People's Guide to Publishing: Building a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business From the Ground Up
by Joe Biel Author
Learn what it takes to publish books successfully
So, you want to publish books.
Drawing on 24 years of experience operating an independent publishing company, Joe Biel has written the most accessible and comprehensive guide to running a successful publishing business. You'll learn all the skills of the trade, including how to:
- Develop your individual books to connect with readers on a practical and emotional level
- Choose between offset printed, digitally printed, and eBook formats and work effectively with printers
- Build an authentic niche so you can reach your audience and sell books directly
- Understand if and when you're ready to work with a distributor or large online retailer
- Create a budget and predict the cost and income of each book so your company stays in the black
- Decide what work you need to do yourself and what can be done by others
- Plan for sustainable growth
Featuring interviews with other upstart independent publishers and funny anecdotes from publishing's long history as well as detailed charts and visuals, this book is intended both beginners looking for a realistic overview of the publishing or self-publishing process and for experienced publishers seeking a deeper understanding of accounting principles, ways to bring their books to new audiences, and how to advance their mission in a changing industry. All readers will come away with the confidence to move forward wisely and a strong sense of why publishing matters today more than ever.
Want more publishing help? Get the companion workbook and check out the People's Guide to Publishing podcast.
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Comments & Reviews
"[I]nformal but comprehensive...Biel is the founder and president of Microcosm Publishing, a small press that's guided by a strong set of principles and is doing some great work."
"There’s no competition in here. There’s only excitement, a few laughs, and all of the helpful information authors and would-be publishers are in search of. ... As the book progresses, it travels through the publishing process. It takes you all the way through printing and editorial to “Publicity & Launch.” With practical homework at the end of each chapter, this book really does act as the intensely readable guide to publishing that the title suggests."
"...goes into the nitty gritty of what it takes to build a publishing company. And we’re talking EVERYTHING. That might sound daunting, but he’s got some pretty fun stories from his own and other publishers’ experience to keep us hyped."
"...an inspirational and practical guidebook for anyone interested in starting and sustaining a publishing company....
Beneath all the details about business plans, marketing, paper choices, printing styles, distributors, and contracts, A People’s Guide to Publishing has a radical, DIY, punk-rock philosophy that echoes that of Microcosm Publishing itself. Publishing is a way to get books out there that need to be read, and Biel offers spirited advice about how to get that done."
"...accessible and comprehensive guide to running a successful publishing business. Featuring interviews with other upstart independent publishers and funny anecdotes from publishing's long history as well as detailed charts and visuals"
"When a young intern at Microcosm Publishing—an indie house in Portland, Ore., focused on books that empower marginalized communities—asked founder Joe Biel what she should read to complete her publishing education, Biel was stumped. “I didn’t know what to tell her,” he said.
With that intern in mind, Biel wrote A People’s Guide to Publishing: Build a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful, Book Business from the Ground Up, a comprehensive guide to launching a book publishing venture..."
"a politely rebellious guide to thriving on the periphery of what its punk rocker-turned-publisher author dubs the 'Literary Industrial Complex.'"
Biel’s new offering is one that is won with merit; he has succeeded in the book business for decades and has built what he has from the ground up. He knows about community, sustainability, niche markets, and taking care of your people. This guide is sure to steer you right.
Joe Biel has a gift for looking at things a little differently. Anyone starting a publishing company or just hoping to publish one book will benefit from his perspective and experience in building Microcosm. They should read this.
Joe Biel clearly explains the mysteries of the publishing industry. He looks at the modern history of the book trade and encourages readers to become part of the current dynamic changes. Old barriers to entry have been lifted and Biel shows how to publish for fun and profit.
I’ve been involved in the book business for about 25 years. It is still very much an apprenticeship industry. With People's Guide to Publishing, Biel offers that training to readers.
As an author, publisher, and distributor, I found People's Guide to Publishing to be a succinct, readable guide to a complicated and ever-changing industry. While it is geared toward novice publishers, the clear explanations of how the book industry works – from choosing a printer to marketing lead times to sales forecasting—makes this book incredibly useful to authors and book people early in their careers.
Joyce Brabner, wife of the late comics writer Harvey Pekar, was the first person who told me I should check out Joe Biel and Microcosm Publishing. As usual Joyce gave very good advice. When I first began talking with him in 2011, one of the first things Joe said to me was that the “underground seemed bigger than the mainstream.” In other words, in his experience, books on unusual, unconventional, controversial, unpredicted or just oddball topics, could be sold in eye-popping numbers to an equally mostly undercover and definitely underserved market of thoughtful but unheeded consumers—a market kind of like him. Joe was right, and he’s spent the last 23 years or connecting directly to those consumers through the publishing program of Microcosm. His new book ‘A People’s Guide to Publishing: Building a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business,’ provides a comprehensive look at just to do so by revealing the often seemingly mysterious processes of book publishing in a way seldom seen. He gives methodical explanations in plain language of how the commercial book trade—the Literary Industrial Complex—is structured. He details how the conventional book publishing process works—from acquisition and editing through printing, marketing and foreign rights. But even better, he offers enlightening and useful alternatives to the conventional book publishing process. He’s put together the secret sauce of alternative publishing by showing how the conventional book industry has been transformed by technologies like print on demand production, online retailing, and social media—and how Microcosm Publishing has exploited these changes. Indeed the book is about how he turned his social and cultural passions—by publishing books on sustainable practices, targeting women and minority consumers (black women buy and read more books than any demographic), as well as fringe and underground cultural and social issues—into a fast-growing business platform open to anyone with the passion to publish. Microcosm Publishing has managed to turn the underground into the mainstream, and the underground looks bigger and more exciting with every book Microcosm publishes.
"Distills decades of industry experience and advice into an approachable guide that encourages innovation, creativity, and connecting directly with your readers. It’s the most empowering text I’ve read on publishing."
Won with merit; Biel has succeeded in the book business for decades and has built what he has from the ground up. He knows about community, sustainability, niche markets, and taking care of your people. This guide is sure to steer you right.