11 Best Business Decisions of 2011
Leading publishing company presidents/CEOs reveal their best strategic choices of the year.November 2011 By Noelle Skodzinski
Greenleaf Book Group LLC
Greenleaf Book Group is a publisher and distributor that specializes in the development of independent authors and small presses. In addition to publishing books, it distributes select titles from small and independent publishers to major trade outlets. It also offers small and independent publishers industry guidance, business development, and production, distribution and marketing services.
"Without a doubt, our best business idea of 2011 was the launch of our platform-development program. It's a unique and innovative program that combines content creation with audience strategy and outreach to help experts spread their ideas, build their brands, and, in turn, grow their income.
The shrinking brick-and-mortar landscape has spooked some authors and publishers, but the readers are still out there. A solid platform helps authors hedge against an overreliance on bookstores to provide the author-reader connection. We help our platform-development clients develop a clear brand strategy and multiple tools (such as ancillary product development, presentation writing/design, speaker press kit development, website design, etc.) to build and engage their audience.
Some of our platform-related content initiatives are integrated into the editorial process, saving the author countless additional expenses later in the process and deepening the editorial experience. For example, during the content-chunking process, our editorial team identifies approximately 10 to 15 standalone, audience-appropriate blog articles and 50-plus tweets in a typical nonfiction manuscript. This efficiency saves time and money down the road, and ensures the author arrives at publication with an arsenal of content to use in support of the book's promotion.
Platform development is a natural evolution for our company and our clients. We've built our company by putting our authors' needs first, and platform is a critical need for every author. This is an obvious extension of our talents and knowledge base, and a service we're excited to deliver to our authors."
Open Road Integrated Media
Open Road Integrated Media is a digital publisher and multimedia content company. It creates connections between authors and their audiences by marketing its e-books through a proprietary online platform, which uses premium video content and social media.
"My best decision in 2011 was to launch Open Road's Iconic Ebooks imprint, as this designation speaks to our overall mission—to bring to the forefront many of the great works of yesteryear. Open Road Iconic Ebooks are titles that, like Erica Jong's 'Fear of Flying,' have universal name recognition whether as memoir, popular fiction, literary fiction or nonfiction. For too long, many of these legendary books have not received the attention they deserve from booksellers and from readers.
By digitally publishing and marketing books like 'Fear of Flying,' 'Sophie's Choice' and 'Prince of Tides,' we are bringing these titles to the attention of a new generation of readers. This is what Open Road is all about."
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press Inc. (OUP USA) is linked to Oxford University Press in Oxford, England (OUP UK), which is a department of Oxford University, and is the oldest and largest continuously operating university press in the world. The OUP group publishes more than 6,000 new titles a year and employs approximately 5,000 people across 50 countries.
"I'd say the two most important decisions we've made are: One, experimenting aggressively with e-books, [and] two, continuing to invest in our higher education (HE) and reference publishing.
E-books provide us with an excellent opportunity to gain a better understanding of the different price points for different kinds of nonfiction content. In so doing, we're confident we can reach more readers than ever before, a key consideration for a mission-based institution such as OUP.
As for our investment in HE, at a time when the cost of textbooks is much debated, we believe that the time is right for a strong higher-education publisher such as Oxford to provide affordably priced alternatives that rise to Oxford's quality standards while also being supported by all the ancillary materials that are increasingly key to pedagogy."
[For] reference, we aspire to be nothing less than a full-spectrum publisher to the academy, ranging from dictionaries to Oxford Handbooks and major reference works that set the standard in a given discipline. At a time when there is more high-quality reference content freely available than ever before, it has been incumbent on us to rethink what our constituents want from OUP as a reference publisher. Accordingly, we have reoriented our program to focus on scholarly services such as Oxford Bibliographies Online which draw on OUP's broad experience as a reference publisher to help scholars and students orient themselves in a world of seemingly infinite information."
Marcus E. Leaver
Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.
For 60 years, Sterling has been one of the world's leading publishers of books that aim to educate, entertain and enrich the lives of its readers. Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Barnes & Noble Inc.
"[Our best business decision has been to] continually [focus] on the quality of the content, whatever the delivery platform."
Lerner Publishing Group Inc.
Lerner Publishing Group is one of the nation's largest independently owned children's publishers, with more than 5,000 books in print. For more than 50 years, the company has created nonfiction and fiction books for pre-school to young adult readers, and for libraries, classrooms and homes nationwide.
"I would say that my best decision (so far) has been to continue to invest in our digital workflow and products. Even though these are challenging times, clearly the market is shifting toward a print/digital hybrid model. While continued investment is risky, not preparing our company for this shift is riskier. I feel vindicated because we are now starting to earn significant digital revenue."
President and Publisher
Chelsea Green Publishing Co.
For 26 years, Chelsea Green has been a leading publisher of books on the politics and practice of sustainable living. It has more than 400 titles in print, including the national best-seller "Don't Think of an Elephant."
"Maybe the best business decision was not to make any big decisions this year in the midst of all the flux in the industry, and instead to just concentrate on publishing the very best content and not getting distracted by the technology and the proliferation of devices."
President and Publisher
For more than 150 years, Merriam-Webster has been a leading provider of language information, in print and now online. Its websites draw more than 40 million visitors monthly, and its print publications include "Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary" (among the best-selling books in American history) and newly published dictionaries for English-language learners.
"I would say that continuing the push to get free apps into distribution was one of the best things I/we did. The decision to move ahead to do that was made last year, but keeping the pressure up, especially for iPads and Android, extended into this year, and we are very pleased with the results." BB
Triple Crown Publications
Triple Crown Publications Inc. is an international leader in publishing urban fiction/"hip-hop lit" with novels distributed around the globe, including Japanese translations sold in Tokyo. It has sold more than 1 million books "and counting."
"My best strategy that I used for 2011 that allowed me to navigate through the ever-changing publishing industry was: One, utilizing my resources. I turned to non-compensated labor (in other words, free workers) by using more summer interns, seniors from a local church that assisted with marketing mailers, filing, database. In exchange I offered daily lunch, free books, credit for various accomplishments, and letters of recommendation and references. This was a great way to bring energy and passion back into my office that was about the love of publishing [and] reading, and not just [being] surrounded by employees or persons in desperate need of 'work.'"
Springer Science + Business Media
Springer Science + Business Media is a leading, global scientific publisher/producer of books, journals, newsletters, CD-ROMs, online platforms, protocols, databases and conferences. It publishes some 2,000 journals and more than 7,000 new book titles annually in the scientific, technical and medical, and business-to-business sectors. Its primary publishing fields are science, technology, medicine, business, transport and architecture. It encompasses approximately 55 publishing houses in nearly 20 countries, and employs more than 5,500 worldwide.
"The best business decision of 2011 was to complete our transformation from 'p' to 'e' publisher in the near future. Springer's base product will be digital, with customers able to order printed copies as an additional service."