A Self-Publishing Success Story
by John Paul Owles
"As a special project for my Masters degree in Journalism, I had developed a very primitive list of Reno news media for the Reno Rodeo and MS Society of Norther Nevada with my Commodore 64. As a new tech guy, I wanted to learn how to use a database. The information was well received, and my professors encouraged me to publish the information.
"As all writers know, research is very important to success. After a year, I decided to try to publish a statewide news media directory. In order to do that, I thought the best way to become an expert was to interview every news media outlet in Nevada...in person. I traveled the state and sat in the offices of over 100 newspaper, magazine, radio, and television station offices. By interviewing them, I discovered what and how they wanted to receive news and press releases, public service annoucements, and advertising copy. Without that experience, I would never had known what information was essential for my subscriber's success. After six months, I was prepared to put the directory together when I experienced a very lucky break in the world of computers.
"With the advent of Apple's Mac and laser printer, I was able to control the publishing of the directory and its contents without having to use typesetters. It was truly revolutionary. Rather than owning a typesetting machine costing several tens of thousands of dollars, as such, I was able to self-publish my directory. In those days, we designed the pages as 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" sheets which fit into a binder with tabs. As we updated the directory, we reprinted all the pages and sent them to subscribers to replace the old listings. Within minutes, subscribers had an entirely new, up-to-date directory.
"However, just having the capability to print a directory was not enough. We still needed to find subscribers to support the directory. I had decided that the directory would be a reference book with no advertising. By offering a subscription on an annual basis, we were able to keep subscribers current with the fast changing news media. The question became: who would benefit from this information and how could we reach them? By knowing who our target audience was, we were able to identify them. After printing the custom binders and tabs, I made my first sales call with the directory. I made an appointment with a man I met through the school who was the public relations director at the main hospital in Reno. After handing him the directory and anxiously waiting for him to say something, all he asked was how much the directory cost. When I told him $100.00 for an annual subscription, he asked me who to make the check out to. I was in business.
"In 2012, we published the 25th Anniversary Nevada Media Directory, which now costs $200.00. Little did I know that first sales call would start a 25-year publishing career."