Bookbuilders of Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people involved in book publishing and manufacturing throughout New England. Our blog describes industry events that we sponsor or attend.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sales, Publicity, and Marketing Rounds Out Workshop Series

Friesens was the sponsor for the last workshop in Bookbuilders' fall session, and about thirty people attended. Speakers were Gina Choe from Charlesbridge, Beth Ineson from Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt, and Roxanne McCarley from Pearson Educational.

The speakers provided a well-rounded view of the sales landscape across different segments of the industry. While trade publishers judge the impact of Borders store closings, higher ed companies increasingly rely on reps' relationships with professors and bookstore managers.

Gina Choe represented the special sales area, where printed catalogs and bound books are still necessary to make the sale. On the flip side, Roxanne McCarley discussed enhanced features of e-textbooks, including videos, apps, assessment, and course management systems. Many such add-ons are more suited to the iPad (tablets) as opposed to e-readers. Competition among the reader devices is closely watched by Beth Ineson, director of field sales and distribution clients at HMH.

One of the more timely questions from the audience had to do with direct-to-consumer sales. Direct engagement with customers (readers) is a buzzworthy topic at industry events: while some publishers consider it a growth area, the need to tread lightly and nurture reseller relationships is still strong.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Production, Manufacturing, and Inventory Workshop Confronts Smaller Print Runs and New Formats

Sean Stanford, Wednesday night's second speaker, spoke about the promise of ink-jet web technology to advance goals in short-run color printing. P.J. Tierney later described a need to continue with offset printing for casebound books because of a lack of on-demand hardcover options.

The big news, though, is that print probably isn't going anywhere just yet. Larry Mallach discussed a strategy to support print costs with e-book sales, ensuring that print copies are available for the markets that need them.

Not that publishers want to take on inventory for any length of time, however ... some may be printing for as little as two months' worth of sales. Returns are still a factor in inventory models, though smaller up-front orders from customers like Amazon are changing the return cycle.

Beacon Press, according to P.J. Tierney, publishes e-books simultaneously with print. In academic markets, this may not yet be the case. In trade calculations, while e-sales eat into print sales, the result is not a zero-sum game. More copies are being sold overall.

Thank you to Quad Graphics, sponsor of this workshop.

Be sure to join us this week for the final Bookbuilders workshop of the season: Sales, Marketing, and Publicity, sponsored by Friesens. Advance registration is required.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Third Bookbuilders Workshop Generates Advance Interest

Over seventy people have registered to attend tomorrow's discussion of production, manufacturing, and inventory. Space is limited, so be sure to register at

Speakers are P.J. Tierney from Beacon Press, Sean Stanford from Quad Graphics, and Larry Mallach of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The evening's sponsor is Quad Graphics.

Speaker bio highlights:

P.J. Tierney
Has worked for Plenum Publishing and WW Norton in addition to Beacon Press. At Beacon, P.J. implemented a digital workflow, reducing manufacturing and production costs, and created a digital archive.

Sean Stanford
Provides manufacturing support to many Bookbuilders member publishers, including Pearson Custom, Merriam Webster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and MIT Press. Sean is also a guest speaker for the Publishing and Writing program at Emerson.

Larry Mallach
Developed an attributes-based MRP (Materials Requirements Planning) strategy for HMH Trade that brings titles together in work groups based on production and manufacturing commonality. Larry will now develop a similar supply chain process at Hachette Book Group in New York.

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow night from 6:00-8:00 pm at Pearson (501 Boylston Street, Boston).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bookbuilders of Boston continued its 2011 Fall Workshops on Wednesday evening at Pearson Education’s offices.

Cate Barr, Senior Art Director at Cengage Learning, shared that she enjoys in her role the opportunity to become actively involved with editors and authors. During a question and answer session, she offered suggestions on what a designer needs to show when interviewing. It is important to show not just a strong portfolio but also that one can be actively involved in problem solving, take direction well, and be a team member.

Erin Hasley, Senior Designer at MIT Press, expressed that pride can sometimes be an issue. As a designer, one has to learn to accept criticism that can sometimes be unabashed and unrelenting. Erin offered that sometimes if a design is just not working, she takes a break from it, and then comes back to it at a later time. This can help one to rejuvenate and refresh.

