21 Publishing Management Tips
From keeping staff motivated to staying out of debt to generating new revenue, the different aspects of publishing management are often difficult in even the best of economic environments. How do publishers survive the ever-changing world of book publishing? BookTech Magazine interviewed several industry leaders to get their tips.
Keith Weiskamp is publisher and president of Paraglyph Press Inc. (www.ParaglyphPress.com). He and a partner formed the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based publishing company in mid 2002 from an offshoot of what he describes as a much larger company that ran into financial hardship. Its flagship books are the "Degunking" series started in 2004 with the best-selling title "Degunking Windows." The publisher has since expanded the series to include consumer-related topics with its first non-technology book, "Degunking Your Personal Finances." Weiskamp's tips …
1 On publishing management: "Our approach has been to strip everything down to just the essentials. We try to work virtually as much as possible, which means that we use as much outside talent [as possible] and we work in different locations. Some tips we've learned from this approach include: Don't be in a hurry to hire people and add overhead. With the right mix of people, you can get a lot more done and keep your sanity …."
2 On time management: "Be really careful about over-committing. Give yourself plenty of room for the unexpected thing that comes up. The more I do this, the easier it has been for me to say 'no' to things that don't feel just right. Most time-management issues that I've experienced were a direct result of trying to do too much."
3 On staying out of debt: "Financial problems start as little things that build on top of each other until you can't see past them. Try to view what you do using this guideline: Everything you produce needs to be profitable. And then spend as much time educating everyone involved in your projects about what each project needs … to stay healthy. Don't let yourself be talked into doing things that don't make really good financial sense. If a book requires too big of an advance or too high a royalty rate to publish it, don't do it. If the marketing cost to get a book into a certain account is too high, don't go there."
4 On generating new revenue: "It's easy to fall into the trap of chasing growth that ultimately leads to decline. I've seen so many companies do this, and I've worked for far too many managers who have done this. Why work so hard to get nowhere? Instead of rushing in like everyone else, look really hard for the kinds of opportunities that have a better chance of sticking around. Don't be afraid to test new ideas. But do it wisely."
5 On creating ancillary products: "If you have successful product lines, be very picky about what you do to supplement them. If you are fortunate to have a strong brand, obviously it makes wise business sense to play off the brand and add ancillary products. But look at your brand as a valuable, yet depleting resource. Don't overuse it. Overuse can quickly ruin brands. Because products are relatively easy and inexpensive to create, publishing has become such a copycat business. The backlash is that customers and professionals start to tune out at some point and stop buying."
6 On getting the staff to care about the bottom line:
"I think that staff can have a difficult time caring about the bottom line because so many companies aren't really honest or straightforward with how they keep track of everything financial. Employees often … stop paying attention. Every time I hear a manager use a term such as 'EBITDA' [Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization] I want to scream. The other important thing is to not hide bad news. The only thing 'bad' about bad news is that when it is hidden it just gets worse and becomes a greater wedge between you and the people that you work with."
Tad Crawford is publisher and president of Allworth Press (www.Allworth.com) in New York. The publishing company specializes in helping creative professionals succeed in their careers. Allworth publishes about 35 titles a year and has a back list of approximately 250 titles. Two of its better-selling titles are "The Elements of Graphic Design" and "Emotional Branding." Crawford's tips …
7 On publishing management: "Understand how to read financial statements, hire quality staff and don't micromanage."
8 On publishing management: "Use detailed schedules, giving deadlines for each step in production, printing and promotion."
9 On publishing management: "Avoid meetings unless absolutely necessary."
10 On staying out of debt: "Manage inventory levels with great care. Keep print-on-demand in mind for slow-moving inventory."
11 On staying out of debt: "Be realistic. Don't inflate budget projections."
12 On staying out of debt: "Consider taking on partners instead of borrowing."
13 On generating new revenue: "Explore special markets, Internet sales, e-books, print-on-demand, licensing of foreign rights, etc."
14 On creating ancillary products: "Consider taking parts of books to make other products, such as selling forms individually on the Internet."
15 On delegating: "If someone is competent, let the person do his or her job. Oversee and review staff performance without interfering. Let staff members know what is profitable for the company and emphasize the importance of minimizing costs."
16 On motivating staff: "A lot of factors motivate people, and money is only one of them. Create a pleasing office environment that people enjoy coming to and take whatever steps are possible to minimize office politics."
Sam Scinta is associate publisher and vice president of Fulcrum Publishing (www.Fulcrum-Books.com) in Golden, Colo. Fulcrum publishes nonfiction books for adults and children in the areas of public policy, the environment, outdoor recreation and travel, gardening, health and Western culture. The company publishes 30 to 50 new titles a year, and has more than 400 titles in print. Scinta's tips …
17 On publishing management: "I think one of the biggest canards that pervades the industry is best exemplified by a quote I once saw: 'The book business is a book business, not a business business.' We like to think that we are subject, in the publishing industry, to special factors that don't exist in other industries, which is simply not true. … the same smart business practices that work elsewhere must be used in publishing."
18 On time management: "Personally, I employ a technique taught to me by a senior partner at a law firm where I once practiced. Each day, I put together a list of immediate and long-term priorities, getting through the former first before working through the latter. I also push my phone calls and many of my e-mail replies to a set part of the day, so as not to interfere with my workflow (unless, of course, there is a crisis)."
19 On staying out of debt: "A few years ago, with the input of one of our printer-partners, we started looking less at unit price for each of our books, focusing instead on the entire cost of a print run and inventory turn—which I have seen successfully used in other industries. Given the quick turnaround available in domestic printing these days, we are able to reprint books quickly, modifying them to any changes in the marketplace (e.g., new testimonials, breaking news stories, appearing on bestseller lists). This, in turn, has dramatically reduced our inventory-carrying costs."
20 On delegating: "We surround ourselves with the best and brightest talent possible … and let them do their jobs. This makes delegation not only very easy, but necessary, as this allows employees to grow, to learn from mistakes, to try different things and to enjoy their successes. We try to be very transparent in our operations, sharing with staff our sales and revenue figures at weekly staff meetings, discussing the rationale for decisions by management and allowing them a voice in various aspects of our operations, including what books to publish."
21 On staying informed about new media opportunities: "We are constantly exploring new media for ways to be better publishers. As one of the earliest publishers that invested in online commerce, we have embraced new technologies. We are currently developing our own podcasts, as they fit well with our product line."
&031;—Brian R. Hook
Brian R. Hook is a freelance journalist. He has written for dozens of publishers, including Dow Jones, U.S. News & World Report, and Kiplingers. Contact him by e-mail at BRHook@msn.com.