April 7, 2014 Last Updated 1:48 pm

Thomas Woll’s practical guide to the book publishing trade, Publishing for Profit, updated with fifth edition

Any book that reaches its fifth edition must have something going for it. Publishing for Profit, by Thomas Woll, was originally published in 1998 and has just been released in its fifth edition by Chicago Review Press in both print and eBook form.

PforP-coverWoll is the president of Cross River Publishing Consultants, a management consulting firm specializing in the media industry, and most especially the book publishing industry. Woll previously held management positions at numerous publishing firms including Rodale Press, Vanguard Press and John Wiley and Sons.

For the fifth edition of Publishing for Profit, Woll has updated many parts of his book, and has added new material to the end of the book that deals with digital publishing, as you would expect.

“It should also be stated that Publishing for Profit is still aimed primarily at the practicing publishing firm, whether small or large, and still based on the premise that publishers will survive despite the trend toward self-publishing,” Woll writes in the Preface to the Fifth Edition.

“I think it fair to say that these fifteen years have witnessed the most fundamental changes to the publishing industry since Guttenberg. We have seen the rapid transition from a print-based industry to a digital-based industry, particularly in the professional and academic segments, but increasingly, as well, in the trade segment; from a very clearly defined, and tested, print business model to much more amorphous, fluid, and just-being-tested digital business models; from an inventory-laden print-and-deliver system to an inventory-minimal deliver-and-print system,” Woll writes.

The book is very much aimed at the professional book publisher, but I would point out that the book has much to offer the professional that is creating a new line of books – say someone in the newspaper or magazine industry looking to extend the product offerings. In this regard, Publishing for Profit is an excellent primer for those less confident about their knowledge of the print book business.

The book contains its fair share of warnings to prospective book publishers. “Publishing is an extremely tough business. Average profits are, at best, small unless one happens to have the luxury of a major bestseller in a particular year,” Woll writes early on.

Woll likes short, easy to digest chapters – a wise strategy for a book that might seem dry to the uninterested, but for those venturing into the business, dense and full of detail. Woll’s book walks though the organizational aspects of setting up a book business before venturing into the editorial aspects of the trade.


A pricing model for eBooks

Woll states early on that he will not get into much detail in regards to publicity, one area of particular interest to me. In today’s world of book publishing, where despite the decline of book sellers, more and more titles are available in both print and digital form, publicity becomes an ever more important aspect of the business. Also, Woll’s chapter on eBooks focuses, like the rest of the book, on the business aspects of digital and print-on-demand publishing.

Publishing for Profit is not where you will find the latest on ePub3 or producing interactive eBooks, for instance. But it is where you will find a discussion of pricing and margins in digital book publishing.

The eBook version of Publishing for Profit is available on Amazon.com and in the iBooks Store (as well as a PDF through the Chicago Review Press website). The digital version is a straight conversion of the print edition and is attractively made, containing all the charts and forms found in the print edition. It is with the eBook version where updates could be made in the future to add in more information on digital bookstores, formats and platforms, etc. This could be done, of course, without having to create a new print edition – one of the many advantages of the digital world of publishing.

TNM will look at new book releases each Monday – concentrating, of course, on digital books, or print books, concerning the newspaper, magazine or book publishing industry. If you have a book or other media product you would like to have TNM see, please contact us (using the Contact TNM page).