George Restrepo, of Rest-Design, offered his insights for working as a freelancer. He shared the importance of nurturing successful client-based relations. If a designer values those relations, things will progress from there. He explained one of the challenges of being a designer is how to weed out different types of feedback. He told the group that a lot of people do not know what they want until they see it. One solution is to show a few variations on a particular design and see where the feedback goes.

Questions involved whether or not one should create portfolios geared toward print or digital design. All of the designers agreed that there is no magic answer to putting together a portfolio, but it is important when putting one together to focus on showing the fundamentals.

EBooks and XML typesetting were discussed as well. EBooks are generally pdf files of the printed book, so there are usually no extra elements involved. The speakers agreed that designing across platforms would technically become easier in the future.

Thank you to Lehigh Phoenix for sponsoring this workshop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 Workshops Kick Off Strong

About ninety people registered for the first in the fall workshop series, and over sixty attended. There is a capacity limit on the room, so please be sure to register for the events tomorow night, next week, and at the beginning of November.

Jennifer Urban-Brown covered  acquisitions and editorial topics. At Shambhala, she actively acquires titles, reaching out to potential authors to fill needs in the list. Unsolicited manuscripts, foreign works, and agents provide leads as well, but publishers often have to be proactive in order to meet the specific goals that they have set for new titles. 

Jennifer discussed the difference between developmental editing--in my experience, often kept in-house--and copyediting, which is often outsourced.  The in-house team that works with an author must be sensitive to the author's needs and also effective in communicating the vision for a book to other departments.

Becky Hemperly, a Bookbuilders scholarship recipient, has had a wide range of experience across publishing departments. This led her to recognize that a book's contract should be forward-thinking and cover as many considerations over the life of the book as possible--not only royalties and complimentary copies, but the needs of production, sales, and marketing as well.

Lastly, Joanne Wyckoff of the Carol Mann Agency spoke about her personal publishing journey. She worked as an editor at Random House in New York for thirteen years, where she negotiated all her own contracts. On the flip side, as an agent, Joanne now spends a good deal of time editing: polishing a manuscript before it is presented for consideration by publishers.

The Q&A session was lively, with the following highlights for Joanne:

What was the most difficult situation you've encountered?
Hint: Author relations.

How do you evaluate agents?
Think: networking.

To work as an assistant at a literary agency, how important is it to have editorial experience?
Surprise: Business acumen is as important for those pursuing this career.

Thank you to the Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group for sponsoring this workshop.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October CNE in Harvard Square

Last week's casual networking at Om was refreshing. I have been a faithful participant of these events for about a year, and in that time I have seen newcomers aquire their first jobs and freelancers build careers.

For those who question the potential of networking, think of it this way. Let's say that you would like to become employed by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt. Or Shambhala.  Would your chances of achieving this goal improve if you met someone working there already? During an interview, would you have more to talk about if you had already engaged this contact in casual conversation?

Of course, you might learn about companies or jobs that you never knew existed. If you are currently and happily employed, you might learn about new vendors, or new approaches to current industry issues (such as formatting for e-publications).

Last but not least, there is always karma. Don't forget that if you make a point to attend networking events in good times, your network will be stronger when times are not so good. And doesn't this look like a fun way to build karma points?

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 2011 Events

October is always a busy month for Bookbuilders. Our monthly casual networking event takes place this coming Wednesday (October 12) at OM Restaurant in Harvard Square. Also, we have a full slate of Back to Basics workshops beginning this Thursday.

The first workshop (10/13)  focuses on editorial, rights, and acquisitions processes. Speakers are Jennifer Urban-Brown, editor at Shambhala Publications; Becky Hemperly, Vice President of Contracts, Rights, and Royalties at Candlewick Press; and Joanne Wyckoff, a literary agent with the Carol Mann Agency. For complete speaker details and to register, see the Bookbuilders website. The sponsor for this workshop is the Maple-Vail book manufacturing group.
Next in the workshop series is Design, scheduled for Wednesday, October 19. Speakers are Erin Hasley, Senior Designer, The MIT Press; George Restrepo, Designer, Rest Design; and Cate Rickard Barr, Senior Art Director, Cengage Learning. Erin designs books and book covers, George is on the board of directors at AIGA Boston, and Cate has designed for academic, college, and professional lists. Lehigh Phoenix sponsors this workshop.

All workshops are held at Pearson, 501 Boylston Street, Boston (9th Floor Cafeteria). The time for all workshops is from 6:00 - 8:00, and refreshments are often provided.

