There’s no way to say this nicely – I’m worried about a specific small publisher. 1
Not me. Hell, no – while I’m sometimes crap about my personal finances, I do my damnest to make sure that my business operations will fail gracefully and elegantly. 2 Each project is currently funded separately from each other in order to provide this kind of modular design. Sustainability is important to me.
I could have gone into debt to provide advances against royalties, but chose not to specifically in order to keep things sustainable. Money earned is reinvested to grow the Alliteration Ink machine, and when there’s a sufficient cushion to safely move to the next step, I will.
That goes for my rental business in Second Life. I’ve got the framework ready to double my size – but don’t quite have the capital to do it yet. Probably by the end of the summer I’ll be ready to move forward with that. Even though it looks like this is a good time to expand my business, I am going to wait until it’s sustainable.
So I get worried when I see small presses that are far larger than I (even paying pro rates) turn to irregular fundraising mechanisms for relatively small amounts of money. 3 This is how I think about it as a businessman:
If this deal is so fantastic with such a great return, then why isn’t the business owner investing in it? Either the return on investment is uncertain, or the business is so financially strapped that they cannot invest… which makes the whole venture uncertain.
They are acting like a startup, not a stable (or even semi-stable) business. They aren’t acting like a grown-up. And there is little in the way of public disclosure of funds or funding to reassure my fears.
I am not happy with this analysis. I hope I’m wrong.4 I have several friends who have some degree of affiliation with this publisher, and stand to do badly if I’m right. I think it will be bad for the industry if I’m right – both as another small publisher and as an author. This is all made worse by the continuing flux in the publishing industry.
There is only one possible solution that reduces this uncertainty: Financial transparency. Unlike many other industries, it is not the backroom deals that determines our success. Even at the "traditional publishing" level, our finances can screw us, but not cause our success. Instead, we succeed through the quality of our products.
I believe in the quality of the work and writing I produce, so I am unafraid to expose financial details. Ask, if I’m not telling you enough to believe in what I’m doing.
I wonder if the rest of the industry is willing to follow my lead.
1 I’m not naming this publisher on purpose. You either know about this already or you don’t. I’m illustrating a principle.
2 That means that it will disturb as little as possible.
3 Defined as "I can put it on my credit card right now".
4 Full disclosure: said publisher apparently does not care for me personally. Wev. That’s not why I care.