Book Publishing Operations: Spring 2007 Acquisitions

13 Feb

Greetings from Harlingen in sunny South Texas as the whirlwind acquisitions tour continues!

Last week I spent three days in West Texas at the TSTC West Texas campuses in Sweetwater and Abilene. Although I’m concentrating on acquiring new book projects, I discovered that when talking to people I actually have three different types of meetings: informational, project updates, and new project acquisition.

Informational meetings—I had one with a division director in Abilene last Wednesday afternoon—are where I provide an overview of our publishing operation and answer any questions that come up. From meeting to meeting, the questions/subjects are relatively standard:

    • What is TSTC Publishing and how does it work?

    • How long will it take to put a book together?

    • What can publishing a book do financially for me and/or my department?

    • What is the school’s policy on intellectual property agreements?

    • How are book prices calculated?

    • How often can a book be updated?

    • What is the minimum print run threshold to make a project viable?

Project updates take place when initial informational meetings have already taken place and the writing of a manuscript is about to begin, is in progress, or is otherwise in development. (An example of “otherwise in development” is the hand tools book we’re working on where the text is 95% complete but we have weekly meetings with the author to discuss the 300+ illustrations we’re producing for it.) In the case of my West Texas trip, there were a couple of folks who have been trying to get past the planning stage into actual manuscript production for a while now. (And, as I always say, I have much sympathy for faculty trying to carve enough time out of their already full-time teaching jobs to be able to write a textbook.) In these meetings, I usually ask variations of two basic questions:

    • How much progress have you made since we last talked?

And, the most important question I can ask when in a project update meeting:

    • What can we do to help you?

New project acquisition is when a project is officially initiated. Last week, this meant meeting with the nursing faculty in West Texas to discuss beginning the formal publishing process for the training modules they’ve developed over the last few years. In this case—where the content has already been completed—the following questions usually come up on their end:

    • What can be done to keep to price as low as possible for students?

    • Are interior pages printed in black and white or color?

    • Who does the cover design?

    • Can there be tear-out pages?

    • How does ordering books from TSTC Publishing through the college bookstore work?

    • How soon will the book be published?

And, for my part, at these meetings, my one big question is:

    • How soon can I receive the final version of manuscript?

Finally, I have to offer a very sincere “thank you” to Rue Judd of Bright Sky Press in Albany, Texas. She was incredibly generous with her time in talking to me last Friday about all things publishing and her insight has given me much to think about. A post specifically about this meeting is coming in the near future.

Mark

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