This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly talk about one of the scariest topics in publishing: growth and how to manage it. How do you know you’re growing? How fast should you grow? How do you pay for it? What do you do if it stops?
Hi all, things got a little wild over the holiday season. We kept posting new episodes of the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, but we stopped posting them to our blog. So here’s a big post to catch up with what you up on what you missed!
We talked about how book publishers can experiment in order to keep their business limber and growing (but without losing tens of thousands of dollars when those experiments don’t pan out):
We answered one of the questions Microcosm is most frequently asked: “Why have I never heard of you?”:
We tackled a reader question about a pretty weird scenario that happens more often than you’d think: What do you do when a publisher pays you for your book and then never publishes it?
We gazed into our crystal ball and made some predictions about how the publishing industry will change in the next five years:
We talked about sidelines! Stickers, buttons, patches, etc. Not very many publishers make this kind of merch to sell alongside their books (unless they’re heavily influenced by punk music culture… ahem) but it’s often a good idea:
And finally, we talked about how publishers can sell translations, foreign rights, and other licensing deals:
Wow! This marks the end of a year of more than doubling our previous “busiest year ever” with a growth of 119.24% over 2020.
At the end of the year, we planned a week of quiet respite. But instead, after holding our breath for a year, omicron hit, coinciding perfectly with a large part of staff going on vacation to cut us down to a rather stressed skeleton crew. But now we’re resting up, reflecting on the last year, and planning for the year to come. And that includes publishing our annual financial and business recap! Financial transparency is one of our values—it helps everyone! And this year, it’s extra nice to be able to show that all the news is good.
In February, 2021, we doubled our warehousing space (and shortly after that our warehouse staffing) with the opening of our Cleveland warehouse. And still, we struggled to keep up with shipping and receiving at the end of the year. Similarly, we had many system and software upgrades and we still couldn’t keep up with our new volume of orders and books. So naturally, we decided to keep it going by publishing 19 new books in the Spring 2022 season, and 23 new books next Fall. National conventions resume in a few weeks and lots of authors are submitting finished books that need attention, but maybe we can run a broom through here in the meantime and clear out the 2021 dust.
Here’s what the last 3 years have looked like:
[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: a graph showing three years of income by month superimposed on each other: 2019 is the lowest, with the best month hitting $150,000. 2020 had somewhat higher sales almost every month, ranging from about $70k to $200k. And 2021 looks like a mountain range by comparison, with sales hitting $400k several times.]
When other publishers ask how we have been doing and I explain the above chart, their eyes light up in shock and they respond with something like “Well, that’s a GOOD problem!” Which it is, but it’s the kind of problem that resulted in six years without a slow season. For most publishers, January and February are marked by an inundation of returned, unsold books from the holiday season, while we receive restock orders instead. The reasons for this are 50% what we publish and 50% how we publish. Meaning that we mostly sell to stores who purchase all of their books from us and so our salespeople don’t stick them with hyped books that they cannot sell. And we can confirm that the practical skills and values in our books are what the world has wanted for at least the past 26 years. Probably longer. The need remains vast.
We have more than doubled our staff since before the pandemic and we welcomed Sarah as our seventh employee-owner in 2021. Thanks to your support, we were able to give our exhausted staff their largest rounds of profit bonuses ever—equivalent to a $3/hour raise for the last year. Our latest rounds of hiring have been a little too steady to continue to report each new worker, but we have gotten our about page mostly updated other than the three newest and a few people who have been here for ten years but haven’t sent a photo! Our newfound health insurance has been providing people with long-neglected (and sometimes life-altering) care. And we are ready to debut our software to allow other publishers to do what we do! Yet, the books keep arriving from the printer, just about every day—after these historic supply chain delays! It’s been a fascinating time to do what we do. And we are excited that this is finally the year where we will release the beta version of our software to empower other publishers!
And if you really want to get into the nitty gritty of publishing, check out our podcast.
