Gene Therapy: From Book Proposal to Profit
The quality and content of the ONIX file—which contains 31 basic metadata elements (see box below)—is key to accurate bibliographic and distribution information. At Stanford, the gathering point for accurate and complete new-title data is the preparation of the semi-annual catalog and the “Web-ready” pages on each title that are viewed in-house for checking accuracy and various other purposes.
Princeton University Press
The gathering point for stray and updated information describing each title is the same at Princeton University Press, according to Chuck Creesy, the press’s director of publishing technology. “The assembly of the seasonal catalog imposes a discipline,” Creesy says. “I’ve been wrangling data since 1987, and I’m reluctant to put bad data out there.” Nonetheless, he says, marketing and channel pressure “degrades the data” by demanding early notice. Barnes & Noble and Bowker, for example, push for data 180 days before publication.
The press averages 225 to 290 front-list titles a year and has a backlist of about 3,500 titles. It generates the ONIX files and sends monthly updates to about a dozen targets, including Ingram, Nielsen Bookdata and Amazon, which—together with Barnes & Noble and Bowker, as well as several others—are in the core constituency for ONIX distribution for all publishers. “Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla, of course, and they get the first new-title feed. Although ONIX is supposed to be a universal format,” Creesy notes, “some users are demanding customization. Amazon, apparently for copyright concerns, limits book-review excerpts to 20 words. As a consequence, we prepare the review element in ONIX in two versions.”
ONIX files for the complete list also are made available for download on Princeton’s Web site. Creesy waits until final corrections have been made to the seasonal catalog and bluelines have been approved before importing basic bibliographic data for the typesetting files into a Microsoft Access database. Meanwhile, the marketing department places the seasonal copy in Microsoft Word files on the Press’ network, from which the book descriptions and endorsements are copied and pasted into the same database. When all the data has been assembled, Visual Basic scripts are run against the tables to produce the ONIX files.
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.