Starting An Independent Book Publishing Business
I think for me business has always been about one thing and that’s about the exchange of ideas between me and another person in order to generate in some cases income and other cases a creative idea. And business can be interpreted I think in many different ways for that reason. A lot of times we associate business with money, so a lot of times that’s what it is for me. But it also can be (in some cases) just about the meeting of minds and that’s really my best overview I think of business.
“I think for me business has always been about one thing and that’s about the exchange of ideas between me and another person in order to generate in some cases income and other cases a creative idea. And business can be interpreted I think in many different ways for that reason.”
I started Sakura publishing that was an independent book publishing company (or so I thought it was at the time and I’ll explain what I mean by that a moment) but I started it when I was maybe age 30, 31 and it’s been going on pretty strong now for like eight or nine years. When I started it I didn’t understand what the book publishing companies were all about. I didn’t know that there were different categories and things like that. I initially started my company when I met authors I would have them pay for the services I was giving, such as buying their ISBN which is the little bar code that goes on the back of a book or you know editing the book, getting the book covers, everything was paid for. What I didn’t know at the time when I started my company was that was referred to as a vanity press, which is a very much shunned type of press in the book publishing industry for the simple fact that there is no filter of content that a lot of vanity presses put out. So vanity presses they’ll just put out anything as long as you give them their money. They don’t care what they put out. So they could be putting out books with a lot of incorrect grammar…I mean it’s just… the level of work is atrocious versus independent publishers and the major publishers they stand by their work. So once I was kind of illuminated to that fact through a series of mishaps and misunderstandings I finally was able to transition my company to an independent press where we pay for everything. We’re ultra picky about what we put out but at the same time everything we put out, I stand by a hundred percent.
I remember going to a convention in Chicago. Coincidentally one of my editors for my company lives in Chicago, several of my authors were based around Chicago, so I had actually traveled there from the Pittsburgh area to Chicago to do a book event and it was during being there that I met some people that were in the know. It was actually for poetry so I have a couple poets on my my roster which is why I had attended. But I actually met a lot of my authors there that did other types of books. When I was there I met some people that kind of gave me feedback (and not in the nicest kind of way) but nevertheless they let me know what I was doing and how maybe I should recheck that, rethink it. It was honestly like just a not me doing my due diligence and understanding how vanity presses were and in fact I didn’t even feel we were vanity press because I was so selective with what I put out, so I wasn’t necessarily looking to get money. I was looking to put out stuff I actually liked but as it so happens you also paid for it. But I had plenty of offers so I didn’t have a problem with that because I was very personable with them it didn’t matter. So what I did was simply just drop the part where I made them pay I still kept
it very personal and so in doing that I was able to become an independent press but it all kind of stemmed from having a lot of like negative feedback from these people in Chicago. Also there’s a few writers forums online that kind of gave me really harsh feedback. Basically if you’re a vanity press, you’re just the scum of the earth and I don’t want to be that anymore because I didn’t even intend to be so that’s how I course corrected very quickly was after a few years I decided that’s just not…I don’t want to be affiliated with it whatsoever. So that it was a very quick transition after that to to go to be an independent press.
I think to receive feedback for your business you obviously can’t take it personally which I did very much at the beginning. I think most people would because it was it was a brand new thing to me I thought. Hear I was making authors dreams comes true and it turns out I was crapping on them because I was a vanity press and I had no idea that I was you know condemning my authors to being authors that were put out by a vanity press even though I felt the quality of my work that we put out was better (if not on par at least) with the major publishers. In terms of our editing the book cover designs, everything we did was at that level and it still is. But I
think because I had so much negative feedback it was one of those things I couldn’t afford to be personal about it. I actually did take a step back and think “Well, why am I getting it [negative feedback]?” and I think in order for other people that have businesses that get that kind of feedback and it’s negative, you might want to ask yourself first “Why is this really happening?” Is this just trolls online just being trolls or is it real people like just trying to see you do better with your company?
I think feedback is very important if even if it negative, although these days I don’t care so much because I think I’ve grown to have a discerning eye as to what I really need to do and what I don’t need to do. We don’t get any negative feedback anymore because we did correct the big problem we had. If anything, we get praised because we’re putting out books that people enjoy. I think in terms of addressing the negativity, it’s very good to not just write it off. It’s more important I think to always keep an open mind and open heart about what you’re doing as a business because if you think that you’re the best in your business, you’re probably wrong and that’s a terrible way of thinking (i.e., you’re the best). You can always improve. How do you improve when somebody tells you you need to improve hence negative feedback? But as long as it’s constructive, I’m okay with it. If it’s truly negative, then I just write it off as troll behavior and I don’t pay any attention you.