(From: What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Business Start-Up Guide for Publishers)
Your resources are your money, personal talents, equipment, knowledge, and expertise that will help you and your business thrive. It’s important to understand what resources you need for your business. All the talent in the world won’t support your business without cash. Cash won’t make up for talent. It takes a balance of resources for your business to thrive.
Before I became a publisher, I worked as a grant writer and program director for non-profits. Much of my time was spent managing and evaluating programs to make sure they were viable and financially sound. So many wonderful programs and projects were rejected from the beginning because they didn’t start out with a clear understanding of what they needed to support the project. Or the programs slowly died because they didn’t set up a strong enough structure to support the needs of the staff and clients.
Examining the gaps in available resources is a step organizations often skip, which is one of the reasons so many excellent programs shut down before they can really help anyone. Once the weak parts of a program are identified, the organization must determine the best way to address those weaknesses. Do they need additional funding for more training, to hire extra staff, or to contract with a translator? Can the administration keep up with the extra paperwork of a new program, or will they need extra support?
Once an organization identifies its needs, it must continue to regularly analyze its resources because things can change quickly: staff leave, grants end, overhead costs increase. And occasionally circumstances occur beyond an organization’s ability to adapt. I once had to lay myself off and shut down the program I was managing when both of the program’s primary funders changed their grant focus at the same time, cutting us from their future funding plans.
To create a thriving publishing business, you need more than just a desire to publish a manuscript. And you need more than money. You must start with a thorough understanding of what you HAVE and what you NEED to create your business, and a recognition of the gaps between those two.
It takes a lot of money to start a business, let alone launch a book, which is why the majority of start-up businesses, and many established companies, lack enough financial resources. Acquiring financing can be tricky, so you need to determine how you will finance your business before you begin. Do you have enough cash set aside for such an endeavor, or are you planning to use credit cards or get a loan? How much available credit do you have and how much can you reasonably use? Remember, credit is a loan. That means the money isn’t really yours; you have to pay it back. How much can you borrow and still make the payments? Or maybe you have a rich uncle, or several friends, who’d like to invest?
Before you figure out a budget for your business, look at the resources you already have. Don’t worry right now about how much publishing a book costs, we’ll get into those details in Chapter 11. For now, look at your finances and understand how much you can realistically invest in your company. That will help you figure out how much you’ll need to borrow.
I started with $3,000 cash (my prior year’s tax refund) and another $2,000 in credit. However, I was lucky, because I have talented friends who were willing to donate their time to the press, saving me thousands of dollars.
Talent can make up for weak finances, but not completely. Some things, like printing, cost money, period. But your personal talents and those of your friends can make up for some of the costs connected with publishing.
In Chapter 2, we looked at the various jobs connected with book publishing, like design and editing. If you can do some of those jobs yourself, you’ll save money.
Here’s one caveat to that idea, though. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. It is very important to be bluntly honest with yourself while figuring out your resources. Don’t assume since you’re a good watercolor artist that you can design a book cover. Do you know what elements make a good book cover? If not, then cover design is not a resource you possess. However, if you’ve done some graphic art with a computer and know how to use Adobe Photoshop well, you probably can design your own cover, but only after you do some research into book cover design.
Go back to the previous chapter and take a look at all those required jobs in a publishing company. Which jobs can you do already? Which ones do you know a little about and could learn to do well with practice and research? Which ones do you know nothing about? And could a friend or acquaintance help with any of those jobs that you don’t know how to do?
Anything you already know is a resource. Everything else can become a resource once you identify where to get the help you need to fill those gaps.
Managing a business takes another set of skills separate from publishing, but they are just as important. Again, you need to figure out what you already know, what you can do yourself, what you need help with, and how other people can help you.
To start and manage a business you need
• A bookkeeper
• A marketing manager
• An accountant
• Someone to do customer service and fulfill orders
• Legal assistance
• A human resources manager if you have staff
• Computer support
• A production manager to oversee the creation of your product.
How many of those tasks can you do yourself and who will help you with the rest?