Setting The Pace at Prima Publishing
A three-day turnaround of The Starr Report is just one example of the fast footwork constantly required of this rapidly growing, independently owned West Coast book publisher
by Rose Blessing
When a national drama unfolds and is reported by an author who may be unpopular but writes in succinct English prose and provides the copy for free on the Internet, what's a publisher to do?
When this happened last year, a few publishers jumped quickly, capturing the text and publishing printed versions as books. Among that group was Rocklin, CA-based Prima Publishing. The "official report of the independent counsel's investigation of the President," written by the investigator himself, went up on the Internet at about noon (Pacific time) on Friday, Sept. 11. While people around the country were downloading the most salacious tidbits on their office laser printers, by 5:30 p.m. that same day at Prima Publishing, the production staff had downloaded the entire document, laid the pages out in QuarkXPress and sent them electronically over the Internet to the printers. By Sunday, samples had been delivered to major New York news networks. By Monday, 150,000 copies of The Starr Report had been printed and delivered to retail outlets across the country. By the end of the week, a total of 300,000 copies had been printed and delivered.
That particular piece of fast footwork put Prima Publishing momentarily in the national spotlight, making history by proving definitively that people will pay for a printed book even when the same material is available free on the Internet. The company's returns were lower than historic rates for books of that nature, Prima Publishing reports.
For Prima Publishing, the fast footwork was possible because it was a familiar way of working. In part because of the time-sensitive nature of its computer- and video-game strategy books, which comprise more than one third of its titles, Prima Publishing has structured itself to be a master of the fast-turnaround book. "In that division, we publish between 120 and 130 titles a year," explains Matthew Carleson, executive vice president and COO for the company. "It's incredibly important that each one of those books are in the store the same date that the game hits the store."