In the late 1990s I left my position as Director of Logistics at the mid-sized tech company I had worked at for nine years. I left with two great gifts: enough money to take some time off and the entrepreneurial bug. During my nine-year tenure I watched the tech firm grow from a local business with a handful of employees and under $1 million in annual revenues to a global enterprise with nearly a thousand employees and over $100 million in annual revenues. The experience had me hooked: I knew I would to start my own company. Doing what, I did not yet know.
At the time I was investigating the book publishing business; I wanted to understand why some of my relatives (I come from a family of writers) were having trouble getting their books published—books that were exceptional, and ones I was convinced had good chances in the market place. My research led me to a New Yorker article detailing how mightily the major book publishers were struggling to make a profit. Inventory costs were killing them—for historical reasons publishers, not bookstores, are responsible for the cost of unsold inventory. As a result publishers were becoming skittish, publishing ever fewer titles and taking ever fewer chances on new authors, not willing to risk the cost of bookstore returns and unsold inventory. That’s when I had a light bulb moment. Online bookstores didn’t need to carry any inventory to give readers all the information they needed to make their buying decisions, and print-on-demand (a new book manufacturing technology) allowed books to be printed to order. Combine these two innovations and presto you had no-inventory book publishing. The publishers’ problems were solved! In fact, without the need to invest in inventory, and given online bookstores’ access to a huge global market, authors could inexpensively self-publish and bypass the publishers altogether. My literary relatives’ problems were also solved!
Then the second light bulb clicked on: I could start a company that would provide authors with all of the services they needed to self-publish using the combined power of online bookstores and print-on-demand. I’d be scratching my entrepreneurial itch and helping some of the most interesting people on the planet—authors—to succeed. I setup a desk in my living room, got to work, and Wheatmark was born. Thirteen years, thousands of published titles, and two office relocations later, Wheatmark is still helping authors find success, though now not just by publishing their books, but also by helping them with the all-important work of finding and building their audiences.
More about that later….