Publishing Insiders Wrap-Up: Smart Self Publishing Series: Part 2, Becoming Your Own Publisher

by | Feb 9, 2011 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

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We had a great show that continues our Smart Self Publishing Series, with Part 2 focusing on Becoming Your Own Publisher.

About our guests: Eric Kampmann is President of Midpoint Trade Books, a leading sales and distribution company designed to provide crucial services to today’s independent publishers. Midpoint has built its excellent reputation as an innovative and powerful sales driven company designed to help independent publishers compete successfully in the trade book marketplace. Kampmann is also the Publisher and President of two publishing companies: Beaufort Books and Moyer Bell. Beaufort gained national attention in 2007 when it published the national bestseller If I Did It in partnership with the family of Ron Goldman. Kampmann has taught courses on book publishing at Harvard, Columbia, NYU and numerous publishing and writers conferences. He is the author of The Book Publishers Handbook (2007).

Tanya Hall is the Business Development Manager at Greenleaf Book Group, a publisher and distributor specializing in the growth and development of independent authors and small presses. Tanya drives Greenleaf’s efforts to develop strategic partnerships to grow Greenleaf’s reputation as a leading independent publisher. Prior to her current role, she built Greenleaf’s distribution program into major retail and wholesale channels. Before joining the publishing industry, Tanya worked as a television producer for Extra! and E! Cable Networks.

How has book distribution changed during the last few years?

TCU's Barnes and Noble Bookstore.

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Tanya noted that Borders used to buy large quantities of books up front, but they also used to return a lot of books later. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble started with fewer books and increased orders over time. When Borders starting having trouble, it whittled down Greenleaf’s avenues to sell and forced them to take hard look at diversifying by reaching out to special sales accounts (non-bookstore) to offset that change. What non-bookstore markets? Half of their list is business titles, so the markets include airports, where they do a lot of business. Gift markets include gift trade shows, hospital gift shops and corporate accounts, where a client might have connections. Greenleaf looks at where the author has existing connections, where his or her message resonates and the audiences the book addresses.

Publishing has disregarded every major change that’s come down the pike during the last 20 years. In 1996, Eric  started a publishing company during a bookselling revolution – not started by the publishers, but by Baker & Taylor, Amazon, B&N and to a smaller extent Borders, and other accounts. There was an enormous change in what was being bought, what was available. This changed the market. The traditional New York publishers have not had the ability to perceive these changes, for several reasons, he said.

Cover of

Cover of If I Did It Confessions of the Killer

If you design these companies right and put together pieces right, then the need for capital is much more limited than people will tell you, Eric says. Lean and mean is the machine you want to have. Selling to the trade part of the world has never been easier. If I Did It, for example, a Beaufort bestseller, had a signed contract Aug. 15, and they shipped 125,000 copies to bookstores on Sept. 12… that’s less than 1 month, and soon after, the book was on the New York Times bestseller list. There’s a huge advantage independent publishers have, a flexibility in the marketplace. The key is teamwork. Many don’t understand the complexity of publishing, there are all these different parts, and they have to be working in conjunction with each other.

What does a distributor do?

A good distributor is a company that proactively sells your book … it’s not making your book “available,” Tanya says. You want a distributor with a sales force to sell your book, and handle packaging, shipping returns, etc. A distributor handles all of the logistical aspects of the book.

Can every publisher be a distributor? Tanya says it depends on the quality of the content. At Greenleaf, they work with authors from idea inception to publication, but do have cases where they only handle distribution.

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Distributors do all the things in publishing that no one else is willing or able to do, adds Eric. Most people don’t know what salespeople do, or the logistics of a warehouse. Authors should visit Ingram’s distribution center if they are getting into publishing. It’s an engineering marvel – their job is to get a book from A to B in the fastest amount of time at the lowest cost.

Eric says his company will take single-title book publishers. They’ve had success stories. It goes to the quality of the books. They assess the salability of any prospective title.

What is important to know about the submission process?

Once authors fill out the application form and send Eric and his team whatever they have (manuscript, proposal, etc), they can quickly assess if it’s a fit. What can help get a foot in the door? The secret with me is knowing somebody I know, Eric says. He would take an applicant much more seriously if he or she was recommended by someone he knows, over someone just coming through the door. Or if someone in his company has seen something, that’s very influential.

Books Books

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At Greenleaf, they also assess marketability and the author’s platform. Tanya says another vital factor is an author’s willingness to work. If somebody comes to us from a publicist, I know they’ve made that very important step, that’s very influential. We’re looking for differentiated content and a platform, as well as who will approach this as a partnership.

Does an author need a strong social media presence?