Note that the workshops are free, but registration on the Bookbuilders website is required. There is security at the venue, and attendees names must appear on the reservation list. Photo ID is also required.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall Networking Is Back

It still felt like summer when we arrived for our first fall networking event, but within 12 hours there were reports of frost on the tomato plants. Ah, Boston!

About 35 people attended this event, held at a new venue for us called the Back Bay Social Club. It was a perfect setting: not too crowded, nicely air conditioned on this muggy evening, and friendly. Please join us again here sometime!
Our first time at the Back Bay Social Club.
I met a production and information manager, the owner of a small publishing company, a published author, freelance copyeditors and proofreaders, and a supply chain specialist. And yet, there are numerous people smiling in these photos that I did not have the chance to meet. The photos are courtesy of our newest volunteer, Kristin D'Agostino. Another member approached us about volunteering as well, so there should soon be a small variety of voices contributing to this blog.
Our fearless leader, Tom Plain, at right.

Tom Plain, board president pictured at far right, offered remarks to welcome the group and comment on the mission of Bookbuilders of Boston. This is an open group, encouraging newcomers to the field of publishing while providing education and support. We partner with related groups to strengthen the industry network--this coming Thursday we are happy to join AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Boston at their AFTA gathering:

What a cool venue!

There was a nice diversity in this month's group, with some veterans, some mid-career folks, and brand-new interns ready to learn, meet, and grow. No matter your experience level, please feel welcome to attend. We all need one another to make the experience worthwhile.

Good conversation with old friends.
The next Bookbuilders networking will take place in Harvard Square in October--we alternate between Harvard Square and Back Bay. We would love to see you there, whether you are a current member, former member, or just looking to find out more about our group. Registration is free, and we ask that you sign up here:

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Networking on the Common

Now THIS was a good idea. A free networking event on Boston Common, on the evening of a Shakespeare on the Common performance. And the weather was amazing.

For years I went to school in Boston and never took the time to enjoy the Common. It's a wonderful site, and I didn't want to leave this event. I chatted with some newcomers to the industry, munched on some corn & bean salad, and got to know one of my fellow board members.

I was reminded of what a struggle it is to get into publishing, and also how exciting it is to get that first job and discover that it was worth it -- you love this gig! The economy is still making things rougher than they need to be, however. More often than I recall in years past, entry-level jobs are temporary. And it's increasingly difficuly to score even an unpaid internship.

Bookbuilders of Boston does its best to help in all circumstances, and invariably the new folks tell us that they benefit from these events. Sometimes I wish I had better advice to offer, but you never know what will lead to someone's "big break." The two recent graduates I spoke with were unaware of nSight, an agency that found work for me when I needed it.

There are ALWAYS well-known professionals at these events along with the up-and-coming. Don't hesitate to come out and enjoy a low-key and friendly evening with Bookbuilders.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 Dwiggins Laureate Sarah Bodden Kopec: The industry has changed, but the ethic has not.

At our Annual Meeting on June 23, Bookbuilders of Boston presented the 2011 W.A. Dwiggins Award to Sarah Bodden Kopec. In a gracious and thoughtful acceptance speech, she fondly remembered her father, W. Michael Bodden, as "my first and best publishing role model. . . . He taught me . . . to work for and represent the publisher’s interests, and expect high quality product from your suppliers, and . . . to treat the suppliers as partners. My dad was the Dwiggins Award recipient in 1974. Thirty-seven years have passed since then, and the industry has changed, but that ethic has not."

Dwiggins Committee Co-Chair John Walsh (who received the award in 2002), presented the traditional silver bowl to Sarah before an audience of some 80 members and guests at Boston's Colonnade Hotel. In his presentation, John recounted Sarah's 25-year career at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, beginning with a temporary assignment that led to a full-time job as an associate art editor in the school division, and progressing steadily through a shifting publishing landscape to her current role as Vice President of Strategic Sourcing.

Other Dwiggins laureates helped guide Sarah's career: Doylie Venn ran the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course when Sarah studied there in 1986, and Pat Thoma hired her for her first full-time job at what was then called Houghton Mifflin.

