A former client of mine has successfully published a book. He collaborated on the idea with another writer/researcher, they formed a company and produced the book. Their first print run of 2,500 copies was sold out before it was printed. Their second print run is scheduled for September and I bet they have to schedule a third before the end of the year.

Many other independent publishers (like those at the Baynet/Valleynet meetings), would hand over their first-born children to in order to sell 2,500 copies ever. So what did he do right?

While working full-time, he honed his photography skills, learned some Web design and mastered InDesign (he did the book’s layout himself); not to mention learning the small press business and researching his subject.

All along the way he was met with derision, if not outright scorn. At first glance, his topic is not a controversial one –archeology. But he soon found that just by having the guts to follow his idea to the finish he offended others along the way. He received comments like “I’ve wanted to do a book like that for 30 years.” (Well, what was stopping them?) Not having spent his life in archeology he was seen as an outsider and therefore could not possibly have the knowledge or the right to put together this book. (It’s always so nice when others decide for you what you can and cannot do.)

He found a topic that interested him and is a topic that doesn’t seem to have any other books on the subject. I’ve Googled words and phrases looking for mentions of his book and no other book comes up. Hmm…sounds to me like he not only found a passion, but a market niche that had no resources. So he and his partner created that resource and people want to buy it. Big surprise.

I have a copy of his book. It’s a heavy, coffee-table book with generous photos, most are full page. It’s easy to see why those interested in the topic have swarmed to the book.

Why haven’t any other archeologists done a book like this? Perhaps a publishing house couldn’t see the market value in this niche topic and their manuscripts were rejected. Then why didn’t they produce the book themselves? I don’t know, but I guess it was fear of failure, or perhaps more of a lack of passion for the subject than they want to admit.

He and his partner’s ultimate success depends on how much exposure they get for the book. I hesitate to say that they must “market” because this book is such a specialized topic that it sells itself, as long as interested parties know it’s out there. They already have a museum date lined up and are negotiating with the Smithsonian. They also have more books, along various topics, in planning stages. Sounds to me like they have a growing business.

I think that what he did right is simple. He found a topic that had little or no information. He presented the information in a way that would sell (big, beautiful photo book). He and his partner worked on producing the best book they could. They didn’t attend small publisher meetings, didn’t worry about getting author blurbs; they worried about getting the colors right and getting the book off the press in order to ship to paying customers. He had his goal and worked toward it, ignoring the peanut gallery. (Of course these are the lessons I take out of it; I’m biased.)

Would he have this success if he had published yet another book on yoga or child care? Probably not. Do these niche topics live all over the place, hiding in plain view? You betcha.

Personally, I find it extremely funny that the most inspiring small-press success story I know of, aside from really famous people, came out of Texas and had nothing to do with the online small-press “community.” Point taken.

3 thoughts on “an independent press success story

  1. it is good to hear a success story like this. The comment about “not having spent his life in archeology….” and the reaction he got because of it is exactly the sort of thing was talking about having run into in one of the earlier comments I made, even though his book’s topic is different. Has he continued to do so well since you first wrote this?

  2. Lee,

    Oh, you’ve run into those reactions already? Glad you liked this post, then!

    Though he and his partners did well with the book, the main partner in the company squandered their resources and the company folded. They did a book #2 before that happened though. Now my client is branching out on his own into photography and will probably start his own publishing company — now that he has a taste of what to do.

    He’s following his passions in life and thriving, instead of working merely to pay bills. A success story indeed.


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