Despite brutal economic conditions, several independent publishers managed to find ways to grow both their sales and profits in 2008. How did they do it? They are not afraid to be frugal—forgoing advances in favor of offering higher royalties, for example; and they practice innovation—“mining data” for new audio prospects, in the case of Tantor, or teaching authors how to self-promote, as Morgan James does. These 11 presses have adopted a combination of strategies that have helped them not only survive in the recession, but prosper.
That’s from a recent Publishers Weekly article outlining the dubious effects of the ailing economy on the small press industry. In the current context, efficiency and innovation is certainly useful in staving off the money crunch, as tighter budgets mean more discerning consumers. This would seem to be a microcosm for the current overall economy. The large conglomerates were hit hardest by the recession, laying off tens of thousands and demanding bailout money while the small businesses carried on, heads down, legs braced. It’s just good business to keep yourself lean, small, and compact (reminds me of the “gymnasts are stronger than football players” analogy…even if it’s a little skewed). Business owners I know who’ve dodged the bullet repeatedly comment that low costs / overhead (and not leasing, say, a towering skyscraper for day to day operations) have made the difference, even if it’s not all peaches and cream. My mail guy runs his store all by himself, with help from his wife and son; the family has a separate home-based business to supplement their income. No one got a bonus this year, but no one lost their job, either. Granted, if you’re after mass market penetration, then yeah, you’re going to have to spend a shitload of cash for the possibility of making a shitload of cash—but how many business owners want or need to be Wal-Mart?