John read tributes from many of Sarah's colleagues, who called her "the most fair and honest person I know, with regard to both business and friendship," and praised her "professional courtesy and respect and sustained exceptional performance" and her "direction and positive, bright outlook." People she supervised thanked her for providing them "a chance to be part of something bigger," and "a sunny spot in an otherwise cold landscape. . . . [a] sensation . . . of coming into work not because you are paid to, but because you want to. Now that is pretty special."

While earning high marks at her day job, Sarah shares her leadership skills with Bookbuilders year after year. She has chaired or been a member of many event committees, and been elected as Board member, Board chair, Vice-President, and President. Her favorite Bookbuilders program, she said, is the New England Book Show, which she chaired or co-chaired three times (including the gala 35th and 50th anniversary events).

In presenting the award, John Walsh noted that each year since 1957, a recipient has been chosen whose accomplishments show a depth and versatility that echo those of the man in whose memory the award is named, William Addison Dwiggins. One of the most admired book designers of the 20th Century, Dwiggins was also a renowned illustrator and calligrapher, designed seventeen type families, and wrote the influential book "Layout in Advertising," in which he coined the term "graphic design." He decorated his Hingham home with furniture he built and murals he painted, and built a 30-seat theater where he designed and made marionettes to present plays that he wrote.

Accepting the award, Sarah spoke of her co-workers as "fun, smart, creative people, who all enjoy what they do, love to collaborate, and feel good about the product they produce. (This includes my husband, Walter!)." She gratefully acknowledged her "wonderful suppliers . . . professionals who do the best work they can on every project, despite tight deadlines, and tighter budgets. We couldn’t publish the breadth and variety of quality materials without your contributions, and I’m so honored that many of my supplier colleagues chose to be here tonight. It means a lot to me."

Sarah reflected on the revolution in publishing over the last quarter-century. "There will always be a demand for content," she concluded, "and I’m interested to see how Bookbuilders . . . will transform itself in coming years. I think every person in the room loves books and making books, and I hope quality book making remains at the core of the organization."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Retirement Bash for a Bookbuilders Leader

Last Thursday many of us attended a unique event: a retirement roast for John Walsh of Harvard University Press. Held in Charlestown, MA, the roast was a charitable event with proceeds benefiting the Education Fund.

Many were probably a little apprehensive about the format ..."insult comics" were popular when John started at Harvard 37 years ago, but humor has changed and we wanted to wish John well rather than embarrass him. There was no reason to worry--Don Rickles was nowhere in sight, and, at least for the first two hours when I was in attendance, we enjoyed entirely painless jokes at the expense of the industry or self-deprecating presenters.

Whenever a comedian is required, Bookbuilders looks to Dwiggins Honoree Chuck Wallace. Even though Chuck wasn't available for the roast, his monologue stole the show. Tom Plain gamely delivered Chuck's prepared remarks, making the references to Tom himself even more amusing.

The production values for the roast were impressive, especially since I'm pretty sure that no one from the Friars Club was hired as a consultant. "The Fabulous Finnerans," for example, were accompanied by the Dropkick Murphys' "Tessie" on their walk to the dais. The Finnerans' own contribution was musical as well, with personalized lyrics and heartfelt delivery (if not always in tune).

The evening was bittersweet, of course, since no one wants to see the old gang breaking up. In addition, there's a sense that we are entering a largely electronic era (after all, this is a blog and not a newsletter). In John's spirit we embrace the future and technology, but we look back with fondness on the days of press checks, bluelines, mechanicals, and color keys.

Monday, May 9, 2011

SSP Conference at Copley This June

The 2011 annual meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) will be held in Boston this year at the Westin Copley Place. The event runs from June 1-3, and the theme is “It’s What Counts: How Data Transforms Our World.” Several Bookbuilders members are also members of SSP, whose mission is “to advance scholarly publishing and communication and the professional development of its members through education, collaboration, and networking among individuals in the field.”

Conference highlights for book publishers include the following:

  • Opening Keynote Address - "Approximating Omniscience," by Jon Orwant, Director of Engineering, Google Books, and co-author of Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books.
  • Plenary Address - "Who Needs Libraries and Publishers? The Future of Scholarly Communication," by John Palfrey, Professor of Law at Harvard University, and Co-Author of Born Digital, Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives.
Other session topics include preserving and curating research data, data accessibility, usability testing, e-books, and single sign-on technology. There are six pre-meeting day sessions on June 1, networking opportunities, and an exhibitor’s marketplace.

