Accordion Crimes, or a Name You Can Trust

13 Jul

As I sat at my desk begging the heavens for a blog post idea, the one thing I kept thinking was this: How I could I write about Wile E. Coyote?

The Looney Toons character isn’t an obsession, it’s just that while editing a machining textbook this week I came across mention of Acme threads, a kind of threading on bolts and screws, and as my mind wandered (some of the editing this week has been a bit tedious; my head also began playing for me Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”) I couldn’t help but think about the hapless coyote’s favorite brand of gadgets used in pursuit of the Roadrunner — ACME.

“ACME, a name you can trust,” was the brand’s slogan, and just thinking about it makes me chuckle. While using ACME products Wile E. was accordioned, singed, blown up, crushed, crunched and abused in all sorts of nasty ways, and yet always failed to get his prey. And through the associative property of the wandering mind, I thought of Ian Frazier’s brilliant essay “Coyote vs. Acme,” set up as a legal brief in which Wile E. sues the ACME company.

But really, what does this have to do with textbook publishing? Nothing I suppose, except perhaps thinking about quality. Publishing is a business. A good business offers quality products.

Besides having an excellent full time staff — all four of us — and excellent interns and student workers to help us out, one of the things that we get to do is consult with the authors or departments producing the manuscripts to discuss changes. (I suppose this is typical of any book publishing group.) Authors get to go over proof copies and get to see what we have to offer before the print run. This collaboration makes good products.

Such collaboration is somewhat foreign to me, coming from a newspaper background. Sources wanting to mess with editorial content wasn’t tolerated or shouldn’t have been tolerated. I can understand a source’s need to be certain that what’s published is accurate, and reporters should be accurate. But for a source to spin the content wavers along ethical boundaries of conflicts of interest. And, in such cases, you not only get a bad product out to the public, you tarnish the public’s already skewed vision of journalism as it is.

Publishing a book is different — it’s the authors’ works, their ideas. You just want to get it out to the public in a good package — great graphics, clean editing, solid production overall.

You want your imprint, your logo, your brand to be “a name you can trust” without mangling desperately hungry animated coyotes.



One Response to “Accordion Crimes, or a Name You Can Trust”

  1. Stephen Tiano July 14, 2007 at 9:32 am #

    Interesting that you bring this up right now. One of the things that surprises me in the answers to my short, unscientific survey, is how many people answered “budget,” in reply to my initial question, the one about “the first aspect of designing a book” that they take up after taking on a project. I realize it’s business, but like you, Todd, I wold think the emphasis is on doing good business where clients know hey can go for consistent quality at reasonable prices. I’m not suggesting that I think anyone ho answered my question that way isn’t interested in making quality books, I’m just surprised at how quickly they expressed the way they did.

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