Setting The Pace at Prima Publishing
Often, beating competitors to market is extremely important, says Carleson, because the titles "can have a very short life, and, more importantly, very often retailers will take in heavily the first book that is available."
Though 10 days is considered a demanding turnaround in the industry, says Carleson, it's standard for Prima. "I often find myself apologizing to our printers," says Carleson. "We're always pushing them."
Coordinated efforts count
Besides its gaming division, Prima Games, the company has three additional operating divisions: Prima Life, Prima-Tech and Prima Health. All four together produce about 300 titles a year. While the computer gaming books produced by Prima Games and the computer technology books published by Prima-Tech are the most time-critical, the tight management of schedules needed to get those books out has influenced the way the company operates as a whole.
Achieving quick turnarounds and smooth operation in publishing is easier if book publishing is treated as a manufacturing process, says Carleson.
"In any manufacturing process, you have multiple processes that are taking place simultaneously. All have to start at differring points and meet at a common point," he says. In book manufacturing, he explains, that common point is the point at which the materials go to the printer.
However, he adds, "What does make it different, when publishing 300 titles every year, is that you have 300 new products every year."
For companies to effectively organize themselves to meet a common goal, they need a common base of information, says Carleson. When he arrived at Prima, he focused on trying to find a way to ensure that all areas of the company, from editorial to marketing to sales to order fulfillment, would have access to accurate information about schedules and other critical data.
The solution, he felt, was a centralized database, so Prima Publishing explored possible computer management systems. Carleson and Prima's Vice President of Information Technology Bill Scribner looked at solutions from outside vendors, but eventually decided that an in-house-created system would "provide the most flexibility to change as we knew we would in the future."