IVP - Andy Unedited - Design and Production Archives

April 21, 2010

Two Keys to Outstanding Cover Design

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people in possession of a good manuscript must be in want of an outstanding cover. A great cover can make an amazing difference. So can a bad one.

A few years ago I heard Ken Peterson of Tyndale House Publishers offer two simple keys to success—coding and positioning.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:43 AM | Comments (6) are closed

April 1, 2010

Books Without Covers

Every few months we get together a whole bunch of us from editorial, marketing, sales, production and design--anyone substantively involved in making or selling a book--to evaluate the releases from a season in the previous year. Once we had a cover designer attending for the first time. In trying to explain to the designer what the meeting was all about, someone said with a wry smile and in a voice everyone could hear, "This is the meeting in which we do judge a book by its cover."

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:10 AM | Comments (6) are closed

July 28, 2008

The Outsource Question

Celebrate logistics, as I've said before, because logistics make the romance of publishing possible. A publisher can also outsource its logistics so it can focus on the sides of publishing it loves best and does best—probably editorial, sales and marketing. But just because you outsource doesn’t mean you can forget about operations, fulfillment and accounting. You just need to be involved in a different way at a different level.

Tom Woll has a number of suggestions for taking some (but not all) of the pain out of these functions.

* Outsourcing Accounts Receivable.
The pain of accounts receivable (AR) is that trade and other large accounts don’t pay in 30 days. “The average collection period in the book industry is between 90 and 120 days from the time of invoice. . . . The difficulty of collecting accounts receivable is, indeed, one of the primary reasons publishers use distributors . . . to cope with this job of collection.” (pp. 276-77) But you still have to monitor closely what the distributor owes you. And if the distributor goes bankrupt, you’ll likely see little if any of your money.

* Doing AR Yourself.
If you handle your own collections, it is vital to “monitor your accounts receivable every day” (p. 277), focusing on accounts that are more than 90 days overdue. As I’ve said before, it’s all about cash flow, baby.

* Outsourcing Warehousing and Fulfillment.
Customer expectations these days are that an item ordered will be shipped within twenty-four hours. Again, this is not an easy task, and many choose to outsource warehousing and shipping. But be careful.
    1. Don’t put your entire stock with one distributor. Again, if the distributor goes bankrupt, “your entire stock of books will be frozen (locked up) by the bankruptcy court and unavailable to you for some length of time” (p. 278). So you may want to handle some yourself or hire a second service to handle, for example, book clubs, premium sales and review copies.
    2. In any case, make sure the fulfillment service you use understands the fragility of books. A torn cover can make a book unsaleable.

Outsourcing was all the rage several years ago. And it can be very helpful for small or large publishers. But there are always drawbacks with every choice, and the industry is full of horror stories about outsourcing gone very wrong. Publishers should consider the pluses and minuses carefully when deciding how to handle logistics.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 5:55 AM

May 7, 2008

Great Production

"Design, production, and manufacturing, in many publishing houses, are not considered as glamorous as editorial or sales, and may be looked upon a secondary. They should be viewed as quite the reverse," says publishing guru Tom Woll (p. 161). Why? Well, how many times have design and production saved editorial's and marketing’s behind when an author was late or a book needed to come out early? How many times has great jacket design made customers give a second look at something new? And how much money has been saved by shrewd print buyers?

Woll rightly points out, however, that it is unwise and unfair for others always to rely on production to bear the burden of fixing problems. When it comes to scheduling, one guideline we’ve implemented with some success is this: Do not schedule a book for publication until the revised manuscript is in hand.

That could sound draconian, but it works. Why? Authors may not always meet their deadlines because they are not employees of the publisher. So editors, as peers, have a limited set of tools they can use in working with authors to stay on schedule. But authors always want to know, "When will my book come out?" (Not so subtle subtext: "the sooner the better.")

Typically the answer would be, “In nine to twelve months.” By saying it can be scheduled only when the final draft is in hand puts responsibility (and motivation) properly in the author’s hands.

Exceptions? Certainly. A big upcoming event for which the book must be available. A big-name author whose bestseller is wanted by marketing (and probably finance) for this fiscal year. But those should be exceptions, not the rule.

That’s just one idea for trying to deal with the scheduling dragon. Any other good ideas out there?

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:45 AM

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