Discounted early-bird registration ends this Friday, May 13. For more information or to register, visit the SSP site.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Change Comes to Publishing

When writing up industry events for the blog, I try to summon the standout themes: the recurring emphasis. I’m happy to start this post about “Making Information Pay” with an observation made by my colleague: “From what I have seen today, publishing is hiring. 

Fran Toolan and Andrew Savikas (?) (center, back)

At least three conversations we had at breakfast involved people who have been with their present employers for one month or less. And that’s not even counting me! So, we start with some optimism about the state of the industry.

Another common theme among speakers was the need for new systems (shared databases) and standards (such as EPUB and ONIX). The importance of electronic content means that it can no longer be produced in a separate workflow, as an afterthought to print. Data is of increasing importance, and there is a frustration with the workflow silos that impede access to information across various publishing departments. It feels like a bit of a tipping point for old-guard publishing culture, and everyone understands the challenges of this change.

Executive sponsorship of change is critical, according to Andrew Savikas of Safari Books Online and O’Reilly Media, especially since some necessary transitions will not yield impressive ROI in the short term. Several speakers also advocated a period of experimentation with various approaches as opposed to a wholesale overhaul. As such, the present environment is not for leaders faint of heart—commitment, belief, and persistence are essential.

The stakes, however, are becoming too high to ignore. There is a growing market for “chunked” content (as opposed to whole books or even chapters), and book publishers are often not in a position to exploit this potential revenue stream. Increasingly, said David Marlin from MetaComet Systems, rights management (“content curation”) at a granular level is critical to the longevity of a publisher’s brand and its author relations.

Director of the BISG (Book Industry Study Group), Scott Lubeck, ended with the group's vision statement, which seems both current and apt. In part, the group seeks to help "build and support a new industry network enabling new opportunities for profitable growth." There was a sense that Thursday's attendees were eager to rise and transform: it is an exciting time to be in publishing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Making Information Pay and New England Book Show

The Book Industry Study Group's (BISG's) Making Information Pay conference will take place on Thursday, May 5, 2011. The theme is "Constructing the 21st Century Publishing Enterprise," and at least two Massachusetts companies are among those speaking.

Andrew Savikas of O'Relly Media (a Bookbuilders member company) speaks at 9:40 am. His session, "Flexible & Multi-Channel Content: Real-World Examples from O'Reilly Media," promises to share O'Reilly's expertise in building a "flexible, modular and digital-first toolchain." Sponsor of the Tools of Change conference, O'Reilly is undoubtedly an industry leader in the area of innovative content delivery.

Heather Reid, my colleague at Copyright Clearance Center, contributes to the discussion of rights management best practices in the digital age. Her review of "Initial Findings from BISG & CCC's Joint Survey of Publishers and Vendors" will identify the challenges of negotiating, collecting, and managing licenses for content and content fragments.

I will attend Making Information Pay, which means, unfortunately, that I will miss the 54th Annual New England Book Show. (See last year's book show winners here.) This year's event, held at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, features a presentation by Daphne Kalotay. Boston author of Russian Winter. The program is outstanding, and I'm very sorry to miss it. Now recruiting a guest blogger to cover this flagship Bookbuilders event!

Monday, April 4, 2011

American Society for Indexing Annual Conference

The annual conference for this national group will be held in New England this year, so it's a good opportunity for local folks with an interest to explore this aspect of publishing.

Date: April 28-30, 2011
Location: Hilton Providence Hotel (walking distance from Amtrak station) 
Single day (Friday or Saturday) registrations available.
Separate pre-conference workshops (Thursday):
  • full-day: Principals of Indexing; Taxonomy and Thesaurus Creation
  • half-day: (Book indexing software) Cindex; SKY Index

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 22 Forum Continued: E-Problems

[This is a guest post by Victor Curran of Precision Graphics. The subject is the first presentation at Bookbuilders' March 22 Forum, "E-Problems: Old files, E-books, Ideas and Limitations" at Emerson College. Please see Jamie Carter's post below for the second and third presentations.]

Karen Greenleaf, head of Business Development at VPG Integrated Media, spoke about digital content in the K-12 and higher education markets (VPG's clientele is about 60% K-12 and 30% higher ed). She pointed out the resistance of college students to ebooks, because the ebook versions of college texts cost about as much as used copies of printed texts, and because their professors often require them to buy a license to a learning management system which includes the ebook content anyway.

