Ten lessons from a publishing start-up

By   John Bond 1 min read

It’s now a year since we shuffled off into publishing start-up land and in the time since whitefox became more than just a hypothetical we’ve learnt some pretty valuable lessons as a burgeoning writers’ services company. And we thought we’d share some with you. So here are our top ten learnings from the past year.

1. Resist the urge to show off. Don’t put so much into the pitch that the prospective clients can steal your ideas and decide to make some kind of fist of it themselves.

2. Don’t confuse a low boredom threshold amongst putative clients with entrepreneurial spirit. They are very different things, though they can, at first glance, seem similar.

3. Control your keenness. Replying too quickly to some emails seems to upset slow-moving, endlessly cogitating corporate structures.

4. Publishing prides itself on being full of lovely people. Actually, it has the same ratio of good to mendacious as any industry. But make sure that you value and acknowledge the really generous, helpful souls – give them the credit they deserve and let them know you’re as grateful for their professionalism as they will be for yours.

5. Self-publishing really doesn’t mean vanity anymore. Really. Even the New York Times agrees.

6. Avoid the words ‘consultation’ and ‘retainer’, even if these are precisely what the client needs. In these straitened times, everyone is far more interested in ‘cost-effective solutions’ rather than ongoing engagement, even if these end up amounting to the same thing.

7. Learn to love budgets. Learn to despise the notion of discretionary spend.

8. Somehow learn to balance the issues of scale v quality. The ultimate start-up tension takes on particular resonance when you’re talking about a book that someone has spent years, possibly even decades, poring over.

9. It is about the long game. Easy to forget in the day to day scramble. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to bring the big picture back into mind.

10. Don’t be an asshole. Seems simple and possibly counterintuitive in a cut-through economy, but nothing serves better than showing the people you work with that you’re giving them your all, that you appreciate their business, and that you’re prepared to work hard to do an even better job next time.