But before we get too tired, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Our total sales for the year were $3.449 MILLION DOLLARS, with published books taking the largest slice of that pie, and finally exceeding distribution sales of the past few years:
And here are our bestsellers, by dollars earned (minus expenses like printing and cover design):
|Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-outs, and Triggers (Paperback)||9781621063049||42,167||$281,504.84||14.95||8.97||Z-MC-VERSA||1316||+4656.99 / month|
|Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-outs, and Triggers (eBook)||9781621060406||53,280||$63,994.34||13.99||8.39||Z-MC-VERSA||6773||+3208.21 / month|
|Unfuck Your Boundaries: Build Better Relationships through Consent, Communication, and Expressing Your Needs (Paperback)||9781621061007||7,415||$50,997.34||14.95||8.97||Z-MC-VERSA||284||+3.91 / month|
|Practical Witch’s Almanac 2021, The (Paperback)||9781621066552||7,915||$49,618.54||13.95||8.37||Z-MC-VERSA||588||+503.40 / month|
|How to Resist Amazon and Why: The Fight for Local Economics, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores, and a People-Powered Future! (First Edition Paperback)||9781621067061||7,711||$46,992.21||12.95||7.77||Z-MC-VERSA||0||+1.97 / month|
|Gold Lyre Tarot (Deck)||9781621067870||2,748||$43,592.54||29.95||17.97||Z-MC-RR Donnelly||52||+848.86 / month|
|Boundaries Conversation Deck: What Would You Do? (Other)||9781621063704||18,032||$42,052.35||14.95||8.97||Z-MC-RR Donnelly||43||+394.32 / month|
|Unfuck Your Intimacy: Using Science for Better Relationships, Sex, and Dating (Paperback)||9781621067627||5,257||$37,007.59||14.95||8.97||Z-MC-VERSA||248||+886.88 / month|
|Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-outs, and Triggers (audiobook download)||9781621063049||246,0621||$32,777.80||19.99||11.99||Z-MC-VERSA||100||+486.30 / month|
|Making Stuff and Doing Things: DIY Guides to Just About Everything (Paperback)||9781621066477||3,538||$26,403.97||16.95||10.17||Z-MC-VERSA||275||+1138.62 / month|
|Unfuck Your Body: Using Science to Eat, Sleep, Breathe, Move, and Feel Better (Paperback)||9781621063285||3,154||$23,853.55||14.95||8.97||Z-MC-VERSA||1592||+208.77 / month|
|Unfuck Your Boundaries Workbook: Build Better Relationships Through Consent, Communication, and Expressing Your Needs (Paperback)||9781621061762||4,941||$22,760.48||9.95||5.97||Z-MC-VERSA||425||+232.27 / month|
|Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills (Paperback)||9780978866563||16,048||$18,487.40||9.95||5.97||Z-MC-VERSA||145||+3084.17 / month|
|Stoner Babes Coloring Book , The (Paperback)||9781621064305||2,367||$18,019.72||14.95||8.97||Z-MC-VERSA||72||+1.83 / month|
|Unfuck Your Brain Workbook: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers (First Edition Zine )||9781621065890||7,749||$16,968.14||4.95||2.97||Z-MC-VERSA||384||+352.38 / month|
|Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever: Completely Ridiculous Edition (Paper over board)||9781621068402||1,379||$15,831.85||25.95||15.57||Z-MC-VERSA||159||+437.76 / month|
|Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More, The (Hardcover)||9781507204719||1,424||$15,321.05||17.99||10.79||10||+0.96 / month|
|My Vag: A Rhyming Coloring Book (Paperback)||9781621068907||2,024||$15,201.91||14.95||8.97||Z-MC-VERSA||37||+1.00 / month|
|Unfuck Your Boundaries: Build Better Relationships through Consent, Communication, and Expressing Your Needs (Ebook)||9781621060673||36,814||$14,615.26||9.99||5.99||Z-MC-VERSA||178||+700.09 / month|
|Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills (Paper-over-board)||9781621061250||1,941||$14,500.00||14.95||8.97||Z-MC-VERSA||1412||+252.48 / month|
|You Are a Great and Powerful Wizard: Self-Care Magic for Modern Mortals (Paper over boards)||9781621064831||1,599||$14,483.33||19.95||11.97||Z-MC-VERSA||0||+0.93 / month|
UNF*CK YOUR BRAIN, which we published in 2017, is still outselling even our runners up by a wide margin—combined. Even if you ignore this aberrant title, it was a phenomenal year. We published 42-some new books and about twice that many zines. And healthfully, 87% of the titles holding sales are over a year old, meaning that they will continue to sell for years to come.
So where did all those millions go? (We still can’t believe we’re talking about our company sales with all these digits.) As is written into our company bylaws, we invested it all back into the company and into our workforce, much of it in the form of those profit-sharing employee bonuses mentioned above. Nobody got a yacht, but we all got by. You can see that piece of the pie alongside the rest of our outgoing money below.
Expenses for this year were $3.346M, including the purchase of the additional warehouse and inventory to fill it:
Thank you for supporting us, our authors, and our team in the last year, whether as a reader, partner, or member of our team. The last two years have been difficult in many ways, but it’s been heartening the way our entire culture seems to have turned to books for comfort, meaning, perspective, and a little bit of escape. We’re prouder than ever to get to play a role in bringing people and books together.
Celebrate your path every day with this special 25th-anniversary edition of The Practical Witch’s Almanac. New resources, spells, recipes, and practices are paired with a selection of the best content from the last quarter century of Friday Gladheart’s iconic almanac, all presented in a fresh and modern light. Track important dates in the wheel of the year on weekly calendar pages that include plenty of room to write in your own dates, appointments, and habits. Set your objectives to achieve your goals using the Moon Phase planner pages. Moon Phase Planner pages help you set your objectives to achieve your goals effectively while using natural Lunar cycles. Monthly Study Guides and magickal correspondences make your almanac an indispensable resource for years to come, with a selection of tarot cards, crystals and stones, herbs and botanicals, deities, colors, runes, and more. You’ll find recipes, rituals, DIY projects, crafts, and insightful articles, all beautifully illustrated by the author to bring a bit of magic to your days. As always, the almanac provides precise calculations for astronomical and astrological events for any location on Earth.
A new edition of our most life-saving book!
Are you inclined to escape the crumminess of everyday life into fantasy worlds? Are you smart and imaginative in a way that isn’t really suited to your surroundings? Are you definitely misunderstood, likely angry, and almost certainly depressed? Set Sytes, hailing from the UK, would prefer you stay alive and sort things out rather than the alternative, thanks. He figures there are better opportunities for you out there and lays it all out in a way that’s compelling, funny, sharp, and useful. This book (please don’t call it a self-help guide, asks the author) is ultimately about how to be a person in the world. It can be done non-miserably, we promise.