June 19, 2012
Don't Tick Off Your Copyeditor
At the end of last month Postmedia Network, Canada’s largest newspaper publisher, announced layoffs that targeted copyeditors. The next day, Canada’s National Post published a crossword puzzle that was completely filled in.Continue reading "Don't Tick Off Your Copyeditor"
May 31, 2012
The Stats Solution
The problem with publishing? Clearly, not enough statistics.
Baseball has wins and losses, RBIs, home runs, strikeouts, saves and ERAs. But those are so twentieth century! Today what matters is OBP (on base percentage), SLG (slugging average), TBs (total bases), DICE (defense-independent component ERA) and RF (range factor).Continue reading "The Stats Solution"
February 15, 2012
What Publishers Can Learn from the Airlines
Book publishers are desperate for new business models. While standing in line at the airport recently, I thought maybe we could look to the airline industry for inspiration. If we did, here are some things you might see from publishers:Continue reading "What Publishers Can Learn from the Airlines"
December 14, 2011
The Obvious Solution for Publishers
Publishing faces unprecedented challenges these days, with the decline of bookstores and the rise of the Internet and ebooks. The ultimate difficulty may, in fact, be the digital dilemma.
Music, videos and news have been digitized, and which has sent those industries into chaos. And all sorts of other information have been digitized and liberated on the Internet for the greater good of the planet--at the ability of content providers to make a living, which ultimately has a negative effect on new content produced and so a negative effect on the planet. But I digress.
What is a publisher to do?Continue reading "The Obvious Solution for Publishers"
August 9, 2011
Making Money on Nothing
When I was on vacation, playing cards with friends, someone said, “Hey, have you seen these? Try one.” It was Hershey’s new Kisses Air Delight. It’s the same Hershey’s Kiss you’ve always loved, but now “gently blended into a light, airy texture.”
What this means is that you are now paying the same amount of money for less chocolate. In place of the missing chocolate, Hershey’s has added an ingredient that is entirely free to them—air.
I don’t know what you think of this, but I think it is brilliant.
It’s time for publishers to do the same—make money on something that costs publishers nothing or on something they do anyway but don’t currently charge for. If they did, the problems of the industry would disappear. Here are a few ideas I’m working on:Continue reading "Making Money on Nothing"
August 11, 2010
July 15, 2010
Dedicated to the One I Love
Those who know my wife, Phyllis, know that she is a larger-than-life personality. Those who know me, know that I am not. We are the poster children for Opposites Attract. I've often said that Phyllis can strike up a conversation with a fencepost, and get the post to do most of the talking!Continue reading "Dedicated to the One I Love"
May 13, 2010
What's in a Name?
We don't usually get to choose our names. They come to us at birth unbidden. Some people change their names later on, of course, like Chad Ochocinco or Prince have done--in their case for apparently promotional purposes.Continue reading "What's in a Name?"
January 5, 2010
June 8, 2009
Redeeming the Office
I admit I'm a fan of The Office with it's all-too-painfully-true portrayal of life in the cubes. One time I found myself yelling at the screen, "But I don't want to be Michael!" There was nothing to do but admit the truth, of course.
A colleague at work recently drew our attention to a brief parody of The Office from the folks at Rightnow.org. The camerawork and the writing are spot on. No doubt it has a bit more redeeming social value than even the original. So check it out here.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:12 AM
April 21, 2009
Not the Center of the Universe
This really bugs me.
People who should know better--including Ph.D.s--keep making the same mistake. I just read it in a 2008 book, which I will not name to protect the guilty.
The Myth. In the Middle Ages people believed the sun went around the earth because it put the earth and humanity at the center of the universe--elevating the prominence of humanity in the cosmos.
The Fact. According to Medieval cosmology, the hierarchy of the cosmos was from the outer extremes (most important and most perfect) down to the center (least important and least perfect). Aristotle said that the heavenly realms were so superior that they were made of something entirely different from the four elements of earth, water, air and fire. The fifth element--the quintessence, or aether--was found only in the heavenlies. In other words, the closer to the center something was, the less ethereal, and thus the more imperfect it was.
Earth, being irregular (mountains, valleys, etc.), changing and subject to corruption, was the least perfect. The moon, as Medieval cosmologists could clearly see, also had imperfections but fewer than earth. The planets were more perfect (but had an irregular motion accounted for by epicycles). The realm of stars was even more perfect. Beyond that, well, heaven of course. Some cosmologies also put the most imperfect--hell--at the very center of the earth itself.
So putting earth at the center of the cosmos was not a statement of human hubris but of human humility.
There, I feel better already.
March 16, 2009
Abercrombie & Fitch, Attorneys at Law
Of all the shticks on NBC's The Office, one of my favorites is the rivalry between Dwight and Jim. The pranks Jim plays on Dwight are priceless--and perhaps a bit too reminiscent of actual jokes played by some of my colleagues on other colleagues (never by me, of course).
Linda Doll and I included one of my favorite stories in our anecdotal history of InterVarsity Press, Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. It highlights the friendly rivalry between the staff of Campus Life magazine (some thirty-plus years ago when it was run by Youth for Christ) and the staff of InterVarsity's HIS magazine.Continue reading "Abercrombie & Fitch, Attorneys at Law"
February 12, 2009
To my friend, Samuel L. Clemens
Mark Twain is without a doubt one of the most colorful characters of the American literary scene. Here is an episode (found in John Tebbel's Between Covers) recounted by Twain's publisher, Frank Nelson Doubleday, in his The Memoirs of a Publisher. I reproduce it here for your enjoyment without comment, as no comment is required.Continue reading "To my friend, Samuel L. Clemens"
October 13, 2008
Life as a Movie Star
Fame is a difficult burden to bear. I know.
Several times I've been asked to be interviewed for videos InterVarsity Press has done to highlight new books. Most recently, I have a starring role for the piece on John Stott's fiftieth anniversary edition of Basic Christianity.
It had over 250 views on youtube.com in its first month, until I told my extended family about it and it rocketed up to over 260. So you can see the kind of load I am under.
By comparison JibJab's "Time for Some Campaignin'" has over 1,250,000 views in two months. Now you know why the paparazzi are after me the way they are.
After we showed the Stott video at an all-office meeting, exactly zero people came up to me and told me what a great job I did. And zero told me I had room for improvement. How am I to cope with such an overwhelming response?
I also make a cameo appearance in the video Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. That one isn't even on youtube. A good thing too! Who knows what invasions of privacy I might suffer if it were!
Fame, however, is fleeting. I am prepared to deal with that too.
July 7, 2008
20,000 Staples. How Do You Measure, Measure a Career?
Today I used my 20,000th staple here at IVP. It's taken thirty-five years to reach this milestone. But I have achieved in my career what few others ever dreamed--or ever thought worth keeping track of!
How do I even know this? When I first came as a lowly assistant editor, I was issued a phone, a bunch of blue pencils, a stapler and a box of 5000 staples. After eight years or so, the box of staples was empty. So I went to the supply cabinet and grabbed another. Four empty boxes later, the record was reached. (And that doesn't even count the times I've used someone else's stapler or the automatic stapler in the photocopy machine!)
I'm not sure how many different offices I've occupied (five, I think) in those years, how many commas I've deleted, how many airplane flights I've taken, how many emails I've sent (though I save them all, so I could add them up if you really want to know), how many times someone has interrupted me with a question, how many stories I've listened to in the hallway, how many cups of coffee I've consumed, how many meetings I've been to, how many lame jokes I've laughed at or how many phone calls I've made. (I'm not a nerd after all!) But for some reason the staples stuck.
As I've mentioned here before, large quantities of J course through my veins, which no doubt explains a lot. But why staples? I have no idea. I do know, however, that they've connected pages of memos, letters, reports, forms and faxes representing the birth of ideas and the death of dreams, the routine of standard procedures and the one-of-a-kind reply, the affirmation of a job well done and the diplomatic response to a complaint, the mass dissemination of information and the individual offer of an answer. In this way staples are a metaphor for what editors and publishers do--connecting people and ideas and actions.