VPG recommends a browser-based ebook model using Flash and HTML. This allows content to be optimized for whatever device the student chooses to view it on (laptop, e-reader, smartphone, tablet).

She pointed out the limitations of a mobile app to deliver educational content, but conceded its appeal to the market, saying "It's limited, but boy, it sure is slick!"

She gave the audience its biggest laugh of the evening by showing "The Electronic Publishing Bingo Card," the creation of author/critic/blogger John Scalzi, in which he lampoons the many wrongheaded ideas that publishers (and others) have about ebooks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Second March Forum: E-Problems

Full disclosure: I wasn't on my game last night. I was unable to join in time for the first presenter, and I forgot my camera. However, I was able to capture a lot of useful information!

The second speaker, Senior Book Designer from Adams Media, was Colleen Cunningham. Colleen described challenges experienced at Adams with the advent of electronic publications:
  • Editors are encouraged to make content "e-friendly." Among other things, this means referencing chapters or sections instead of page numbers.
  • There are special considerations for art in e-pubs. Because of file size restrictions, e-books may lack art that is available in a print equivalent.
  • E-book production cannot be absorbed into the existing print workflow. Additional resources are required, most notably for tagging and QC.
  • Back-of-the-book marketing is more complicated in e-books because of the need to link to multiple provider sites (Amazon, B&N, etc.).
  • An "e-book only" imprint evolved at Adams, using a separate workflow.
  • Restrictions are imposed by certain platforms (e.g., Kindle). Other platforms present opportunities (Apple/multimedia).
  • Metadata feeds to vendors are separate and unique, requiring new staff.
  • There are promising features available in apps, but these require extensive marketing.
Colleen ended with a topic now near to my heart: a reminder that pieces permissioned for print may require additional rights or fees for inclusion in an e-publication. It came to my mind that this will be especially problematic for backlist, since components are not called out and are more difficult to research.

Speaker number three was Bill Trippe, Vice President at Outsell. Outsell provides marketing research for publishers, and their report, "A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation," is available for free (account creation required).  The study covers the effects of electronic publishing throughout the production workflow: in planning, editorial/production, rights/royalties, promotion, sales, manufacturing, and distribution.

Highlights from Bill's presentation:
  • Content consumption on smartphones will be important. In the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphone sales exceeded computer sales for the first time. Some people in the world will experience the Internet for the first time on a smartphone.
  • The iPad is also significant. Its adoption rate is faster than any other device in history, and iPad users are demonstrated consumers of paid content.
  • E-book conversion vendors are becoming partners in the publishing process: close collaboration as opposed to a hand-off.
The Q&A portion of the forum is always interesting, and there was a half hour available for this. Questions covered many different aspects of the publishing process:
  • DRM practices (primarily handled by the device manufacturer, with difficulties noted in the academic market).
  • Adoption of e-textbooks (certain fields of study convert faster than others; some public schools lack funds for hardware; some students favor print because the spatial arrangement of content influences their recall).
  • Poetry in electronic format (workarounds required for multiple-column display on the Kindle).
  • XML workflow and portability of content ("XML-First" workflow is still rare, but "XML-Early" is becoming more common).
  • Impact of different channels on designers (iPad suggests twice as much design work because each "page" can be viewed vertically and horizontally).
  • ISBN challenges (a unique ISBN for the same title in multiple platforms?).
  • Moving backlist titles to electronic format (seen as important but quality control suffers with title count).
This was the last Bookbuilders forum until the fall. Please comment on this post with suggestions for future educational topics.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spring Forum: Children's Publishing Today

Last night's forum on children's publishing was well-received by 100+ attendees gathered at Emerson College. Panel participants (l-r) were Amy Pattee, Associate Professor at Simmons and author of Reading the Adolescent Romance; Mary Wilcox, VP and Editorial Director of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children and HMH Books; and Yolanda Scott, Editorial Director of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Yolanda and Mary described the various types of children's books being published, from picture books to early readers and YA (young adult) novels. There was also discussion of business processes at Charlesbridge and Houghton Mifflin, very different companies in size and scope. The core function of the editorial department as "list builder" (i.e., spring list, fall list) was common to both, as was passion for the material and adherence to high literary standards in acquisition.

