It's the time of year when I start obsessing over things like whether I need a pair of cowboy boots and how to avoid looking like a reject from 'What Not to Wear' at holiday parties, and when -- no surprise there -- the book world begins to issue prophecies of doom. 'O woe is us,' say they.
But what do they do about it -- outside of moaning and groaning about discounts and returns, about distribution or lack of it, about the commoditization of books?
"Books aren't like cans of soup you buy in the grocery! They're DIFFERENT. It's all So Unfair!"
Yeah, but what are they (we) doing about it? If the answer is "business as usual," then I think they (we) ought to shut up -- everyone is tired of hearing about it. I mean, really, if you don't like the way something is, then why wouldn't you try to CHANGE it? If you don't try, then somebody else will, and maybe they'll roll right over your tired old bones in the process. Can you blame them?
I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I've come to the conclusion that the book world needs to change or get out of the way. I happen to like publishing, so for me, the choice is easy: CHANGE.
One important aspect of change is to get a grip on the bottom line. I've met a surprising number of small publishers who haven't the faintest clue about how they're doing financially. I suppose that's understandable; most accounting software doesn't handle returns well, and it sure as heck isn't good for calculating royalties, so the result seems to be a wing, a prayer, and an Excel spreadsheet. Unless you're a pro at Excel, you might as well bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.
I was at that point myself when I got a chance to work on a project to develop software for small publishers. The resulting product, DashBook, is now in beta, as of yesterday. The DashBook beta is just the first step in a larger project to help small and self publishers band together to sell books and (Wahoo!), it is going to be fantastic. Present company excepted, of course, but the other developers of this software (and the larger project), Gregory Carrier and Steve Bezner, are the smartest people I've met anywhere.
If you are a small (or self) publisher, and you are interested in change, you're welcome to try our Windows beta (free, for now).
Because DashBook is still in beta, we can possibly incorporate suggestions and feedback in the version we release.
More to come!