Monday, October 19, 2009

Who Taught Me What I Know ...

... about publishing? Most of what I teach about publishing came from three different human resources.
  • William J. Burns: He is the publisher of Resource Publications, Inc. and was my boss when I worked there from 1984 to 2002. He understood that writing is a creative, introverted process. Authoring, on the other hand, is a creative, extroverted process. The "writer" who can't make the mental and emotional transition to "author" is of no use to a publisher. She won't be able to get out of her mental attic, interact with potential customers, and enjoy the process of selling her book. I resisted this idea for years, but I eventually "got it" and began looking for natural authors and writers who could make the transition from writer to author. Today, it is the centerpiece of what I teach my customers. In fact, I try to train them to begin thinking like authors before they even write their book.
  • John Huenefeld: After many years working for publishers, mostly in the marketing area, John built a business teaching independent niche publishers how to succeed. He was particularly good at defining how the "publisher" orchestrated each of the four key functions (or departments) of a publishing house: editorial acquisition, marketing/sales, production, and business. Because we implemented many of his suggested best practices at Resource Publications, Inc., I credit John with teaching me much about how publishing is supposed to operate. Today, I teach my self-publishing clients to think like real publishers, even if the four key departments are only in their heads.
  • Peter Drucker: I never met Peter Drucker, but I realized only recently that one of my best ideas came from him. He taught both for-profit and non-profit businesses to identify their "primary customer," which is not as easy as it sounds. For example, is the primary customer of a school district the student, the parent, the community at large, or someone else? It makes a difference. Moreover, if members of the board, the administration, and employees have different ideas about who the customer is, the district will be dysfunctional (which may explain a lot about the average school district). To help people decide who their primary customer is, Drucker would ask: "Whose life do you most intend to change with your business?" It's a powerful concept that I have embedded in my practice. I now start my publishing workshops by having authors define who their primary customer is and to clarify how they intend to change this person's life. The Publishing Pro