PUBLISHED MARCH 2017
by Ebonye Gussine Wilkins, Founder, August Rose Press
Ebonye Gussine Wilkins
While many people will tell you that innovation is borne out of a need for something different, most people won’t be able to tell you how innovation really happens. What is the process for creating something completely new and worthy of laudation? Where does it really come from? The answer is simple: experimentation.
Innovation doesn’t solely come from genius; it comes from trusting yourself. You know your business better than anyone else, but you have a team that helps you achieve your publishing and financial goals. You’ve trusted the instinct that you didn’t have every single element needed to execute the vision, and you extended your reach by trusting other professionals to bridge that gap. That is just one chapter in your business’s playbook. You have to write the other chapters to complete the story.
Truthfully, experimentation is made up of creative vision, a methodical approach, and a feedback system. Let’s use these three parts to help drive your new ventures and set you a part from the competition.
1. Creative Vision
You likely started your publishing business to get books in front of people who need them. Whether that means distribution, editorial direction, sales, or storytelling, the vision you’ve set for the company matters—so honor that. Creativity is essential to solving problems. Are your sales not as high as you’ve expected? Perhaps your readership is also trying out a new way to access the information that you provide. Use a survey or a forum to solicit feedback on what your customers are expecting from you. Let their needs inform your creation process so that your new ideas have the readers in mind.
2. Methodical Approach
This may sound overly scientific, but it is really practical and results-oriented. You will not know what is working unless you try one thing at a time and control the other variables. Work with your team on a handful of ideas (perhaps three to six) and devise a roll-out plan over a period of time that makes sense for your particular business. When each phase is over, record and analyze the results. It will be easier to figure out what needs to be addressed that way. Each time you add another approach, keep an eye on the previous ones, especially if they’ve worked for you. You might find that the success of one builds upon the success of another element, or you might find that two approaches work together to achieve the results. It will be different for every business, so evaluate the approach based on your creative vision.
3. Feedback System
The feedback you receive will either be based on what you’ve done in the past, or what you haven’t addressed but is needed by your readers. Listen to the feedback, and think about what goes beyond the surface. Much of the feedback you receive won’t be specific for you to act on immediately; it will be based on your readers and customers’ experiences. They may not know what they need, only what they want. Use their feedback as a guide for new or revised methodical approaches based on your creative vision.
Using the three parts of experimentation doesn’t have to be dull; it can be as fun as you’d like it to be. One indie publisher took matters into her own hands when she noticed that her book wasn’t getting the attention that she thought it deserved. Her work of fiction retold the story of The Three Little Pigs and turned it on its head with a legal twist—the wolf took the pigs to court for years of tarnishing his reputation. Donna Guillaume of Wolfpack Publishing decided to bring her Mr. Wolf character to life by having a volunteer dress up in a Mr. Wolf costume, complete with the suit that her character wore to court. Having the character walk around book festivals and speaking events generated a lot of interest, and her book sales doubled after lifting her protagonist from the pages and putting him in front of people. It was a gamble that payed off with significant visibility for her book and her company.
Innovative advances in your company are based solely on how you respond to the needs of your readers. Your audience is not looking for the flashiest solution to their problems, only for a solution that they had not already thought of. Innovation can be simple or complex, as long as it’s driven by you.
Ebonye Gussine Wilkins is a social justice writer, editor, author, and founder of August Rose Press (augustrosepress.com).