Conferences & Conventions: 2008 Texas Community College Teachers Association Convention

25 Feb

dr-pepper.jpgHaving just gotten back from spending the end of last week—February 21-23—at the 2008 TCCTA convention, the first thing I must do is thank Bobby King of the Dr Pepper Bottling Group in Waco, Texas, for generously donating lots of diet and regular Dr Pepper to give away at our booth in the exhibit hall. Once again this year, especially in comparison to the gigantic booths by the likes of Cengage and McGraw-Hill, ours was the little booth that could and having Dr Peppers to give away certainly drew in a lot more foot traffic.

As I always say, working exhibit booths at conferences is something of a mystery to me in the sense that you never can tell—despite talking to loads of folks over two days—what’s really going to pan out or not. But, as always, some unexpectedly interesting things happened that, in my mind, made the trip well worthwhile in ways I never would have predicted.

First of all, I have to say “hats off” to Dr. Otto Wilke of the Texas State Technical College Waco math department who came up on Friday and helped work the booth for about five hours. We published his book Contemporary Math I Using Maple or TI-89 last fall and it was great having him there to talk about it in detail to other math instructors.

Plus Todd, our editor, was unable to attend due to some last minute complications so I appreciated not having to be there all by myself. Then again, as Otto told me, he wasn’t particularly there for my benefit. Instead, he had gotten his first royalty check for his book last week and he said he was ready to make some more money. Now that’s the kind of author/instructor I can work with! And, if you want to know an added benefit of attending these shows, I saw several of our authors in attendance and at the very least they were happy to see their books on display with all the other textbooks from all the other publishers, both large and small.

In addition, our booth happened to be next to the American Technical Publishers booth so I was lucky enough to be able to talk to Robert Deisinger, president of the company, and Peter Zurlis, vice president of production. They do the kinds of publications that we do—technical instructional materials—but given that the company was founded in 1898, they’ve got something of a head start on us.

On the one hand, you could say we’re each other’s competition. On the other hand, as I’ve seen time and time again when talking to different publishers, both Robert and Peter were very generous with their time and ideas in talking about publishing in general and their book operation in particular. Plus, they had some very interesting ideas about the difference between sales (signing a contract on the bottom line) vs. marketing (advertising, catalogs, conferences, direct mail pieces). They moved away from having sales reps about 25 years ago because their product line is so specialized it didn’t justify the on-campus presence the way a Cengage can do.

In the end, though, it was the odd, unexpected moments that will stay with me the longest: accidentally dumping three cases of soft drinks on the sidewalk and having a group of African tourists volunteer to help me gather all my stuff up, going to a private dinner with my wife—she’s a history teacher over at our local community college—graciously thrown by another textbook publisher and seeing, relatively speaking, how the other half lives, and navigating downtown Dallas traffic in a fifteen-passenger maroon van with all of the sound and fury that implies.


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