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Borders Reorganization Plan, Will It Work?

14 Mar

Feb. 16, 2011, isn’t a significant date to most people. For Borders Inc., however, it is a date probably still ringing in the ears of executives and employees. On that date, Borders Inc. filed for bankruptcy.

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No Money for Books? No Problem!

2 Mar

No money for actual books? There are multiple sources that can help overcome that obstacle, without having to deal with finding a library that has a specific book available, and it can be done from the comfort of the home. There are a couple Web sites that allow readers to exchange books for books, as well as sites that have books accessible online.

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Book Publishing Operations: Consultants & Operational Analysis

28 Apr

Now that the semester is over—with the exception of putting the final touches on Karen Mitchell Smith’s Taking Charge: Your Education, Your Career, Your Life—the summer book orders are filled, and we have no interns for the next couple of weeks, the pace and atmosphere has certainly quieted down.

But, not too much. Currently, now that the letter of agreement has been signed and terms of confidentiality have been squared away, we’ve been (and still are) getting ready for a two-day site visit next week from a publishing consultant we’ve hired. Finally, we’ll have an outside professional evaluate our operation from top to bottom—contracts, financials, workflow, software, personnel, marketing, distribution, and the rest of the whole nine yards—to calculate our progress against standard publishing industry benchmarks and make recommendations for the future.

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Conferences & Conventions: 2008 NACCE Convention Day 2

7 Jan

san-antonio-skyline.jpgThis was the first full day of full-blown NACCE sessions here in San Antonio. I took my time last night in the hotel room going over the convention program/schedule to look for exactly the sessions I thought that I would get the most out of. All in all, I attended five presentations covering e-marketing, for-profit ventures at non-profit schools, self-assessment tools, and leadership styles over the course of day before finishing up with a “networking cocktail hour” on a giant veranda overlooking the Texas Hill Country.

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Conferences & Conventions: 2008 NACCE Convention Day 1

6 Jan

naace-logo.gifAt long last, I am back in my room after the opening afternoon of the 2008 National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship convention at The Westin La Cantera in San Antonio, Texas. The are sessions about entrepreneurship programs at schools around the country as well as ones on management/supervisory issues, for-profit ventures at two-year colleges, fundraising, e-marketing, and more. (A whole lot more!) I’ve been interested in coming here to figure out more that I need to know in running our publishing start-up, find resources for our interns who want to be freelancers, see what might be of interest to TSTC in terms of offering entrepreneurial training, and, as always of course, scout around for book projects.

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Book Publishing Operations: Now We’re Done! Wait! Now We’re Starting (Again)!

28 Aug

It’s been 10-11 days since any of us here last posted due that fact that we’ve been in the throes of finishing up books, having books printed, and shipping books out to their various bookstore destinations before classes started. This time two years ago our fall semester books orders consisted of 35 copies of Basic Electronic Troubleshooting for Biomedical Technicians for a grand total of about $1,200; this year we have almost thirty titles in print with fall books sales around $50-$60K. It’s certainly better to have more work and orders rather than fewer, but I’m looking forward to the day when we can effectively package some of our books as offset press print jobs where we’re printing 2,000-5,000 copies at a time instead of having to go through the print on demand cycle three times a year (that is, once for each semester). Once upon a time, printing books by the semester for us was not that big a deal without that many titles in print—it allowed us to keep our inventory low and update books on the fly from semester to semester—but now, the printing process is becoming exponentially more complicated—more titles with more particular unique production elements—every semester as we add new 4-5 titles into the mix.

So, we delivered the last of our new math books that made up the TSTC Waco bookstore order at about eleven yesterday morning—this was after spending all day Saturday driving out to TSTC West Texas’ Sweetwater bookstore (and back) to deliver a carload of nursing books—and had a great sense of satisfaction and relief for about four hours until we—Todd, Grace, and I—had a production meeting at three o’clock to line out the fall production schedule and get started on it.

This semester we have five books in the production process—that is under Grace’s purview as our graphics specialist—that will go to print no later than December to be ready for the spring semester:

    1. Machining Technology Projects Manual (TSTC Harlingen)

 

    2. Two more nursing books (TSTC West Texas)

 

    3. The Ethics Reader (TSTC West Texas)

 

    4. The hand tools book (TSTC Waco)

In addition, another thing we’re doing now that Todd has survived his trial by fire by making it through his first production cycle this summer is to have him work more on the editorial development end so that manuscripts are in better shape—and requiring less work on his end—by the time Grace gets them. Although Grace can put together 4-5 books a semester in and amongst all the other things she does—managing her interns, coordinating print jobs, meeting with authors for graphics meetings, and so on—Todd will actually have more development projects to manage. That’s because he’ll have 3-4 each semester that he’ll be getting ready to move into the subsequent semester’s production schedule while keeping an eye on another 4-6 that are in the preliminary stages of being written/produced.

To that end, the projects he’s working on that will be handed off to Grace in the spring include:

    1. A developmental math book

 

    2. A freshman orientation textbook

 

    3. The first in our new career guide series

 

    4. An instructor’s guide for the biomedical troubleshooting book

Book projects that haven’t moved quite as far along that he’s shepherding along (or will be in the near future) include:

    1. A professional development handbook

 

    2. A critical thinking handbook

 

    3. Two technical dictionaries

 

    4. A sentence-level developmental writing handbook

 

    5. A general student guide tentatively titled

How to Make Your Professor Bark Like a Dog

All in all, the summer production cycle went relatively smoothly—much more so than last year when we were going through our first really big (for us) series of print runs—especially given that Todd had to hit the ground running when he came on board in May. As always, we’re hoping to take what we learned from this past semester—those unexpected problems that cropped up we’re hoping to avoid in the future—and have things run even more smoothly this fall . . . because we’re concentrating from this point forward on book projects that have bigger potential print runs (and thus, revenue!) where the responsibility to get things right (and on time!) are even more critical from the get go.

Mark

Books About Business: Typo

6 Jul

Continuing my trend—starting with The Smartest Guys in the Room—of reading books about grand business failures, I recently finished the just-published Typo: The Last American Typesetter or How I Made and Lost 4 Million Dollars by David Silverman. It’s about how he and his mentor bought Clarinda, a large typesetting company, in the late ‘90s that they—slowly at first and then quickly—drove into the ground. I’ve wanted to write about this book for a while but have been mulling over exactly what to say because, overall, I mixed feelings about it.

I really like the way that the book—as what I would consider creative nonfiction—related both the anecdotal side of the typesetting industry along with specific business and technical details. (In particular, I liked the informal financial statements that came at the end of each chapter/section.) This combination is something I’ve been looking for in a book more specifically devoted to book publishing but have yet to find. That is, you get memoirs like Jason Epstein’s Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future or straight nuts-and-bolts publishing information like Dan Poynter’s The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print, and Sell Your Own Book, 15th Edition but I haven’t come across anything that has really effectively married those two approaches in one book nearly as well as Silverman does.

On the downside, whether intentional or not, Silverman never comes across as particularly likeable or sympathetic. Part of this is certainly because of the situation he found himself in: He went from IT geek to president of a company without ever having supervised or managed anyone in his life. In addition, his primary motivation seemed to be almost exclusively money: to turn Clarinda around, go public, and then cash out. Consequently, he never really demonstrates much affinity for his employees (at all!), his customers, books in general or typesetting in particular. One final thing that really struck me was that—I would guess—at least 4-6 times in the book he talks about how fat the women are that he finds himself around. I mean, that may well have been true but, given the fact this was a characterization that didn’t register with me as occurring with men (or, even more importantly, relevant to the subject at hand), all it ultimately did was make him look even more like a jackass unsympathetic. At the very least, some judicious editing of about six or so sentences in the book would have put him in a more positive light.

I think the best lesson that the book shows budding entrepreneurs is that you must do the necessary financial due diligence for both the specific company you want to start/buy as well as the industry in general. Very late—too late for Clarinda—in the book Silverman finally breaks down which of Clarinda’s offices are making money and, not too surprisingly, it turns out that the company was effectively dead on arrival from the point he and his partner Dan Coyne had bought it, mainly due to industry outsourcing of typesetting to India. (Not all of this is Silverman’s fault by any means; there is a whole subplot concerning the way Coyne bamboozled everyone involved from the top to the bottom.)

Certainly, for anyone interested in the big issues of globalization and outsourcing as well as entrepreneurship and typesetting or even just how (not) to manage your employees, this is a book with a wealth of information in it despite, in my opinion, not coming from a particular likeable narrative voice.

Mark

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