Lessons learned in 2014:
1) When it comes to marketing interns, you get what you pay for. I had two this past year. In both cases, my hope was to provide real-world job experience that they could use as a springboard to bigger and better things, as well as plenty of great details for their resumes. I didn’t set deadlines or make demands. I was open to them learning what they wanted to learn. I hoped, of course, that they’d also help me with some of the marketing jobs that I hadn’t been willing to invest my time in.
It felt win-win to me — I’d rather invest my time in helping someone learn about the business than do the marketing personally. As it turned out, not so much. Intern one — total bust. A complete waste of my time. Intern two got some great learning out of it — she learned she didn’t want to work in marketing. And she wound up getting a solid job doing something more interesting for her. I hope her work with me gave her some resume fodder — she earned that — but she did very little of the hands-on work I’d been hoping for help with. For my purposes, hiring marketing interns turned out to be a waste of my time. It’s true I didn’t waste my money, but my time is worth something, too.
2) Finding a great cover designer is crucial, but involves trial-and-error. I worked with five of them during the past year. The single cover I spent the most on doesn’t exist, because I finally gave up on the artist. The cover package I spent the most on (covers for multiple books) was… fine. But I posted those covers thinking, well, I can always go back to the originals if I feel like it. That’s not really a good sign. Two inexpensive options left me with the itch of dissatisfaction — both reasonable covers, but not somehow there.
All in all, investing in covers — while a good and necessary decision — left me less satisfied than creating my own. Should I have seen warning signs ahead of time? Maybe. I wouldn’t again pay for stock photos until I’d seen a design using comps, or hire a designer because I liked his aesthetics without thinking about his genre knowledge.
That said, the final covers from the final artist delighted me. With close to $2000 spent on covers this year, it was largely money invested in learning what worked and didn’t work, but I’m (mostly) satisfied with my end results.
3) Tracking expenses & income and doing taxes is tedious, and a lot more efficient when done promptly rather than trying to put the pieces together later. I’m good at math and competent in general, perfectly capable of managing this part of the process, but after almost a year in business, I would definitely rather be hiring an accountant. It’s not likely to happen this year, but that’s where my next investments in the business are going to be. Most likely, anyway.
4) I never got around to looking for acquisitions. When I started Rozelle Press, I intended to become a publisher for other people’s books, as well as my own, but the year slipped away from me. I feel as if I didn’t get nearly enough done, but realistically, I wrote one complete book, two short stories, and have three other books in progress, each with at least 10,000 words written. I invested time and money in marketing, participated in a few promotions, blogged regularly, and tried to stayed updated on the business. That’s pretty good for a single year, especially given what 2013 looked like. For next year — well, I may be more open to possible acquisitions. But it’s harder to find work that I love than I would have hoped. I suppose all publishers feel that way!