The goal of the Professional Independent Publisher (PIP) program is to help overcome the mainstream stigma of self-publishing by providing a certification process that will qualitatively evaluate applicants for their knowledge, understanding, and implementation of the professional book publishing process.
The PIP program will utilize a benchmark standard and should function to produce authors who understand the industry and how to do business in it to achieve their respective publishing goals and satisfy the needs of their respective target markets.
We intend for it to achieve these means by helping to educate a Publisher on how to better market and position themselves for book sales, and then once they are PIP certified, the certification itself would indicate to more prominent reviewers, larger distributors, and other institutional entities, that this Publisher is worth their time.
The program will have to have a method for measuring qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the publishing company as well as a process for allowing analysis of the publishers' books.
From an institutional standpoint the certification program and resulting certification award should be meaningless as a marketing tool to the general public. To begin with, its entire function should be to inform the industry “gatekeepers”, who currently limit their involvement with independently produced book titles due to increased risk of investment, that the book in question has met their standard of quality.
To make this a reality, we will need feedback from the key players within the publishing industry. In that regard, we would like to see an advisory board composed of big names within the industry as well as pragmatic voices from the small press community. While this advisory board is still in preliminary stages, we have begun the process of establishing the PIP criteria by creating Best Practices discussion threads.
To view the index of criteria topics visit here:
If a certification program can differentiate between a mediocre product and a great product then the industry gatekeepers can use such a certification program to expand the flow of independent books into their systems in way that is profitable for the gate-keepers, publishers, and authors.
Likewise, the certification program can help make Independent Publishers more self aware of their place within the industry, helping them to best utilize their resources in selling books and/or achieving their goals.
This is what we all dream of; being seen for the quality we provide. As a small, but growing, publisher I agree with Carol that marketing is key to success. However, without quality content that you can wholeheartedly back, you haven't a platform.
That said, elevating the quality standards should be our primary goal and then marketing tools should come into play.
I am glad to be part of the 'team' and hope we can bring about an industry standard that shows we are a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.
Truer words were never spoken, Ginger. Quality writing, editing and design are essential, or all the money spent on marketing can be wasted. I wrote a blog post about this here:
Michelle and Ginger -
I agree with you, but the converse can also be said - all the money spent on writing, editing, and design can be wasted if there is no marketing. That is precisely why the two are totally intertwined - you must do both or either cost is a waste.
That's very true, Carol. I've seen that unfortunate occurrence as well.
I guess our task in the best practices program, above all else, is to get the message across that there are two ways to self-publish: as a hobby and as a business, and it's important not to confuse the two tracks.
If an author's goal is simply to produce a few bound books for friends and family, then neither design nor marketing is required. But if the goal is to sell substantial numbers of books to the public, then a serious investment of time and money is required, just as it would be in any other business.
Partly because the subsidy publishers promote the lie, too many self-publishers have been led to believe they can take the hobbyist approach and achieve business success. I shudder at the number of hearts that have been broken this way.
Your book. Designed. With hand-holding.
Beyond what has already been mentioned, one of the secondary functions of the PIP Certification, that we have been discussing internally here at the SPAN office, is that it could be a program that also helps to make small press and indy publishers more self aware of their position within the industry.
Why could this be a good thing? Well, for one, if an independent publisher knows their product, and knows their market, then they can deduce what distribution channels will work best for them, their sales goal, and marketing plan and resources.
For example, if a publisher has a book on the space shuttle and it's various textures -and actually features little squares of texture on each page, then if they go through the PIP program they will be able to know whether they should go more mainstream, like Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, more specialist like the www.thespacestore.com, or both...Or part of the self awarness will be recognizing that such a tactile book will sell well in person, so placing it in specialty stores, the type where their demographic might congregate, would probably be a good priority for the publisher, too.
I agree that a benchmark of quality is a necessary part of the PIP program, and I share the above with you because I also think that a Self Aware Publisher is going to be able to function better in the market and be more of an asset to themselves and more appealing to any potential gatekeeps who may stand between them and their goals.
I share these thoughts with you because I haven't actually articulated the idea of the "Self Aware Self Publisher" in quite such a way yet, and I am interested to know your thoughts on it.
I'm not saying it should be a measurable trait within the certification process, but I am suggesting that we craft the program in way that encourages self awareness. What do you think?
Absolutely true - there is nothing more disheartening than for me to get involved with a book after a bunch of dollars have been ill-spent on marketing because the book has one or more of the following basic problems:
* Content is not well edited or is in some other way ill-suited to the target market
* There is no market for the topic or it hasn't been well targeted
* There is no distinguishing story angle that sets it apart from the competition
* It is priced incorrectly for its market
* It has no distribution outside of the author's website or some obscure publishing house website (usually a vanity/subsidy press)
* the media materials have been poorly developed
* the marketing methods employed are not suitable for the target market
No one should start marketing a book until all of those issues have been looked at and addressed. I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but those jump out at me from sad stories of the past (<: That is why marketing has to be in integral part of the PIP process.
I couldn't agree more. Now our challenge is to get the word out to all the authors! :-)
Excellent points Carol. I think I need to hire you. :-)
I am thinking of a next step program to Self Publishing, for instance, Self Marketing. Obviously the content is out there, but it can be, and usually is overwhelming for newbies. I realize I am talking about a Marketing Plan, but I personally react to a Marketing Plan like I do to a Business Plan, to run as fast as I can away from it. After all, I am a creative writer, not a business woman. (We all know that Self Publishing is a business, but newbie authors are a bit naive on the subject.) Somehow my brain wraps around Self Marketing easier than a Marketing Plan. It makes it more personal and action oriented for me.
So, once an author has accomplished the first four points on your list by producing a quality sought-after book, Self Marketing takes over. As a publisher I would love it if my author(s) were certified in Self Marketing. How about a new book and/or workshop, Five (or Ten) Easy Steps to Self-Marketing for Authors and Self-Publishers. I would be the first to buy it. It's early and I'm just throwing out ideas. What do you all think?
I think that's a great idea, Kyle. Maybe a teleseminar so you can present your information and participants will have an opportunity to ask questions.
Hi 1106 Design,
Thanks. A teleseminar sounds great, but I'm not quite ready. See my response to Carol's last post.
I will call it whatever you want to call it, but let's just get it done! Every project needs a Self Marketing Plan - which is really what I believe in anyway. My philosophy is to teach the author to fish, not to fish for them. I think marketing really isn't a big bogeyman, but if I can teach you how to do it once, then you can do it for yourself on all future projects. Hmmm, maybe that is self-obsolescence and not really a good plan - oh well, it is my plan...
Maybe we should collaborate on that book...
Hi Carol, Thanks for your response. It is obvious to me that at this point, you are the marketing mentor and I am the student. I am on a fast-track to learn all I can about book marketing and then take the action steps necessary to systematically (market plan) promote and sell my fabulous products.
"...just get it done!" Amen. Now, how? I think you know how and maybe we should talk. Then when I am incredibly successful we can collaborate on that book. And in the meantime help with the PIP program.
By the way, I love to fish.