Sunday, April 26, 2009

My One-on-One with Marion Gropen

Who is Marion Gropen, you ask? Marion is a publishing-business expert with a website and blog every small publisher should bookmark and read. She just posted a piece on her blog Publishing for Profit about why she thinks publishing companies should be an S-Corp. Here is a snippet so you can see how she writes:

The old “I’m just publishing my book, not starting a business” fallacy has reared its head again. So, if you already know all there is to know about founding your press, go away. You’re going to be seriously bored by this post. Or, better, stay, and tell me what I omitted in the comments!

First, any time you’re getting money for anything, it’s a business. And no matter whether profit is your primary goal or not, if you don’t at least break even, you won’t be accomplishing any goals for long. Money does matter.

Now that we have that settled: you need to decide what type of company you should have.
(read the full article on her blog).

The week before the Northern California Publisher's and Author's Conference, a post went out to the list-serve asking if anyone would like a one-on-one with Marion Gropen. I jumped at the chance. Are you kidding? Who wouldn't want 30 minutes with a publishing expert to discuss your own press, free of charge? I tried to think of my most pressing questions to make full use of my time, but realized the biggest issue my press has is with myself. I seem to have hit a brick wall when it comes to getting things done. I STILL haven't put up a page on the website for my OWN BOOK! What is that telling me?

Marion is outspoken, intelligent, and funny as hell. She tells it like it is, regardless of whether or not you want to hear it, which I respect. There's no bull, but she speaks her mind with compassion. She isn't trying to talk you out of publishing, she's trying to help you see the reality of your situation to prevent that reality from crushing your dreams. A publisher has no time for denial.

After chatting for a few minutes, during which time she asked me about my long term plans and dreams for my press, she got to the root of the problem: I am trying to do too much all by myself. What I am attempting is impossible, regardless of the fact I'm a mom and a grad student. Even a single, child-free, woman with a part-time, flexible job would find it difficult keeping up with the needs of a press, all on her own. I am marketing two books while producing another, managing the press, organizing daily operations, editing manuscripts, keeping up with a slush pile, and trying to make good, long term business decisions, all on a less-than-a-shoe-string budget and in just four hours a day.

Once again, my belief that I am Wonder Woman has kicked me in the ass!

Marion leaned forward, looked me in the eye and said, "Let go." Then she smiled and said she knows how hard that is to do because she's exactly the same kind of person I am: a control freak.

Letting go means that I need to reexamine my goals and the way I make decisions about the books I want to acquire. I need to look at the marketing strengths of the author and not just whether or not I like the book. I need to put more of the book promotion on the AUTHOR, because I simply don't have time to promote the book for them. I also need to find someone who can help me more with the business operation of the press, someone to update the records every quarter. I need to delegate as much as possible and trust that those people I delegate to will make good decisions. Of course I have the final say; I'm the publisher. But micro-managing every detail of my press and the books I publish is destroying my ability to do what I love, namely, publish books. I even micro-manage myself!

She praised me for looking at Medusa's Muse as a business early in the process, which puts me ahead of the game. So many authors don't realize they're starting a business until after the book comes out, and then they get into trouble. Maybe it's easier for me to think about Medusa as a business because I'm not usually publishing my own books. Publishing What You Need to Know to Be a Pro was difficult because I was both author and publisher, so I lost a great deal of objectivity and made mistakes. I like having that objectivity, so I want to stick with publishing other writer's works. It's time to use that objectivity, that second-sight I was born with that lets me grasp "the big picture" quickly, to make decisions about the books I CAN publish, and my own goals for Medusa's Muse.

And I'm taking another look at turning Medusa's Muse into a corporation. I was under the impression that becoming a corp would be expensive, but Marion assured me I could do it myself for little cost. I'd need a board of directors, which would be a great way to get the help I need making decisions about the press and managing the work load.

But I get to keep the title of Publisher/Editor in Chief. I'm far from ready to give up that much control. Any control freak knows that a control freak needs to feel that she's still in control.

1 comment:

Marion Gropen said...

Thank you so much for the praise. You make me sound better than I suspect I am, but I'll take it!