Yesterday I started talking about how we at Thinklings do things a little differently in regard to how we get our income. Today I’m going to go over how we keep our expenses lower and how we cut down the normally expensive aspect of publishing.
Have you ever noticed that most publishers are in large, expensive cities? Mostly New York? I’m sure you’re well aware of the price of real estate in NYC. Thinklings has virtual offices with our staff working out of home offices around the world, from Western Montana to Poland.
As you can imagine, home offices cost much less, just in terms of rent, than a physical shared office of any kind, but especially one in NYC. So instead of paying half a million dollars a month, we pay $0. We can pass these savings along to our writers in the form of higher royalties.
And because we don’t have a physical shared space, we also don’t have to pay for other things like utilities and upkeep staff. We clean our own home bathrooms and don’t need a whole lot of office supplies. Most of the expenses we have for the office, which are used to keep us cohesive, are things a traditional publisher would use as well, like G Suites, a post office box, and task management software.
These few bills cost Thinklings less than $100 per month, as compared to the nearly million-dollar cost of running a large office in Manhattan.
I’ve learned a lot from being an entrepreneur over the past two decades; mostly I learned about how to be efficient. Many companies (and government entities) have large staffs doing jobs that I did all by myself with systems that I had put in place. My husband works for a large university as a “utility” worker. He’s the guy you call if something breaks, you need something moved or cleaned, or to do some random handyman job. He and one other guy are responsible for only one building. Most of the people in his building write two monthly newsletters. One for blueberries and one for peanuts. Writers, graphic designers, editors, photographers, HR, secretaries, mail, and IT support. They do a great job. I’m sure.
But I’ve always questioned why they need so many people in this technological era. Why does there need to be one woman whose sole job is to mail everything? Why is so much paper mail being generated? Someone higher up recently started asking all these questions too, and in the last two weeks, most of the building’s staff members have received pink slips. Thinklings also, with no full-time staff, puts out four full newsletters per month. I feel so bad about my husband's friends losing their jobs, but I also understand where the dean is coming from. The purpose of a university is to educate students, and here they are paying professors next to nothing while they have a large staff putting out two monthly, boutique newsletters.
See, we have learned a thing or two from being freelancers in the past. It’s called trading. I have a skill you need, and you have a skill I need. What used to take you twenty hours takes me two. This works great for both parties. If I used to spend a thousand dollars per month on services that would still take me hours of work, I can have you do them for me. And in exchange, I can do that job for you, which used to take you twenty hours, in the next ten minutes. I learned this when I hired Ali as my assistant about a year ago. I would spend about fifteen hours each week doing half as good of a job on the tasks she did in five hours, twice as well.
Click here if you want to learn more about our staff.
Most traditional publishers have their own in-house printers. This, again, takes a large staff and physical building to manage. Typically, they print a large first printing, which helps keep costs lower for them, but they get in trouble if the books don’t sell well. It’s a precarious tightrope game to make sure you print enough, but not too much. Brick-and-mortar bookstores will not sell a book unless there is a buyback guarantee, which means any books they don’t sell have to be bought back by the publisher.
Thinklings works with print-on-demand, or POD, printers. When a reader purchases a book online, it is printed off when the order is put in and paid for. Currently we work with Amazon, which sells the largest share of books worldwide. When you order a book from Amazon, they print that one book off and ship it for us. So we have no shipping and no tightrope calculations or buybacks to worry about.
We also push e-books and have decided that we aren’t going to be offering expensive hardback books, which places savings into both our hands and our readers’. E-books cost nothing to print, and paperbacks are significantly cheaper than hardbacks.
Large publishers, despite being less involved in marketing than they used to be, still have large marketing departments and spend tons of money on PR and advertisements. Thinklings also has marketing, PR, and ads, but our approach is different. Instead of using our marketing budget on each individual writer, we pour it into marketing Thinklings as a brand.
This is part of the reason why we are laser-focused currently on speculative fiction. We want readers to look forward to EVERY book that Thinklings Books publishes, just like they would with their favorite authors. That means instead of large marketing budgets for each author, we spend only a fraction of our budget marketing each specific book or author.
With all these cost-cutting aspects, Thinklings is starting with nearly one ten-thousandth of the overhead of a traditional publisher. Tomorrow I’ll get more into the idea of marketing. I said we spend most of our marketing time and budget on the Thinklings brand, but we also have a trick up our sleeves when it comes to our writers and their specific books and platforms. I use my skills from helping self-published authors gain platform momentum to help Thinklings authors.
So be sure to check in tomorrow, when I will go over our “Platform in a Box” program.