I’ve never had any formal management training. Yet I’ve ended up running more organizations than I ever intended.
It started when I was a first year teacher, age twenty-two, and I took over leadership of a small school as a principal-teacher, which entailed doing everything that a principal does plus teaching a partial class load. From there, I developed and ran a new program at a community college—the college president even said he’d help groom me for his position, but I declined. I led a high school language arts department. I ran a real estate brokerage. I ran a writing center. I run an author’s collective.
I’ve also run a host of small businesses: educational supplies; a bed and breakfast; educational services; writing and editing services; a book publishing venture. In each of these, the only person I supervised (and answered to) is myself. That’s how I like it. Despite (or because of?) my experience, I don't enjoy running things, especially when it involves supervision.
When I started publishing on my own, I vowed from the start that I wasn’t going to get sidetracked from my creative work. I wasn’t going to start acquiring books by other authors and dealing with all the hassles that come from growing into a bigger operation. Personalities. Expectations. Production schedules that affect anyone besides me.
For me, it feels like the right decision. But from a business standpoint, it may not be the smartest.
I’m working on a series articles for The Independent, the monthly magazine of the Independent Book Publishers Association. One of them is on self-published authors who grew their own highly profitable publishing companies. Like Dominque Raccah, who founded Sourcebooks in a spare bedroom back in 1987, most of these incredibly successful businesses started with a single title.
I’m interested to discover how—and why—people like Raccah made the leap into full-fledged publishing. Who knows? Perhaps what I learn will change my publishing vision.
What about you? What sort of nudge would it take for you to expand your publishing reach—and increase your profit potential—by handling titles other than ones you’ve written yourself? If nothing could convince you to expand beyond your own work, why not?
(Feel free to leave your name and a book title with your comment if you’d like me to consider it for the article).
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored sixteen books. Her most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion; and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier.