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My Library: “Show me what you read, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

28 Mar

In this newest installment about the personal libraries of TSTC Publishing staff, Publisher Mark Long shares his thoughts about reading, books, and related ephemera.

One my many bookshelves at work full of publishing-related titles.

Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking.”

—Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

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Web-Based Applications:

24 Mar

Social media. Social media. Social media. Nine times out of ten I want to scream, Enough already! Every day new apps are coming out . . . and while most of them are at least moderately interesting, who has the time (or energy) to incorporate all these applications springing up like mushrooms? Between blogging, Facebook, and Twitter alone (plus the concomitant, Statcounter, Feedburner, Flickr, Twitpic, and more), it’s not exactly the best return on investment to spend even more time gathering, sending, and responding to content flying around the Internet. I mean, unless you’re a social media manager who’s paid to develop carpal tunnel syndrome and have eyes as watery and red as a hamster’s, we really all do have our regular jobs to do!

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Blogs About Publishing: Life on Avenue Z

8 Jan

avenuezA big “thank you” goes out to Beth Ziesenis (that’s her in the photo to the left!) of Avenue Z Writing Solutions for letting me write a guest post today at her blog Life on Avenue Z. Beth is a freelance copywriter & editor out of San Diego, CA, who blogs about her newly founded career as a work-for-hire professional so, as  a kind of counterpoint, I wrote about working with freelancers from our perspective as book publishers here at TSTC Publishing. However, in all honesty, I wouldn’t rush over there to read what I had to say . . . instead, I’d suggest visiting Beth’s blog on a regular basis to get her take on the the ever hectic life of being a freelancer writer.

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Book Publishing Personnel: Driving the Heart

26 Aug

As always, blogging has been lighter than I would like. But, I can’t say that I’ve had much to say about publishing lately that has much to add to any ongoing industry conversations or concerns. I suppose I could chime in with things like, “The Kindle! What’s up with it?” Or maybe, “Printers! What’s up with them?” Or the ever popular, “Simon & Schuster? What’s up with that out-of-print provision in your contracts?”

To say the least, it’s been a weird and unexpected August this year. As Karen Mitchell Smith said to me on the phone last week, it’s never a good sign when you suddenly start getting auto-reply emails that say so-and-so “is out of the office until further notice.” Well, okay, sure: It’s one thing to get an email like that . . . it’s another thing entirely to be the one who’s suddenly having those emails sent out.

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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.

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Meet The Publisher: Hey! Wait a Second . . . I Know That Guy!

3 Aug

Today I have to offer many thanks to Lori Cates Hand, of JIST Publishing, who also has the blog Publishing Careers. In one of those crazy circuitous ways the Internet works, Lori used to work for Joe Wikert, of Wiley Publishing and Publishing 2020 blog fame, who recently plugged her blog on his. Anyway, she commented on that post to thank him and also invited publishing industry folks to contact her to offer whatever advice/thoughts they might have about breaking into the business. Anyone who knows me knows that I have no problem holding forth about publishing and after some emails back and forth, Lori was generous enough to post my answers to the questions she sent me about publishing in general and my background in particular here.

While our blog deals with a lot of day-to-day publishing operations issues—and most publishing industry blogs deal with different specific areas like agenting, editing, graphics, marketing, and so on—I think Lori’s blog is helping to fill a very necessary space for those people who want to break into publishing but aren’t yet quite there. It’s a good read with a lot of useful information and I would certainly recommend it to anyone inside/outside the publishing world.


Meet The Publisher: Bright Sky Press

8 Mar

I often point out to people that I came into book publishing rather late in life after spending 10 years teaching college English. One day I was finishing grading final exams for an American literature class, the next day I was moving all my cubicle belongings to an old conference room on the far side of the campus to begin setting up TSTC Publishing. Initially I read and read (and then read some more) books about publishing—many of which are on our Recommended Publishing Resources page—to figure out what needed to be done. Books, however, will only take you so far and after while I began to feel like I was operating in a vacuum trying to figure out what the best next steps would be to keep moving us forward.

After a while, it dawned of me that I might talk to other publishers, especially those I might chat with as I traveled around to the various TSTC colleges. Last month I was out in West Texas and was fortunate enough to meet with Rue Judd, the founder and driving force behind Bright Sky Press in Albany, Texas. I just kind of showed up out of the blue on Friday morning as I was driving from Sweetwater to Breckenridge to see if someone might be around their office to talk. Given that, I was extraordinarily fortunate to be a recipient of Ms. Judd’s generosity as she spent three hours talking to me about publishing in general, her publishing background and Bright Sky Press in particular, and took me to the weekly Albany Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Rue started her publishing career in the late ‘70s while living in Washington D.C. as her husband was a lawyer there. At that time, she told me, there weren’t really any good desk calendars that were focused on the nation’s capitol. So, she worked with a couple of different photographers who took pictures of the city during its different seasons and she was able to put together a 52-week calendar that had a different picture for each week. By the time she went to print she had pre-sold 10,000 copies and away she went on her publishing career. First she did museum posters, calendars, and postcards and later on moved into book publishing.

In the last ‘90s her husband retired and they moved back to his hometown of Albany, Texas. Some people in the community wanted to publish a book about the county courthouse there—Shackelford County, I believe—and it was a natural thing for her to help out with it. Then, the next thing you know, she started Bright Sky Press and is publishing 15-20 books a year: coffee table books, cookbooks, sports books, and a whole slew of titles related (usually) to Texas.

She was kind enough to give me a copy of one of her recent publications, Revealing Character: Texas Tintypes. It is a collection of photographs of modern-day working cowboys taken by Robb Kendrick utilizing 19th century tintype photographic processes. I just saw an ad in the new issue of Texas Monthly stating that photographs from the book will be on display at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas, through April before moving on to other locations after that.) It is an absolutely gorgeous book, very well put together, and I would highly recommend it. On the business side of things, I was also interested to discover how she had kept a low retail price ($34.95) through her printing connections and how, as well, that Frost Bank had underwritten/sponsored the book which made it economically viable from the get go.

As I said, Rue let me tag along with her the weekly Albany Chamber of Commerce luncheon—a very interesting introduction to the local business scene—and over the course of the time I spent with her she passed on much sage advice about getting print runs (and sales) up, keeping printing costs down, and various distribution/marketing issues.

All in all, it was a highly productive and enjoyable way to spend three hours. For having shown up more or less out of the blue, I couldn’t have asked for anyone to have been more generous than Rue Judd. And I would certainly recommend visiting Bright Sky Press online; there are a variety of books on a variety of subjects and there’s bound to be something for almost anyone.


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