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How Book Projects Happen: Lust, Violence, Religion

18 Feb

Lately it’s been up to our editorial/marketing interns to produce a steady flow of blog posts, but I thought that I’d like to start getting back into the mix of things here as well. In particular, we have some interesting new projects in the works and, given that each came to us via a different scenario, I’ll be talking about the acquistion of each in a series of upcoming posts.  First up is Brad Turner’s Lust, Violence, Religion: Life in Historic Waco project that will be one of our high-profile releases this coming fall.

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What’s New at TSTC Publishing

11 Feb

What’s up at TSTC Publishing?

Well, for one thing, the publishing arm of Texas State Technical College just moved to new offices in Patterson Hall. Since a skunk had staked out the foundation space in our former offices, we welcomed the move to new bright cheery offices on the first floor of Patterson.

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Book Publishing Operations: Project Management Basics

14 Jun

As I’ve mentioned in passing over the last few weeks, we’re in the process of making a significant shift away from having two full-time production personnel in the office—graphics and editorial—as opposed to having one project manager overseeing freelance writers/editors and graphic artists. Grace Arsiaga had been our our graphics specialist for the last year and a half but, given that she was handling more and more complex graphics assignments (hundreds of images being produced by multiple interns for even a single book project), it made sense to move her over to be the project manager to utilize those skills she’s developed. So, over the last month we’ve been revamping what she does and how it’s down to allow her to act in a primarily management capacity on any given project instead of doing the majority of production work herself.

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Book Publishing Operations: Happier than a Pig in . . . Well . . . You Know!

17 Apr

Or, technically speaking, we were that happy Tuesday as we could finally say at our weekly department meeting that all the books for TSTC Waco bookstore had been printed, invoiced, and delivered. Currently, the Waco campus bookstore is by far our largest account so having their work done means a huge chunk of our work for this semester is done.

Since 2005 when we published our first two books we’ve always done three print runs a year—one each in the fall, spring, and summer—based on the book orders for an upcoming semester. That allowed us to update materials relatively easily while our inventory (and storage costs) stayed reasonably low. That, however, is all going to change this summer due to some workflow and production issues that have reared their ugly heads as our book list has grown.

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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.


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.


Book Publishing Operations: Spring 2007 Production Cycle Winds Down

28 Mar

Thankfully, the spring production cycle is beginning to near its end. That is, because we normally only print enough books for one semester’s worth of sales at a time—this keeps us from having too much inventory on hand, reduces storage costs, and allows us update books from semester to semester—we’re in the process of shipping files off to print for our new books as well as ones we’ve published earlier, about 20-25 all told. All of our books for summer sales will be at the print shop no later than end of next week and, the true end point of the semester, the publishing interns’ luncheon will be about three weeks from now. After that, we will have a week or so of downtime in the office with just the full-time staff and a couple of student workers as we regroup and prepare for what, as it happens, will be a much busier summer production schedule.

I would say that, informally, all book projects go through about three stages. First, it seems like you have an endless amount of time in front of you to get a book done and published. Then, as time goes by, for each project you encounter a unique set of problems—that is, challenges—that have the cumulative effect—either sooner or later—of making you want to spin around on the floor a la Curly of The Three Stooges. Finally, once you’re done indulgently expressing yourself vaudeville style, you become determined to close each project out and, to that end, we make a list of the exact elements each project lacks to be completed.

So, for example, on the white board across from my desk, I wrote this morning:

    CLOSE OUT!!!

1. Developmental math books: finish updated cover designs and resolve binding issues
2. Dental on-job-training manual: final proofing and corrections
3. Advanced dental science: final proofing and corrections
4. Safety book: finalize cover, final proofing and corrections
5. Home technology integration technology forecast: get cover image, final proofing & corrections
6. Algebra book: final proofing

As you can see, we’re down to essentially finish work on these projects—just making sure all the last details are taken care of—so nothing falls through the cracks.

On another note, today the job posting went online to fill our vacant publishing editor position. Anyone interested/qualified may look at the job description in MS Word here. To apply, just visit our AMS (applicant management system) here.


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