Amy's overview of her recently published book was popular--the title focuses on an interpretation of the Sweet Valley High series for young teenagers. The analysis emphasized that children's literature often deals with dream scenarios that allow readers to experience lives others than their own. In some cases the dreams are designed by adults as models for the children, but in others the dreams express the children's own desires.
The Q&A portion of the forum was also popular, with interest in the following topics:
  • E-books in the library setting (reference to Harper Collins controversy, new to me and very interesting)
  • Weight of digital considerations in editorial process (currently not essential to acquisition)
  • Simultaneous release of print and e-product (adopted by Charlesbridge)
  • Concerns regarding piracy (in this genre, sometimes considered to enhance discoverability)
  • Difficulty of bringing nonfiction titles (esp. backlist) to electronic form because of costly permissions
  • Interest in Spanish-language translations (produced by both publishers)
  • Concern about Borders' closing stores and decline of brick-and-mortar retailers
The question of brick-and-mortar viability comes up at almost every event I attend, and more and more in casual conversation as well. Publishers appreciate the importance of "hand selling" and hate to think of it going away. More to the point, they don't know what will replace it. Readers as well have a sense that the physical store, particularly an independent store, is a valuable part of their literary life. For an interesting demonstration of readers' commitment to an independent store in action, read about a proposed customer buyout of Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Casual Networking Musings, 2/9/11.

I have some stationery that depicts two fifties-style ladies chatting, and the tagline reads, "We're not gossiping; we're networking." The image made me think about the various social objectives reached by networking, which is often cast as a means to directly advance career goals.

We know from testimonials that Bookbuilders Casual Networking events have allowed participants to make new job and vendor contacts, and I find that I learn a lot about how some larger companies operate in this candid setting (that piece probably looks like gossiping to the untrained eye). This past Wednesday night, I discovered what was for me a new benefit of networking--I'll call it "re-telling the story."

A common encounter at these events is between two strangers. "What do you do?" is the first question, followed almost always by some version of "How do you like what you do?" In this setting of professionals doing similar work, the "what do you do" question can be answered in somewhat more detail than it would be at, say, a cocktail party or family gathering. The answer may be more thoughtful and less rehearsed than the speaker would supply elsewhere. If the speaker is unemployed, the answer will include some details that point to the type of work desired, or a description of past work.

In either case, I think that something interesting can happen in this supportive but neutral atmosphere of others with related experience.  For the first time in perhaps a while, the networker describes his or her daily experience out loud, in some detail. The process of doing this sometimes informs the answer to the next question: "How do you like what you do?" The audience is still, at this point, fairly anonymous, but also equipped to discuss some of the finer points of creativity vs. rote production, or management vs. direct contribution to an enterprise. In the re-telling of his or her story, the speaker may discover or formulate a new perspective on career goals. Conveniently, there is often a qualified sounding board on the other side of the conversation, with different experience (and maybe leads) to take it further. In any case, the speaker has the basis for a story to re-tell to others that very night, perhaps revised again with new insight.

Do you agree? What have your experiences been at Casual Networking Events? If you haven't been, please join us on March 9 at Vlora Restaurant to draw your own philosophical conclusions.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow's Coming: DBW, Final Day

The second full day of programming at DBW further emphasized the importance of consumer data for publishers. In a morning presentation, BISG (Book Industry Study Group, Angela Bole) and Bowker (Kelly Gallagher) revealed some demographic features of the e-book consumer. Firstly, according to Bowker, "power buyers" are apparent and very important. Constituting about 20% of buyers overall, these avid readers are most often women, aged 30-44, and they purchase e-books weekly. They are urban or suburban, and their overall profile is similar to that of the print buyer (i.e., not a new category of book consumers). They purchase books on impulse, as one often does in a bookstore.

An enthusiastic presentation on consumer sales data followed, kicked off by Bob Kohn of Royalty Share, Inc. (RoyaltyShare's Digital Advantage product was adopted by Faber and Faber to consolidate e-book sales reporting from over thirty resellers, as announced Tuesday). Kohn encouraged publishers to seek and acquire consumer demographic information from retail partners, including zip code and customer ID. The ID would allow publishers to deploy promotions to specific customers based on their past purchases without the need for their names and email addresses. 

Michael Tamblyn from Kobo, speaking on the same panel, described his company's passion for data and the need to act quickly on weekly, daily, or even hourly trends. Kobo portrays an openness to sharing data with publishers, undoubtedly a point in their favor when publishers consider resource allocation. Tamblyn described a "steady heartbeat" of core sales data received by publisher partners, as well as Kobo's willingness to research trends for publishers, "across weeks and days, frontlist versus backlist."

