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Strategic Publishing Initiatives: TechCareers Guides

25 Sep

And then, you know, every once in a while—that is, in between screeds on POD publishers or the pleasures of doing pro bono projects or the ever-increasing price of textbooks (It’s shocking I tell you! Shocking!)—we actually get around to publishing a book now and again. In addition to the newly published and highly epic Hand Tools Manual—every intern for the last two years has worked on it in some capacity and all have trembled in awe and terror (I’m moderately kidding) when contemplating the majesty of its demanding technical illustrations and editorial guidelines—our most recent title is Biomedical Equipment Technicians, the first in our TechCareers series focusing on different technical professions.

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Print On Demand: Heartbreaking Effort on a Staggering Scale

24 Sep

One of the features added recently by WordPress—they’re the free blogging provider that we use—at the bottom of most posts is a section that says: Possibly related posts: (automatically generated). Some of the links that follow will come from our blog but most come from other blogs. The interesting thing, though, is looking at our stats page in the admin section of our blog where it lists “referrers”—that is, those pages where somebody clicked a link to come to our blog—and seeing an out of the ordinary Web address and then backtracking to find that we were one of the Possibly related posts: (automatically generated) at someone else’s blog.

This happened the other day when I found a link that led back to The Lulu Book Review but from there led me to the POD Diary, another page at that site that has the absolutely epic saga—equally fascinating and heartwrenching—of Shannon Yarbrough self publishing his novel Stealing Wishes through an online POD publisher.

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Conferences & Conventions: NISOD 2008 Wrap-Up

30 May

And, what a week—or at least half a week—it was at NISOD! I had planned to post updates daily but by the end of each day I was ready to hurl myself onto the bed in my hotel room, prop up my throbbing feet, and get caught up on the latest “must-see” (yes, that’s the ironic use of quotation marks) cable television shows given that at home we’re still happily chugging along with rabbit ears and 5-6 channels. (Even though it’s been on TV for a while, this was the first time I’d ever seen Bridezillas, which was certainly a spectacle of sorts in its own right.) Anyway, highlights of this year’s NISOD convention included:

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Meet the Publisher: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part II

24 Mar

foner-books-logo.jpgMany thanks are due to Morris Rosenthal over at his Self-Publishing blog for posting this email interview I did with him recently. Morris is one of the real gurus of self-publishing through print-on-demand (POD) and his blog is full of useful nuts and bolts information about the business. Not surprisingly, then, he asked me primarily about POD in relationship to the kind of books we publish as opposed to our operation in general as I talked with Lori Cates Hand a while back in this post at her Publishing Careers blog.

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Book Production: Top 10 Proof Copy Checklist

20 Oct

Over the next few weeks we’ll beginning receiving our spring semester book orders from different bookstores. As I’ve noted before, up to now most of our printing has been done using POD (print on demand) so we have three big print runs a year, once each before the fall, spring, and summer semesters. For a basic overview of POD, I’ve linked below to this brief, yet informative, video by Morris Rosenthal of Foner Books and the Self-Publishing blog.

POD is helpful in its own way—it allows for low inventory and reduced storage costs as well as making it possible to update books from semester to semester, a real necessity when publishing highly detailed (and quickly dated) technical information—but one of the downsides of POD is that you to go through the proof copy quality control cycle three times a year. By that, I mean that you can’t—or at least, shouldn’t—just pull a CD out of a file cabinet and send it over to print several hundred copies. Instead, especially given the ongoing organic and ever-evolving nature of our texts, we print up at least one proof copy—sometimes more—of each book to double check before sending the whole job to print.

So, here is our top 10 proof copy checklist of things we double—or triple—check one last time before sending a job to print. Some—or even most—of these things may sound pretty basic and obvious. I agree: they are (or, at least should be). Then again, I’ve seen examples of all the potential problems below in some way, shape, or form in books on the shelf from a variety of publishers.

1. Does the title on the front cover match the title page and spine?

2. Are the authors’ names spelled consistently and correctly on the front cover, spine, title page, copyright page and/or bio pages?

3. Is there a barcode on the back cover? Was an ISBN-13 used to generate it? Is it the correct ISBN? Does the price embedded in the barcode read 9000? Does the ISBN on the barcode match the ISBN on the copyright page?

