, and one of the problems we often see. I am often asked when the marketing for a book should start. When do you move from creating to marketing? My answer is that marketing the book should start as early as the writing -- and often before-hand.

When you first decide what the book is that you are writing (and what your goals are for the project), it is critical to start thinking about who your specific readers are and what they are looking for in the book. To effectively market a book to your target market, you need to make sure the content that you are writing is focused specifically for that reader. The earlier you have that specific reader in mind, the easier it will be to make sure that your book addresses the needs of that reader (and your goals).

It is always easier to make sure the book fits the needs of your target readers at the time you are writing the book, than to realize after the book is written that there is another potential market for the book (and that it doesn't quite ideally fit that reader), and then trying to redefine the sales pitch and marketing copy to sell your pre-existing book to the market.

And keep in mind that a book can and should have multiple ideal readers -- but the more you can focus the book with specific readers in mind, the better it will be. As a publishing colleague once said, "the book that is written for everyone is really written for no one."

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Importance of Setting Goals for Your Book

For the last two weeks, the question I've been continually asking authors is "what are your goals for self-publishing you book?" It's come up on four different projects. We've walked in a room, or gotten on the phone and asked right off "tell us about your book" followed by "what do you want to accomplish?" or "what's your goal?" It's been interesting to see who's had answers for this question. Big corporate clients? They have a ready response. Smaller companies seem to have a more difficult time focusing on the big picture. (It could be the nature of small companies and the strong teams of "do-ers" that most successful small businesses have, but that's a whole other blog post.)

When we ask you the goal question, know that the best answer is that you have them. Good answers? To market our company, to extend our brand, to add a touch to a high touch sale, to evangelize a message we're passionate about, tell people our style, give something back to our clients, give our philosophy to our client base, reposition ourselves in our industry, provide specialized information to help support/close a sale. Some good answers are less corporate -- to spend my retirement/time-off/2nd job selling and promoting my idea/message/advice to help people, to build my business, support my speaking, expand my credibility in my industry. To break even, to make money, to sell x-number of copies. These all worthy goals. "To have an expensive business card" is as worthy a goal as to "expand our sales by 50%". This I can work with.

What are bad answers? The worst answer is when you don't have a goal at all. Trust me, as an editor, I know when people are avoiding the issue -- and a bad answer is when I ask about goals and only get how cool the content will be. Or how there's budget and the CEO wants it. Then I get avoidance. Hey, I'm only trying to make you look good -- the CEO may sign off on a very big line item on the budget now, but what's he going to think in two years when those boxes are still stacked up in the storage room and he's wondering why they ever spent all that money on those crazy books.

Why are goals critically important to your project's success? Your goals will shape your book's content, its audience, its cover, its form, its interior design, its price, its market, everything. If you don't have a goal, you don't have a book. Or, rather, you can have a book but it's going to be an expensive hodge podge of text and pictures. Goals also help insure everyone is on the same page and that the entire team is working towards one objective. The author needs to understand the goal as much as each individual editor. It's going to be the first thing you need to tell each member or your team and its going to be critical for all your marketing efforts. Don't think you have a goal but know how you want to market your book? Tell me about that -- because sometimes that helps me understand what you're trying to accomplish self-publishing a book. However, if you're an editor or project manager and say to us "I don't know what they want to do with the books when they're done". Whoa, Nellie.

Self-publishing is a great endeavor -- and what's wonderful about it is how it opens up whole new avenues to authors to publish books for such a wide variety of reasons. But what just makes me want to cry is when I see companies allocate huge budgets to book projects that seem to just be a vanity gig -- or a pet project someone has sold them on -- and they don't have any idea what they're actually going to *do* with the books, or why they're doing them. They become expensive mistakes and put them off ever wanting to a book project again, when a properly focused book could actually be a huge help to them. So, set your goals. Ask. If you're an editor or freelance project manager, find out. But give it some thought, and know it's probably going to be one of the first questions I ask. You're going to increase your chances of publishing a successful project and you'll love us for making you look good.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Airport Ghost Town

I had the opportunity of being one of the few people not able to watch the Super Bowl last night. Instead, I was on a plane returning from New Mexico (where I'd been attending a publishing marketing conference -- more on that later). I had a lay-over in Minneapolis during the first half of the game, and it was an eerie feeling walking through a nearly deserted major airport at 6:30 on a Sunday evening. All of the fast food areas and waiting areas were empty. In fact, everywhere except the waiting areas with a television, or the bars with a television was empty.

People were crammed into the few areas that had the game on, and everyone was tuned in. It was the same odd sensation as walking through an airport at 1 am, or walking through the streets of a European city while that country's team is playing in the European Cup soccer championship game! It was nice seeing that everyone was focused on the TV and it wasn't some news coverage of some terrible disaster. Nothing to bring everyone together like the Super Bowl.

Loving the Work Life

As I've adjusted my work style away from the day-to-day corporate rigidity, I'm really coming to appreciate the ups-and-downs of entrepreneurial life. Last week, we were so busy with meetings, and proposals, I worked 70 hours just jumping from deadline to deadline. This week is a bit more relaxed. After several hectic days, last Friday morning's New Economy New Rules seminar was the first hour I had to just sit and process some data. I'm sure the woman next to me thought I was furiously scribbling notes on the telecommunications deregulation panel, but in reality I was downloading thoughts and ideas from our week of meetings, follow-ups, and book concepts. Unlike class in college when you couldn't zone out (but wanted to), this was really liberating. I processed unrelated information with no threat of reprisal (except embarrassment when I had to admit I wasn't paying attention) and let my mind wander and think and operate on that wonderful creative plane that let's you generate ideas without limits. I took five pages of notes!

I still have absolutely no idea what's going on with the details of telecommunications deregulation in Indiana, but it was a very valuable session.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Crazy Week -- and Media Mentions

It's been a crazy week. Lots of proposals, meetings, and deadlines. Plus, we were in Publisher's Weekly this week! It's nice to have folks recognize our new model and share our excitement.