Tanya says it depends on where the audience is  … for some content, having a strong social media platform makes sense. We don’t expect to see a strong social media presence with certain other types of content. Platform overall is huge, but what that’s comprised of should vary from project to project, based on where primary audiences are.

Eric says in the hierarchy of publishing we live in a realm of celebrity… whether they are a businessperson, from Hollywood, or a TV person, they have a huge following of some kind that can express itself through social media. Eric makes exceptions when they have an author come to them without a social media presence – but possessing a lot of drive. I would hate to put up criteria of a social media platform of 4,000… no, I look at what they can build. Sometimes we don’t have much to build with. We can harvest what authors have already done, that’s what distributors do. Big publishers are almost trapped by needing to have books by celebrities because they need bestsellers. I love the world we live in, our world filled with energy and possibilities.

What should a publisher expect from a distributor?

Desert Island Collection - Top 24 - Books

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Old truths remain true, says Eric: It’s a relationship business. I think it’s a judgment call and an experiential kind of business. What they should expect from us is a total commitment from our company to them on a relationship basis. We have to stop talking once in a while and we have to listen – often authors are your best salesperson. Listen, be involved, be connected, that’s the key to our continued growth and success.

So much involves managing expectations, says Tanya. We try to give ballpark ideas to publishers on what they can expect sales-wise based on what we hear from retail chains. Transparency is also important, such as the online sales reporting that Greenleaf provides to clients. They should also not expect to NOT do any work. They still have to pound the pavement, especially as the author becomes a brand. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to get the name out there, the book out there.

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The most important thing a new author has to think about is what’s best for them – it might not be finding an agent and trying to get published by Viking, it may not be the best route, Eric says. Sometimes it’s going to CreateSpace via Amazon and saying, I’m going to start out modestly. The beauty of that is it limits the investment, and if something good happens you can move out of that realm. It is a potential way of getting published on a very modest scale.

As an author, your first book may not be the most amazing success you’ve ever had. Your dreams have to be circumscribed by the reality of the enormous competitiveness of this business. I always say: the world is not waiting for your book. What I mean by that – we help the world care, we get the world to stop long enough to say “I want to buy that,” but it takes an enormous amount of work, energy, blood, sweat and tears to make that happen – because the world is essentially passive in nature when it comes to the next book coming out, he adds.

What are the biggest pitfalls?

Not doing your homework, says Tanya. It’s vital to understand the business of publishing.

Santa Paula Airport Runway

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Eric agrees that not doing homework and understanding how publishing works is a huge issue. Not knowing what a sales person does, for instance. They don’t make bestsellers, they have a relationship with people at B&N and are a conduit through which books pass from our outlet into the stores. They aren’t predicting success, but estimating the possibility of success.

Also, less is more when comes to first printings. Large publishing houses operate on a short runway, and need a big press run, which loses steam quickly. With a long runway there is no timeline for a book to take off, it could be 1 year, 2 years or more before a book gets the word of mouth it needs. That’s the huge advantage smaller publishers have.

Predictions for book publishing in 2011:

At Greenleaf, Tanya says they’ll keep trucking along doing what they do well – they see changes in retail channels, but have been insulated from some of it due to relationships they’ve built. Ebook sales are up for Greenleaf and don’t seem to cannibalize print sales.

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The ebook phenomenon is very real and they aren’t necessarily cannibalizing traditional book sales, Eric says. Ebook sales might have more impact on paperbacks, but that’s only a theory. There may be changes in companies in 2011. But if you’re running a tight ship and being realistic about the economy, it should be a good year.

You can download the full show at


Upcoming Episode:

Please join us Feb. 22, 2011 for the Smart Self Publishing Series, Part 3: Making Money with Ebooks

Ebooks currently make up almost 10% of book sales, and their stratospheric growth is expected to continue. With the various devices out there – Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iPad, among others – and the formatting issues, how should you even begin? More importantly, several indie authors are making significant money by selling ebooks. What are their secrets? We’ll discuss these issues and many more with our special guests, authors Karen McQuestion and Tony Eldridge.

About our guests: Karen McQuestion’s essays have appeared in Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor and several anthologies. She is the author of six books self-published on Amazon’s Kindle, one of which, the novel, A Scattered Life, caught the attention of an L.A. based production company and became the first self-published Kindle book to be optioned for film. Five of her previously self-published books will now be published by AmazonEncore. McQuestion lives with her family in Hartland, Wisconsin. Learn more at

Tony Eldridge is the author of the award winning action/adventure novel, The Samson Effect, which Clive Cussler calls a “first rate thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure.” He is also the creator of Marketing Tips for Authors, a site that publishes free tips and videos to help authors learn marketing techniques for their books. You can read the serial release of The Samson Effect at

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