One-Page, One-Person: The Follow-up

Image for post
Image for post
“Question Mark“ by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell, photographed by Leo Reynolds

Last week I posted ‘A One-Page Business Plan for a One-Person Publishing Company’, and since then there’s been the usual deluge of comments, queries and requests in my inbox. Rather than answering everyone individually, I thought I’d collate all the extra information into a new post — so here we go. Hope this clears everything up!

A couple of people asked for the RRP formula as an actual formula… it’s tricky to express such things elegantly on Medium, but here goes:

{ ( [ your hourly rate inc. salary and other overheads × hours needed for project ] + print costs for expected initial sales + other production expenses ) ÷ no of expected initial sales } + author royalty per copy = essential income per copy sold. Then double that and round up for a safe RRP.

That part’s just for completists — enjoy. The next logical question (which kindly enough, you all refrained from asking) is: how come none of your Valley Press books, past or present, have these crazy-high RRPs that the formula prescribes for me?

One answer is that when I started VP as a business, for the first couple of years I only sold the books directly. If this mirrors your current position, great news; you don’t need to ‘double and round up’. You only need to start worrying about 50% discounts when you start dealing with trade buyers.

Another answer is that I worked up to a full-time salary very gradually, aiming to raise my monthly wage by £100 every few months (from £0 in January 2011). By the time I could confidently sell 200 initial copies, I was still only paying myself £600 a month. The point is, the less you pay yourself, and the lower your overheads, the cheaper the books can be (and the more you’ll sell, in theory). So a slow build-up to the £24k is highly advised, but I maintain the validity of the plan.

Nowadays, Valley Press has annual overheads of £65,000 (yikes) and can handle around 36 publishing projects a year, so that would be £1800 income needed per book. My maths might be something like this:

{ [ ( £1800 overheads + £600 print costs + £300 expenses ) ÷ 450 initial sales ] + 50p author cut } × 2 = £12.99 RRP

… but then we also have an Arts Council Grant in 2018, and a few university-funded projects; all kinds of stuff going on. Reality is complicated!

Onto some of your actual questions about the article (paraphrased slightly):

Q: Where can I find a printer who’ll print 200 books for £1 each?!

Q: In what universe is it realistic to publish a book every two weeks, considering the inevitable editorial/design back-and-forth?

Q: I run an established publishing house. Why don’t we get 700+ submissions a year, like the lucky person in your business plan?

Q: What about the backlist titles, don’t they help?

Q: I don’t have 20 hours a week to spare, is there any way I can use the plan?

Q: I can’t afford the kind of really good software that lets you design books in two days. Any tips?

Q: If I were starting a new publishing house, this would all be really useful — but it’s too late now, surely?

Q: Why are you writing these articles? Should you not be keeping all this information away from rival publishers?

But in the longer-term, my dream is a world where everyone who writes a book can have it edited and produced to the very best standard it can be, and then have the finished publication brought to the attention of every interested reader. That is a big goal; I can’t do it alone, you all need to help.

The written word is a remarkable invention; it’s basically telepathy, a way of transmitting thoughts from your mind into someone else’s. It’s much easier to empathise with and understand someone once you’ve heard their story, isn’t it? And the world could use a lot more empathy…

…and more rewarding employment opportunities, which is why I’m such a capitalist about this otherwise rather gentle dream. So I’d best get back to it; thanks for reading, and feel free to add further comments/responses below.

Written by

Founder @valleypress. Have mostly written here about small press publishing, but am starting to branch out. Stay with me, people!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store