E-Publishing and the Virtual Office

Kim Sutton, an alumna of the MA Publishing course, now runs her own publishing company, Safkhet Publishing and often speaks on working with a virtual office and lectures at Jade Hochschule. Here she talks of her experience in the area.

Technology has enabled (self) publishing of manuscripts, books are making a transition towards the digital era, and yet, very few publishing executives think that their company is going to be stronger because of it, as a Forrester survey has shown.

Traditional Publishers have the Advantage

The most obvious entry barriers remain in place, and traditional publishing houses still have a clear advantage as they have mastered the issues associated with:

  • Editorial staff
  • Designers
  • Networks with suppliers, booksellers, media contacts, and opinion-leaders
  • Presence on festivals and conferences
  • Foreign rights

Most economists would argue that new, e-publishing companies have to fight existing publishers for their market share. They will be disadvantaged by their lack of expertise and networks and they will have a tough time entering a traditional industry with so many high entry barriers. But this can become their main advantage.

No Strategy Is The Best Strategy.

Michael Porter says: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” And once that’s done, the rest might be easier for a newcomer than for those publishers who are set in their ways who might end up saying, “We’ve done it this way for 120 years, so we are going to continue with this strategy!” New digital publishers who believe in the motto, “The best strategy is not to have one,” will be flexible and able to react to any influence, be it from the macro environment, the industry, competitors, suppliers, or, indeed, their target audience. What they will face instead is an entirely new set of issues that are common in a virtual environment:

  • Communication without any face-to-face contact and the lack of non-verbal cues
  • Lack of relationship-building due to timing and location
  • Building trust
  • Managing conflict
  • Decision-making in a virtual team
  • Different time-zones
  • Culture, language, local rules, and etiquette

While these points may well inhibit the success of a virtual company, they can also be used to strengthen the business model. When the company embraces culture and includes as many opinions as virtually (pun intended!) possible and when as much human interaction as humanly (again, pun intended!) possible is added, and when all of the stumbling blocks are turned into the bricks that make a business, the modern virtual publishing company can become more enriching than any other traditional publishing house ever could. It will allow anyone to work for it; employing people being based on rapport and results rather than previous experience will be possible. Relationships can be fostered beyond physical borders and without discrimination and it will allow for maximum flexibility in publishing, giving the publisher the ability to react to any internal or external factors.

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Kim Maya Sutton is an alumni of the MA Publishing course, having also studied computer science and international management. She is most comfortable when working on at least three different projects at any given time and was thus not afraid to set up Safkhet Publishing while still attending the MA Publishing course at Anglia Ruskin University and teaching business courses to support those studies. Her current roles include: lecturer, director of publishing house, wife and mother and author. Kim tweets (@KimatSafkhet), socializes on Facebook, writes for blogs, and dreams of visiting Alaska soon.