Publishing Business Model Choices

As some of my readers enjoy telling me, I don't do a very good job maximizing the potential of my publishing business. I'm quick to admit that the main flaw in my business model for publishing is me. I just don't have the fire in the belly that I had ten or twenty years ago, and the idea of taking on a lot of potential aggravation just to make more money isn't compelling. But in the next couple weeks I'll be wrapping up all of my open projects (with the exception of house/property hunting), so I thought I'd write down some of those business model criticisms and give them some thought.

#1 You should publish other authors books

Strangely enough, I get this one a lot from unpublished authors:-) But the point is taken, especially given the breadth of my website platform, I could publish non-fiction books in a number of areas and have a running start on marketing. I think my main objection at this point is that publishing other author's books would end up eating all of my energy, if not all of my time. If I was trying to build a publishing business with the eventual goal of selling it, that might make sense, but I don't think that's my goal.

#2 You should sell other publishers books

It's true that with the exception of a few Associates links, I make no attempt to leverage my business model to sell other books. In fact, I've never followed up with buyers of my previous books to tell them when a new book is released, much less promoting other publisher's books to them. My publishing business is based on passive marketing because I've never cared for businesses that pursue their customers and try to milk them of every last penny. But it is certainly true that my title list isn't comprehensive in any way, and that if I could find high quality synergistic titles, it would be a benefit to my customers. But I'm not looking for more customer service or fulfillment issues at the moment.

#3 You should offer consulting services

The general rule in consulting is that the customer is buying the consultant's time, not paying for results. I'm a results oriented person, and I hate selling my time, so it's a bad match. The problem with selling results as a business model is that forces the consultant to only accept customers who are certain to be successful, otherwise the consultant will be working for free. Since most of the people who want to hire me as a publishing consultant are engaged in projects that have a low likelihood of commercial success, I'd have to charge them an hourly rate that I don't believe they'd ever earn back in sales. The other problem is that the results depend far more on the client than on the consultant.

#4 You should become a publishing coach, like Dan Poynter

Despite all the little publishing lectures I've been putting out on video, I don't see myself ever getting on the speaker circuit for self publishers, or any other kind of publishers. I really have the wrong attitude to be an inspirational speaker. I don't believe that most people will succeed in publishing or any other business for that matter unless they happen to be at the right point in life to do so. The closest I've come to wanting to get involved in working directly with new publishers is the occasional fantasy about setting up a retreat center. I think with the right staff and pre-screened participants, a three or four day retreat would be enough to get most authors a good start for their own publishing company. The primary aim would be to teach marketing and market research (ie, choosing titles that have a chance) but a couple sessions on book design a couple sessions on website design would be useful. But it's not something I'd ever try by starting at zero and making a big investment of time and money, I'd have to grow it from something much more modest.


Bryan Rosner said...

Morris, your post isn't really talking about business models per say, what the post is really talking about is the fact that you are not motivated by money, or at least, not enough to actually spend a good deal extra energy to get it.

To me, if that is really the case and you are more or less passively retired, then I think you should still write your blog as if you were motivated by money. Why? Because the whole thrust of your blog in the past, and the reason I read it, IS to make money.

Sure, I do want to be ethical. I want to provide value. All that stuff. But I also want to make money, as much as I can. I have a 7 month old and a stay-at-home wife. If I were in your shoes, with your website, I would exploit the crap out of it. I have a similar website and am doing just that.

The point is that, if you are rich (or content not being rich), this post seemed pretty off topic and not very helpful. I want to read about publishing as a growing business, energy sucking and all, not about how you are too comfortable where you currently sit to implement good ideas.

Heck, you should implement some of those ideas just so you could see how it goes and then report back to your blog and tell us how to do it. That would be educational and you'd make more money.

If you don't need the money, donate it to my son's college fund.


Morris Rosenthal said...


I think it's about the business model less traveled by. As I believed we've discussed, due to my simple business structure, new income is at such a high tax rate as to takes all of the fun out of it. Still, I think you underrate the value of financial contentment at any age. And it's definitely a question of attitude as opposed to bank balance. I've known wealthy people who were afraid they didn't have enough to stop worrying about becoming poor, which is sad.

But the legitimate complaint about the legitimacy of the post is easy to explain. After 350 plus posts, it's a stretch to write anything without repeating myself. I could get away with endless repetition, might even help my traffic, but I'd drop from boredom. That's why I'm down to two posts a week, a lot of videos and interviews.


Bryan Rosner said...

Fair enough. I appreciate your candor. I also appreciate your attention toward contentment. I am currently in the throws of wrestling with contentment questions. They do not elude me. For example, right now I own an 11-sf house in Tahoe, 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath. Wife, kid, and work from home. Do I need a bigger house? I am trying to be content so as to save myself a bigger mortgage and the stress that comes with it.

I think most of the drive to get more stuff in America stems not from need, but from "keeping up with the jones's" (pride) or like you said, fear of financial collapse no matter how wealthy one is. I am keenly aware of both evils. Not immune, but aware.

I guess I was saying that in the context of reading your blog, I want to throw away the moral questions and just pretend I'm the guy who needs more money. However, maybe I should take a less compartmentalized approach to life and express even on a blog like this that there is indeed a struggle going on between the two forces.

In any event, I admire you for being willing to be transparent in so far as not only your business stuff, but also your personal perspective on business. I think such transparency is lacking in the business world today. It comes back to a question of redefining priorities in life and being willing to talk about them. I think the next step is for people to get equally candid about talking about a subject which matters even more: God. But now we are getting way off topic!


k.nishell said...

I found your entry to be helpful. It showed me a different view of someone who doesn't want to participate in the publishing world on a full-time consuming basis. However, I would like to ask you two questions:
If I am in the very beginning stages of developing a sole proprietorship for a publishing company, what websites could you recommend that would help my research?
Also, how did you get this blog to become googable. I have this same one and it cannot be pulled from google no matter how I try to search for it. And yes I have changed my settings to allow it but for some reason it just won't. The site is

Morris Rosenthal said...


The sole proprietorship part isn't publishing specific, I'd recommend visiting your local bookstore and picking out a business book for your state. But keep in mind that a lot of business infrastructure, accounting issues, etc, don't come into play until you get to the operational stage, and sometimes until you get to the profitable stage. Your first challenge is market research, learn about your market and how your titles can be promoted and fit into it.

As to getting your blog googleable, google will find it as soon as you get some links.