All that gets closer than do staples to answering the lead question of how you measure a career. One ancient writer struggled with the same sorts of issues and did a tad better than I have here. He said that rather than counting staples, we should instead number our days. When we do, the first thing we notice is that they are limited, finite. Whether a few or a lot, we only get so many.
What, then, do we do with those days? Will we be wise or foolish with them? In my mind, we have each been given gifts or a gift, some ability in what we do or say, or how we think or see things, that is true to ourselves and that usually stands out to others. It may be the ability to drive a truck safely over hundreds of thousands of miles. It may be the ability to bring healing to the hearts or bodies of people. It may be making numbers into disciplined soldiers. It may be anticipating the needs of others even before they themselves are aware of them.
We begin to measure a career by identifying these gifts. But then we go further. We don't just ask "What am I good at?" but "What gives me pleasure, joy or satisfaction when I do it?" Then we can ask if we have been faithful to the gift we have been given and to the Giver of the gift.
How do you measure a career? Perhaps that's how you do it.
May 15, 2008
There is a misconception abroad that white folk have no ethnic culture. We are, well, plain vanilla folk who lack the distinctive zest and pizazz of other groups. Not so. Here is a fun eye-opener squashing that myth which folks in publishing will no doubt especially enjoy.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:27 AM
April 25, 2008
Unedited at 100
Just over a year ago I posted my first blog on Andy Unedited, stating that “to write a blog, you need to have an interesting personality or provocative opinions. I have neither.” I’m still not sure I have either, but in this, my one hundredth posting, I do know I’m having fun.
Here are some highlights from the first 100:
Mistiest Watercolored Memory: Vice President of Looking Out of the Window. It brought back lots of found recollections about my dad.
Most Controversial: The Serial Comma and the Plagues of Egypt. Who would have thought the lowly comma could arouse such passions?
Most Whimsical: Dear Santa. Old St. Nick brings out the wish list in us all.
Title with the Cleverest Rhyme: Do You Itch for a Niche or Are You on the Leash of Your Niche? Actually, it was the only title with a rhyme.
Truest Confession: Trashing a Book. Guilt still hangs over me for this.
Most Opinionated: Grammar Was Made for People, Not People for Grammar. I guess I do have some opinions after all.
Biggest Grammatical Error: Publishing that Lasts. I'm afraid that first sentence was not a case of breaking the rules on purpose, as my loving wife gleefully pointed out.
Post That Made My Staff the Most Nervous: "I Love to Fire People." There was really no need to worry. I haven't fired anyone . . . yet!
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:50 AM
April 1, 2008
A Gentle Madness
I met a pastor recently who introduced himself this way: “Hi, I’m John.” (Not his real name.)
“Hi, John,” I said.
“I buy books,” he replied. It was the beginning of a sad tale that sounds like fiction, except that it is true. John confessed that he didn’t just buy books. He was addicted to book buying. In fact, he had already bought over 850 of IVP's 1200 books in print and was closing in on the rest. That doesn't include Bible study guides or booklets, though he's sorely tempted to pick those up as well. "Just to complete the set, you know," he said. "Like Pokemon. Gotta catch 'em all."Continue reading "A Gentle Madness"
December 14, 2007
Literary Death Scene
When a bookstore goes out of business, what do the books do? That is the penetrating questions asked by the folks at Loome Antiquarian Booksellers, where one of the employees is the son of IVP's business manager, Jim Hagen. You can find the very literary and humorous answer here.
Save the Books!
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:05 AM
December 10, 2007
We have been a very good publisher this year. We have paid our bills on time. We have one of the highest "in stock" rates in the industry. We have published many valuable books. We got several awards for our book designs. We have played nice with our authors. We told the truth in our marketing (even if we did get a little "excited" now and then). So I hope you will keep that in mind as Christmas gets near.
I know your elves are working harder than ever this time of year. Maybe they would have time to squeeze in one or two of the following into your sleigh before you take off.
1. Lots and lots of shelf space in bookstores so people can see our award-winning covers, not just our award-winning spines.Continue reading "Dear Santa"