On beer and books: micropublishers and microbreweries
I came across the term ‘micropublisher’ only fairly recently – last year (2011), I guess. And it is even more recently that I began to use it to describe my own business. At first I was reluctant to call it that, not because I doubted its accuracy, but because it sounded to my ears rather dismissive. Now, though, I’m entirely happy with the appellation.
What has changed? In short, the realisation that there was an analogy to be drawn with microbreweries. There’s nothing dismissive about the term ‘microbrewery’. If anything it’s the opposite: beer enthusiasts relish the craftsmanship, innovation, and variety that microbreweries bring to the marketplace. I’ve certainly come across good microbreweries myself, starting with Cropton Brewery.
I was reminded of the potential for analogy – between microbrewery and micropublisher – by watching a video on Reuters’s website (’Microbreweries put fizz into flat beer trade’, 23 March 2012).
Of the points made in the film, I suggest five lend themselves to analogies with micropublishing:
- According to analyst Spiros Malandrakis,‘Millennials [i.e. The younger generation]…are essentially bored with mainstream brands and they’re much more eager to experiment with new products.’
- Malandrakis again: ‘The main thing to remember is having a story, having character, and doing it differently – and that is what microbreweries are doing.’
- According to narrator Amy Gardner: ’Craft brewers say it’s precisely by keeping their recipes strong that stronger beers require more ingredients and more ingredients give a tastier pint.’
- On price (because craft beers tend to be stronger, they attract more government duty, and so cost more): ‘You’re not paying more for the same, you’re paying more and getting more and hopefully…people will start thinking about that, rather than paying less and getting less’ (Neil Taylor of Brewdog).
- Gardner again: ‘Perhaps the biggest challenge facing craft brewers is success itself. As each big order takes them closer to the mainstream, they risk losing the cult appeal that made them popular in the first place’.
All this chimes with our own growth strategy, which runs as follows:
- To publish within a niche (for example, creative writing in higher education), developing a dedicated imprint (a ‘character’, if you like).
- If all goes according to plan and the niche proves successful, identify another niche and publish within it, again with a distinctive imprint.
Thus however successful our plans, we will never become a general publishers, producing ‘boring’ brands. Our aspiration is to become not a mass publisher, but a serial niche publisher.