Much of the discussion about Steve Jobs’s Walter Isaacson-penned biography revolves around his management style—or lack thereof. But after reading the book myself, I found a lot of information that’s relevant to the publishing industry. This is part two of my interpretation of Steve Jobs’ philosophies as they can be applied to book publishing. Part one ran last week.
- Push for perfection
- Tolerate only “A” players
- Engage face to face
- Know the big picture and details
- Applied imagination
- Stay happy
Jobs’s early mentor Mike Markkula wrote him a memo that urged three principles. The first two were empathy and focus. “The third was an awkward word, ‘impute,’ but it became one of Jobs’s key doctrines,” said Isaacson.
I define impute to mean that people use one element as a surrogate indicator to define the whole. For example, people judge a book by its cover. Pay attention to all aspects of your product offering. If the price is too low, people may think that its content is inferior to more expensive competitive products. Shelf presence at Wal-Mart will project a different image from the same book for sale at Neiman Marcus.
Appeal to the sense of touch by choosing the right paper. Gilt edges project a richer look and feel. Use deckled paper on your historical novel to give the foredge a rough appearance. A heavier-weight paper may increase the spine width and subsequently shelf visibility. Use all the marketing tools at your disposal to project the image you want prospective customers to have.
2. Push for perfection
Jobs sought perfection in almost every product he ever created. It happened at Apple and at Pixar. Isaacson said, “When [Jobs] was about to launch Apple Stores, he and his store guru, Ron Johnson, suddenly decided to delay everything a few months so that the stores’ layouts could be reorganized around activities and not just product categories.” His search for excellence certainly paid off.
“Good enough” is rarely good enough. Test your title, cover design, interior layout, price and promotion. Do not let your ego interfere as you make necessary changes. Progress occurs when you deliver what the market wants.
In addition, publish your books on your schedule, not according to an artificial deadline such as a distributor’s catalog or special marketing period (such as the fourth-quarter holidays). It may be better to wait for the next one. Create a timeline of mandatory actions and completion dates. Stick to it regardless of outside pressure to publish early.
3. Tolerate only “A” players
Jobs had a unique management style, but as Isaacson said, “It was his way of preventing what he called ‘the bozo explosion,’ in which managers are so polite that mediocre people feel comfortable sticking around.”
There are many theories of personal management and personnel management that are beyond my area of expertise. But from my experience, if you hire people to work directly for you or as consultants (marketing, legal, financial) hire only the best ones available. It will generally cost less in the long run.
4. Engage face to face
Authors place a heavy reliance on social networking to communicate with prospective buyers. While not necessarily a bad thing, it should not replace connecting with people personally. Authors could conduct store events, seminars or personal presentations at corporate and association meetings. They can perform on TV and radio shows, with personal connection to the host and audience through call-in shows. They can attend or exhibit at trade shows and conferences. And personal selling to corporate buyers can yield sales in large, non-returnable quantities.
5. Know the big picture and details
Successful book marketers have to see the forest and the trees. By this I mean we have to perform in the short-term in order to make it to the long term. For example, dual distribution tactics through bookstores and other retailers may sustain current revenue while larger, non-returnable sales through corporate buyers run their lengthy course. In addition, some promotion is designed for consistent exposure (publicity, social networking, advertising, sales promotion) while others are for sales (direct marketing, trade shows and personal presentations).
The key is to have an assorted, yet concentrated mix of marketing activities. Apply these to generating sales today to individual consumers while seeking the greater opportunity in future, non-bookstore sales.
13) Applied imagination
It is not enough to have a creative idea because creativity in itself does not lead to sales Creativity is simply the ability to find something new by rearranging the old in a new way. It is not necessarily a “bolt out of the blue” — although it can be. Implement your ideas, even if they seem unwieldy at first.
There are techniques you can use to stimulate your thinking to come up with new ways of solving marketing problems or seeking different directions. Creativity is …
… a tool, not an end unto itself. It is a technique you can use to stand out from the crowd in a positive way. It is a device that can make your promotional efforts more unique and perhaps more memorable and successful. Use this tool to plan new titles, implement a new pricing program or sell your books to different market segments.
… a different way of doing something. It is an outlook, an attitude, the ability to search for more than one right answer and the capacity to look at what everybody else sees but think something different. You apply your creative talents when you think of a new cover design for a book, or when you decide to sell your books in airport stores or to the military in addition to bookstores
… fun. Innovation can be as enjoyable as it is productive. What if you, as an author, set a goal of writing three pages every day. You can still write your three pages on those days when your writer’s block is larger than a city block. Just set your computer to display your work in 72-point type.
Innovation is resourcefulness, the ability to look at a task and find new ways to perform it. It is a playful way of looking at ordinary events, stimulating your thinking and inventing new ways to accomplish results. New ideas are neither right nor wrong ― they are simply different. They are round pegs that do not fit into square holes.
14) Stay happy
Negativity happens. Problems conspire to erode your enthusiasm and make it more difficult to remain passionate about your publishing venture. Yet the axiom for success in any business is to do what you love and love what you do. When you have reached this state, a sparkling effervescence exudes in everything you do and say. You will remain focused on achievement, excited about your circumstances and confident of your future. Believe in your ability to create more sales and profits, and attack each challenge enthusiastically.
Passion begets persistence. If you believe in what you are doing it is easier to perform all the activities that, in spite of everyday obstacles, will propel you forward. Persistence is tenacity in the face of obstacles, perseverance in conducting marketing activities and perpetual promotion in spite of resistance, rejection and returns. This resolution is supported by the knowledge that although ultimate achievement is not immediate you start your journey anyway and do what is necessary to reach your objectives.
Steve Job’s career was as rebellious as it was successful. There are many lessons we can take from his philosophies and apply them to becoming more successful at book marketing. Choose those that fit your needs and personality and make them work for you.