Even a breakout session on metadata, one of the more practical, less "social" aspects of publishing, referenced the importance of user (reader) experience. Comparing the unrestrained inclusivity of enhanced metadata to the Wild West, presenters agreed that reader comments on Facebook et al. should be reviewed and perhaps harnessed by publishers as part of the overall "consumer facing" data package for books. The appearance of linked publisher content on these sites is also a metadata concern: the tagging of appropriate images, blurbs, reviews, etc. is critical to increasing discoverability.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Digital Book World, Day One

In today's program, several themes emerged consistently. The first two of these are related to one basic concept: discoverability. That is, while cost and time to market are shrinking, and the number of titles available increases exponentially, how does a publisher ensure that the audience for a book is aware of its arrival? 

In the past, serendipitous discovery on the bookstore shelf led readers to books that interested them. In particular, independent bookstores were, in Malcolm Gladwell's terms, "mavens," recommending titles for their community. While the decline of the traditional bookstore is considered inevitable, publishers still embrace the power of a bookseller's influence. Michael Cader of Publishers Marketplace described a new potential category of the un-bookstore--a space to hold author events, host a live community of readers, and perhaps sell reader hardware in conjunction with an online e-book storefront.

Taking the concept of discoverability a step further, several presenters discussed the importance of publishers connecting DIRECTLY with readers. Social media makes such connections possible, especially if authors have an online following prior to publication. Jane Friedman from Open Road Integrated Media discussed that identification of actual readers ("having the names") is not as important as knowing where and how to reach the appropriate audience over time. Contact with readers is thought to be critical in identifying desired platforms and levels of interactivity (technological sophistication), and experimenting with pricing or marketing of digital content. Presentation pictured is "Content First, Format Second."
Mike Shatzkin and Cristina Mussinelli.

A separate but persistent point today concerned international sales. The number of English language speakers worldwide is large, and the portability of the electronic format may open new opportunities for US publishers who have world rights. There are barriers to entry based on country, however, and intermediaries are most likely needed to partner with local resellers. The European market was discussed in most detail: while online purchasing in general has lagged in Europe as compared to the US, it is on the rise. Smartphones are the dominant platform abroad, as adoption of dedicated e-reader technology has been slow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Opening Ceremonies, DBW 2011

Braving some cold temps, Bookbuilders of Boston was represented at Digital Book World's opening ceremonies in NYC tonight. The program included the conference's Publishing Innovation Awards, a 7x20x21 variety presentation, and Name that Audiobook (sponsored by Audible.Com). Some highlights:

The Innovation Awards was an inaugural event, with selections made in Fiction, Nonfiction, Children's, Reference, and Comics. One standout was the Children's winner, A Story Before Bed. More a concept than a particular title, A Story Before Bed works with publishers to make available select children's books with the ability for friends and family to read aloud to the recipient (both audio and video accompaniment). The company has given away over 75,000 stories to military parents spending time away from their children, a natural application of the technology that is also memorable.

The 7x20x21 presentation (7 speakers, 20 slides each, 21 seconds per slide) guaranteed diversity of thought, and speakers included authors, publishers, and readers. The first speaker was the most timely: Evan Ratliff from The Atavist, with iPhone and iPad apps launching Wednesday. This is a journalistic venture with a multi-platform app supporting long-form nonfiction at $2.99 per story.

The Atavist was striking to me in light of some recent personal reading--namely, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Carr develops the hypothesis that our ability to comprehend and retain information decreases as hyperlinks and supplemental related info are introduced in the main content stream. The Atavist app blows this concept up in some respects: though stories can be read "clean," the attraction of the experience is access to video, maps, music, etc. connected with the story, all linked at the contextually relevant moments (shown in markup at right). The idea of having access to more of the journalist's reference and fact-checking material is intriguing, though even Ratliff acknowledged the challenge in absorbing it all.

The evening ended with Name That Audiobook, a game-show themed contest featuring two very recognizable audiobook narrators. I don't know their names, but I'm certain they've ridden in my car many times! Attendees were also pretty jazzed to receive two free audiobook downloads from Audible.Com. Giveaways have become very scarce in recent years, so we appreciated this one.