4. Is the cover trimmed correctly?

5. Is the binding correct? Is it supposed to be saddle-stitch, EZ-coil, or perfect?

6. Are the interior pages black and white or color? Are the pages single-sided or backed up? Is being single-sided or backed up consistent all the way through or are there exceptions? Are the pages supposed to be perfed? Are there any color and/or perfed page inserts? If perfed, are the perforations straight? What color should any color inserts be?

7. Does every entry listed in the TOC (table of contents) have a page number that correctly matches the corresponding page in the book?

8. Is the pagination consistent? Are there any pages missing or repeated? Are odd numbered pages on the right side of the spread with even-numbered pages on the left? Are all the page breaks done correctly?

9. Did all the graphics reproduce correctly? Did any of them drop out or become corrupted?

10. Finally, are there any other elements or specifications unique to this book? Does it come with a CD or DVD? Does it have an imprint that’s different from ours? Is it a part of a multi-volume set when it is packaged—that is, shrink wrapped—for sale? Something/anything else?

Okay, so that’s more than ten questions. But, for whatever the reason, it’s dangerously easy to overlook the obvious. And there’s an awful lot of obvious to keep an eye on.

But, what’s the alternative? After all, if you do let some bone-headed—honest or not—production mistake slide through, you never can tell how much it’s going to wind up costing you. For example, I know a psych instructor at a two-year college up the highway who is looking for a new publisher for his books because the last one his most recent publisher printed came back with every page number for every entry listed in the extensive index at the back of the book as 000. I kid you not: Page after page of index entries and every single one had a page number of 000! That’s what you call dropping the ball. That’s what you call the kind of thing I could go my whole life without having us do.


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.


Book Publishing Operations: Summer 2007 Production Schedule

7 Jun

Now that June is here we are thoroughly in the midst of our summer production schedule. As always, we have a variety of projects in production as well as more in development that will enter actual production either this upcoming fall or spring.

As for textbooks, we have five in production that will be ready for fall adoptions: The Quick Math Review by Diana Gafford and Dr. Mike Hosseinpour, both from TSTC Harlingen; Contemporary Math with MAPLE by Dr. Otto Wilke, TSTC Waco; two nursing books put together by the nursing faculty at TSTC West Texas in Sweetwater, and a tool and die projects book by Art Olivares at TSTC Harlingen. In addition, we are doing some odds and ends of updates/corrections to current titles in print before we start our summer print run. (As always, we do enough books for about one semester at a time to keep our printing and storage costs down.) I was hoping that we might do a couple of books via offset printing as opposed to digital print-on-demand means but I’m not sure if at this point there is time to put that together.

In addition, we have a whole slate of projects in development that will enter the actual production cycle at different points in the future: an ethics reader/anthology, two technical dictionaries, a coffee-table book about TSTC, and the epic hand tools book that is, finally, nearing completion, although not quite quickly enough to be ready for this fall. The ethics reader is a new kind of project we’re working on: all the articles in it come from outside sources so we’re doing a lot of permissions research and negotiating that, when it all comes together, should produce a well-rounded book that will have given us good experience with working with folks outside of the TSTC System.

We also have one of our interns working on a bird’s eye view map of the TSTC Waco campus; he’s been working on this for a couple of months now and we plan on having this done in time for holiday sales this fall. (Last year I saw an exhibit at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, of nineteenth century bird’s eye view maps of Texas that gave me the idea to put something like this together for our college.) We’re also working on some sample line drawings in different styles of native Texas plants and flowers as part of a possible subcontracting job for another publisher working on a Texas gardening reference guide.

In terms of pro bono work, we’re just waiting to get materials from the Waco Cultural Arts Fest folks to put together the catalog for their fall festival. We did this last year and look forward to doing it again.

I feel like we’re finally hitting our stride at TSTC Publishing. That is, the first couple of years we weren’t at the production level we are now and, in addition, we were doing a lot of loss leader and pro bono work as a way to learn to how to do different kinds of projects. Now that we’ve published 23 books in a little less than two years, we know how to do what we do—publish books—and are streamlining and refining our processes—as opposed to still devising and developing them from scratch—so that we are as efficient as possible. Marketing issues along with some new production capabilities—namely, print-on-demand perfect binding through TSTC Waco Printing Production—are what we’ll be concentrating on the next six months or so. All in all, we’re happily on track with the overall goal of being financially self-sustaining within the next 18-24 months so that’s making me—a perennially pessimistic optimist or, maybe, an optimistic pessimist, or, perhaps, a realist—feel as good about our future potential growth as I possibly could.


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