This week I’ve been inspired by an article in the March issue of Independent, a monthly magazine from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). The article by board member Davida Breier is about being a for-passion publisher.
If you’re an author who self-published a single book, you’re almost certainly a for-passion publisher. If you begin publishing work by other authors and pay royalties, that passion suddenly morphs into a business – and that’s when things get tricky. Indie publishers like us (NorLightsPress) are constantly balancing the bottom line against our desire to print the finest books and make the world a better place. Here’s what several small, for-passion publishers have to say:
Diane Leigh, one of the founders of No Voice Unheard, talks about how their company was founded: “We’ve always believed in the power of books to create cultural shifts or change. . . We are former shelter workers and wanted to give a ‘behind the scenes’ peek at what happens and why. . . We initially sought a traditional commercial publisher, and received some favorable responses to the book. . .but they said some of the material in the book was too ‘difficult’ to be marketable. We did not want to tell only ‘happy ending’ stories from the shelter because that’s not the full truth. So we formed a nonprofit organization to publish the book ourselves. One at a Time is now in its fifth printing, with about 20,000 copies sold, and it continues to sell.”
That is passion. And in this case, it turned into profit as well. Often, that’s what happens when we do what we love and let the money follow.
MaryAnn Koh, founder of Bright Ring Publishing told Davida, “And so my books are a passion; publishing them is a passion; meeting my readers is a passion, and seeing the impact of my books is a passion. Profit is appreciated, but it is not my goal or passion as a publisher. . . Luckily the profits have followed, but I’d still publish even if they didn’t.”
Kelly Dessaing, publisher at Phony Lid Books says, “. . . while the mainstream publishers will continue to churn out books for general consumption, there will always be publishers catering to those readers who are looking for something more authentic. We may be in the minority, but I think the audience is growing and will continue to grow. “
At NorLightsPress, we started with a single book in 2008 and now have about 60 books in print. We’re proud of every single author and happy that the quality of our books continues to improve every year. We aren’t rich or famous (so far) and we don’t hang out in New York City with the literati, but we LOVE publishing books. I guess we’d do it for free.
As for success, sometimes we need to use a different yardstick than other industries. As Davida points out, “changing lives, enriching thought, and self-expression never appear on balance sheets, but perhaps they should.”
Postscript: If you’re a self-published author or working with a small publisher, I urge you to join IBPA and receive their excellent magazine every month. You’ll find their web page at: https://www.ibpa-online.org/