Monday, April 30, 2012

Ethics, Integrity and an Honest Day's Work

I recently joined the Business Ethics Alliance (BEA) founded here in Omaha. It's an amazing amalgamation of industries, business models, diversity, and energy. It's a thought-provoking exercise just milling through their printed materials, so I'm looking forward to their workshops, too.

A headline jumps out today in one of their pieces of literature:

What is our "Ethical Legacy?"  
Now that's a question for us all.  The answer lies in our Core Business Values as business leaders and members of a community. The pamphlet silently instructs what "Ethical Legacy" means and it begs us to figure out what our core business values are and when/where they apply in our lives. The organization has formed The Ethical Legacy Project, whose goal is to identify, articulate and communicate core values of the Omaha business community. Sounds pretty good.

For me, the relative importance of the task I am completing at any given moment put the values in slightly different places on the scale, but it certainly is good to have a strong base of equally important compasses. Whether I am estimating a job, ordering supplies for a client, creating a marketing plan, reporting the results of a campaign, inspecting delivered materials, entering an award contest or sending out a press release, I strive to remember and adhere to these values, which I have adapted for my company from the Legacy Project:

  • Accountability: Hold myself and others answerable; communicate expectations, provide feedback and ask for and implement fair corrective actions when appropriate.
  • Community Responsibility: Realize that my actions and the actions of my company carry a responsibility not just to me, but to my employees and vendors, clients and their customers, their families, my neighborhood, my different "communities," and my organization.
  • Financial Vitality: Strive to achieve sustainable financial success, driven by ethical management and systems. When the systems don't work, strive to improve them.
  • Integrity: Be genuinely respectful, honest, fair and trustworthy in all and to all. Do the ethical thing even when no one is looking. Hold others to the same standard of integrity and do business with others who share your values.
  • Moral Courage: Behave consistently, even when it is difficult, unpopular and comes at a cost. Don't look the other way when someone shows poor judgment or character against their community.

It's a good start for a Monday.

If you haven't heard of this organization, you should look them up:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Don't Buy a Pet Fish and Expect it to Act Like a Dog

Chew on This...

The publishing industry changes pretty much on a daily basis. The opportunities for independent authors have never been greater, and the barriers to entry have virtually disappeared. It's just not that hard to publish a book these days -- however, if you plan on being successful, you have to think of it as a business. The good news is that it's easy to get your book out there; the bad news is that a lot of poorly conceived, poorly funded, and poorly edited books also make their way "out there" in droves. The really good news here is that there are people to help you understand the business and your options and what you are getting into. (Hey, btw, we can help you with all that stuff!)  Do your research (check behind their ears, look at their teeth, do a sniff test on Google).

Lots of Publishing Species From Which to Choose...
The new terms in publishing are coming fast and hard, and it's important to understand what they mean to you. I'm not going to give you a glossary of terms here, but suffice it to say, you need to understand the pros and cons of each publishing option.  Don't sign anything until you really, really understand what everything means. Several publishing options are explained and expanded upon throughout this blog.

Who Let the Dogs Out?
Once you choose your publishing breed, don't change your mind and decide it should be doing something instead because some friend told you "You should do ______." Unless they are truly an expert, this is bad advice 99% of the time. Use the best features available from the method you choose and don't expect your method to do new tricks for which it is not set up.

Every day, I hear people who have chosen to publish through a print-on-demand company wonder why their book is not on the shelves of the bookstore. It can be a wise choice for many authors, but knowing your realistic objectives will be your guide. Without clear-cut, realistic, educated objectives, you could be caught chasing your tail.
On the other hand, every month, I meet at least one author who published their book with the fabulous intention of selling it in the back of the room after a speaking engagement. Good plan. A few weeks into the book's life, a friend walks up to the author and says "I went to the bookstore and they said they don't have the book. I want to buy it there." Of course the unspoken message the author hears is "What, isn't your book good enough for bookstores to carry it?" I tell those authors to say "No, bookstores aren't right for my book; however, I take cash, checks and all major credit cards. I'll run out to the car and get you one. I'll even sign it for you!" 

The Tail End of It All...
Making your book available through as many options as possible certainly helps your customer make the decision to purchase your book. Don't buy into claims that your book will be on the shelves of every bookstore, because it won't. (And you don't want it there!) Being available to order at those places is good, however! There are 100,000 books in a pretty big bookstore these days. There are a million new books published each year, and some 30,000,000 titles currently in print, maybe bazillions more. Those aren't very good odds. My final thought is to help you remember that bookstores aren't your target end consumer -- readers are!

Know your plan and stick with it for success!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Publishing is Marketing 401

What's Your Marketing Perspective?

From a marketing standpoint, how a business is "oriented" sets the course for how they run their whole operation. Not only is it one of the most definitive marketing opportunities of virtually any industry, the publishing business has had a very defined evolution. Companies and their owners have philosophies, and those philosophies are in general categories of orientation: Product, Production, Customer/Market, or Sales. We are going to talk about the first three, and each term is linked to an expanded definition from another source on the web.

Product Orientation - (The product itself is the focus of the business) Simply put, in traditional publishing, the author hands over 100% of the editorial and creative control to the publisher (because they are spending the money). The publisher says to the author "Rewrite this or that. Here's your cover, ain't it grand. Oh, and here's how we are positioning your book. Have a nice day Mr. Author." Then he moves on to say to the consumer, "Here's this book. Buy it like this."

Production Orientation - (The way it is produced is primary focus) Along came the POD/Subsidy/Vanity and "so called" self-publishing companies (iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, and the like), and the tables were turned. The editorial and creative control for publishing a book went right into the author's grasp...only problem is, the author doesn't often know what they are doing and more often doesn't want to spend the money to hire professionals. Author says to "publisher": "Print my book and put it on your wholesale listings." And then moves on to say to the consumer, "Hey I wrote a book. Buy it like this."

Customer Orientation - (Finally, the consumer enters the mix, and the market drives products by demanding high quality, pricing control, availability, formatting and even creative -- by voting with their credit card.) Now, in the most exciting time ever for publishers and readers alike, the consumer says "I want to read a good book, with a good story line that has been thoughtfully edited, and creatively packaged and is available in the formats I want to read it. I want this book as a Kindle, this book for my iPad, that book as a paperback, that book as a PDF, and so on. Don't have those formats, Mr. Author? I'll move on to another book, thank you."  
It's your time. It's the reader's time. Go on. Write your dream!