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Growing pains

In solidarity for the NaNoWriMo participants out there, I'm doing a "make lifestyle changes at highspeed" thing for the month of November. And part of that involves coming back to this much neglected livejournal account and writing a bunch of posts I've been wanting to write for a while and posting them throughout the month of November.

Something that's been on my mind lately is how the needs and push for growth of Twelfth Planet Press always seem to come before there is budget or cashflow for them. My main goals for 2010 were to expand the number of titles I published for the year, to push the quality of what I published and how it was presented and for the press itself to be self sustaining in terms of cashflow. This was the first year that I didn't pay bills from my personal accounts but rather tried to balance the business cashflow on its own. This was the first year that I took the training wheels off to see if it could work on its own. My feelings being, if projects continually need outside investment, then the press is not financially viable. And this would not meet one of my main overarching objectives.

So this year has been spent walking a tightrope and balancing incomings and outgoings and timing of these in order to see if the whole thing could seriously work. And dreaming of the things I wish I could afford. As the number of titles grow, the amount of work also grows and at a different rate. I'm very lucky to have a number of awesome people who volunteer their time behind the scenes to help me get titles to the printer. There is a lot of work to get a book to publication including layout, design, proofing and so on. And I've been lucky to be able to share some of that work with others. Alas though, the work for a title doesn't finish once it's gone to the printer. There is a whole heap of post production jobs that need to happen and it's some of these that I really wish I could afford to bring help in for.

As an indie publisher you wear all kinds of hats. Hats that really are starting to bug me though include trying to coordinate with couriers for the delivery of the boxes of published books. OMG! Couriers won't deliver to your post box, which would be the most convenient because my postmaster is more than happy to be the person to accept my deliveries. But couriers also refuse to give any time for delivery that is remotely close to the actual time they will deliver. This year the games I've had to play with them for receipt of my deliveries have driven me mad. Most of the time the way it works is, I wait til they leave a card saying they tried to deliver X. Then I call them and ask for them to redeliver the next day and leave the card for them signed to allow them to deliver without person. So sometimes the whole thing can take 3 days to receive the goods. And leaving someone else's place as the place of delivery doesn't work because they don't stick to the time they are delivering and noone else stays at home all day waiting for a courier either. Worse still have been the attempts of the couriers picking up boxes that needed to go back to the printer and then come back to me. One such case I was told I didn't need to be there for the pickup but then I did and the whole thing became a several days long farce. Oh for office space that includes reception!

Anything that requires me being present in person for is difficult. And as the press grows, the need for me to be somewhere in person is increasing. My business hours for TPP are something like 6.30pm to midnight. I have a day job and so this is the thing I do outside of that. But the rest of the world seems intent on treating my business like a real business. Which is both very exciting and frightening but also frustrating because it's starting to stretch into needing my presence during standard business hours. For all kinds of things like banking, taking phonecalls from printers and bookstores and for publicity reasons and so on.

Once upon a time, the business took up the space of a couple of papers and some folders on my laptop. These days it takes up most of my filing space in my cabinets, various surfaces across my house and large stacks of boxes. I dream of warehousing space to at least be able to stack everything in an order that makes sense. At the moment, different titles are stored in different rooms of my house and hidden in all kinds of places so that my home still resembles a nice homey place to live. But that limits the efficiency of the TPP workspace. I dream of having storage catalogued and organised and having packing and shipping areas and then office space with neatly organised files and accounts and so on.

I also dream of someone else taking over organising orders and shipping and someone else to do accounts. Hey, I can dream!

The thing is though, there are always needs which come up before I can even think of any of these things. And they too always seems to require more than cashflow can afford. It's a funny thing to try and elaborate or explain but whenever I achieve or reach X, the first thing that I come up against is the request or pointing out that I really should be doing Y. And all I want to say is, but I've been working on X! It is sort of tied up in the needs coming before the being able to afford it. I'm constantly shocked when people think that TPP is more or further along than it is. And when I mention this shock to others, they point out that that's a result of what we have achieved so far. So examples of what I mean is being approached for jobs like various editorial staff (I wish I had the money for this), expectations about distribution (which requires TPP to be bigger than it currently is), requests to open accounts with TPP for supply, being on Amazon (which I have tried several times and wonder if I am looking at this problem wrong), advertising, promotion, sponsorship and all kinds of merchandising etc etc.

I spent a long time railing against the feelings of not having achieved Y and never really getting the kudos for reaching X. Until I realised that the people pushing me to go for Y are doing so *because* I have reached X. Now I take the praise as implied when/because people take the time to suggest something I should try or let me know about something they think I should know about or push me to shoot for something that I think is way beyond current capabilities. Because in truth, I want to go further and reach higher. And that it's a constant process of building and growing from where TPP currently is. Still, it took a long time to stop seeing it as criticism or coming short :) And a long time to see that maybe publishing always costs more than the current budget and a large component is taking a deep breath, closing your eyes and leaping off the cliff.

For more information on Twelfth Planet Press, visit our website at: www.twelfthplanetpress.com


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 7th, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
No wonder you've had jet lag....you needed more sleep before you even went away!
Nov. 7th, 2010 06:30 am (UTC)
That's probably true!
Nov. 8th, 2010 09:47 am (UTC)
I hear you on the couriers. I've had one or two really good ones - one not only contacted me and arranged to bring a box to my work instead of home (for no extra charge), but he remembered me, remembered my number and work address and brought the next box there unprompted. But I've had other boxes of books left on my doorstep, and once on the wall of letterboxes at the front of my block. I'm lucky to still have that one, and luckier it didn't rain *too* much that afternoon. Although I suspect that something similar is why the signed copy of a friend's recent novel never arrived with me.
Nov. 8th, 2010 10:04 am (UTC)
Yeah I know! And the "can't we deliver it to your work" thing doesn't work for me when it's 18 boxes of books. I am on a sprawling campus in the first instance and secondly, I don't think it's appropriate to accept a full print run of books at my day job. And if they left them at reception? How's that gonna work for me to get them in my car.

It's just one of those things that would work better for me if we had a day office. Oh well!

I'm sorry your deliveries are so lax as to be left on the letterboxes - that's unacceptable.
Nov. 8th, 2010 10:40 am (UTC)
They're getting better about leaving a card.

I've just recently found out about places that offer virtual offices, which are aimed at small businesses with exactly the sort of problem you're talking about. You use their office as your business address, so you order deliveries to "Suite 3, Miriam Aster House, 55 New Ceres Avenue" or whatever, and so then you're covered with people who won't deliver to a post box and there's someone there who can sign for deliveries.

They do the same thing for phones, so you can get a phone number allotted by them to give out as TPP's. Then one of their operators will answer with "Twelfth Planet Press, how may I help you? I'll just check if she's available" and then take a message, or ring you and see if they can switch the call through to you, or anything else you've arranged. I'm beginning to get involved in a small startup myself and I suspect we may end up making use of something like this.

It would cost, of course, apropos your earlier point. Would you consider crowdsourcing the cash for things like that, like the ASiF donation drive or the pledge-and-reward system that Kickstarter uses?
Nov. 10th, 2010 10:23 am (UTC)
I was going to mention something similar to this. I know of one in Kings Park Road - http://www.kingsparkoffices.com.au/ - but am sure there would be others around that are cheaper or a better fit.

Of course, I have no idea how much these things cost. But it may be worth it to save the frustration of couriers etc.
Nov. 10th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this information! I will definitely look into it.
Mar. 27th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
I didn't reply to this at the time but I wanted to say that I really appreciated your comments and they have left me much food for thought and things to dream and mull over.

Many thanks for that!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )