By Steven Piersanti, President, Berrett-Koehler Publishers October 12, 2011
1. Multichannel Marketing and Sales. Unlike many publishers that rely on just a few marketing channels, BK markets and sells our publications through dozens of different channels, including distributors around the world, bookstores, wholesalers, libraries, direct mailings to target audiences, e-marketing, publicity to media contacts, catalogs, social media, the BK Communiqué e-newsletter, Amazon.com and other internet sites, BK’s own websites, corporate and organizational sales, other special sales, author events, conference exhibits, award nominations, foreign rights sales, other subsidiary rights sales, college textbook sales, the BK Affiliate Network Program, the BK Book Club, and marketing partnerships with other organizations. This increases each publication’s chance to succeed because each has many diverse channels in which to find a market.
2. Strong Direct Marketing Outreach. Whereas many of BK’s competitors do little or no direct marketing of their publications (relying instead just on increasingly crowded resale channels), BK has always marketed directly both to our own lists of bookbuyers accumulated over the years and to specialized outside lists. Each book is marketed through both print mailings and digital mailings to target groups of potential customers. And each new book is featured in the BK Communiqué e-newsletter, which many people say is the best newsletter from any publisher and the only one they regularly read.
3. Digital Leadership. Publishers Weekly, in its annual story (May 23, 2011) about business book publishing, stated: “The publisher putting the most concerted focus on digital developments in the business book category is the independent, California-based Berrett-Koehler.” We began selling e-books in 2000 and have made many large investments in digital publishing, digital marketing, and digital sales since then, such as creating a digital community building function in 2007. We’ve also benefitted from being close to Silicon Valley, and we are staying in the digital forefront. For example, when Apple launched the iPad and iBookstore, BK was one of seven publishers in the world whose books were available on those platforms on day one. And when Google eBooks was launched, BK had over 500 publications available on day one.
4. Proliferating Digital Sales Channels. Whereas many publishers are relying on just a few e-book sales channels (such as Kindle and Nook), BK has already set up over 30 digital sales channels around the world – including many retail and wholesale channels as well as corporate digital channels, e-textbook channels, library channels, and various other channels. And we are aggressively adding new digital channels all over the world.
5. Subsidiary Rights Powerhouse. BK has already made over 1,900 foreign-language rights sales as well as 500 other subsidiary rights sales (including audio sales, video sales, film sales, and book club sales). Over 60 of our titles have been translated into 10 or more languages. Each new BK publication has a far higher likelihood of being published in multiple languages than is the case for most other publishers’ books. We have close relationships with publishers in many countries, an extensive network of international agents representing our books, and world-class subsidiary rights staff and systems.
6. Far-Reaching Community Support. BK authors become part of a community of authors and readers who help spread the word about BK publications, recommend BK publications to their contact lists, write about BK publications in their blogs and articles, and support BK’s mission of “Creating a World That Works for All.” The ultimate support for BK authors is the amazing BK Authors Cooperative, which is a one-of-a-kind such organization in the world. The Co-op gives BK authors far-reaching advantages because authors help each other in numerous ways to increase their success and impact.
7. Individual Attention to Each Author and Each Book. The economics of book publishing are very challenging, and many publishers try to cope by seeking to minimize interactions with authors; as a result, authors often feel that they are treated like nuisances and that their books receive little attention. In contrast, we view BK and authors as partners who are working together to make a difference in the world, and we collaborate closely with each author on each book. One of our signature ways of doing this is the Author Day that launches each new book. This unique event allows authors to interact with the entire BK staff and to work directly with our editorial, design and production, sales and marketing, and digital community building teams to help each book succeed.
8. Large Marketing Investment. Multichannel marketing, individual attention to each book, and the other marketing emphases described above require a lot of time and money. As a result, BK devotes over 20 percent of our revenues to sales and marketing, which is far above publishing industry averages. A big part of this investment is having 12 BK staff members (in addition to our outside sales forces and our marketing agents around the world) involved in marketing the 30 to 40 new books we publish each year, which is more than double the typical publishing ratio of marketing staff to books published. For example, it is common for each publicist at other companies to handle 50 to 100 new books each year, whereas each BK publicist handles 15 to 20 new books each year.
9. We Do What We Say We Will Do. Authors are frequently disillusioned when their publishers fail to follow through on their marketing plans. BK charts a course of integrity by (a) spelling out clearly, specifically, and realistically what we will do and not do to market each book; (b) doing everything that we said we would do; and (c) reporting back to authors that we have done what we said we would do and the results of those efforts. BK has created systems for reliably following through on all these steps with great consistency, which is a commitment and competency that few publishers display.
10. Extensive Support to Authors. Despite all that BK does to market and sell books, authors’ own marketing and sales efforts are still usually the biggest drivers of book sales. BK opens channels through which books can sell, but whether books sell in those channels depends largely on authors’ efforts. This is a marketplace reality for most publishers. But what distinguishes BK is that we provide much more assistance to authors than do most publishers to help authors succeed. This starts with being upfront about what is really going on in the marketplace and how authors’ and BK’s efforts will affect sales. It continues with BK providing more training, resources, and support than other publishers do to help authors be smart and effective in their marketing efforts. It continues with BK being open, candid, and timely in sharing information that can help authors make wise decisions. And it continues with BK being exceptionally reliable about such matters as meeting our schedules and helping get books to authors’ events.
Posted by BK at 3:54 PM
10 Secrets of Berrett-Koehler’s Success
Steven Piersanti, President, Berrett-Koehler Publishers October 12, 2011
1. BK’s Mission and Values. In selecting books to publish and in managing our business, we are guided by our mission of “Creating a World That Works for All.” This gives BK a strong sense of purpose, distinguishes BK in the marketplace, and attracts many authors, readers, and other BK community members. Supporting this mission are BK’s commitments to quality, stewardship, partnership, sustainability, and other values.
2. Fidelity to Vision. My opening statement in our first catalog in 1992 still guides BK: “If I were to choose one word to describe our vision, it would be ‘stewardship.’ By this I mean a deep sense of responsibility to administer the publishing company for the benefit of all of our ‘stakeholder’ groups – authors, customers, employees, suppliers and subcontractors, owners, and the societal and environmental communities in which we live and work. Each of these groups contributes to the success of our publishing venture, and each has a ‘stake’ or investment in its success, whether that investment is time, talent, money, or other resources.”
3. Independence. In an age of corporate consolidation, BK has remained fiercely independent, which allows us to chart our own course and not be governed by short-term stock market pressures. BK is owned by our stakeholders, including employees, authors, customers, suppliers, service providers, sales partners, and publishing industry friends.
4. Community Building. Much of BK’s success has always been due to our wonderful communities, including authors who refer and recommend outstanding new authors to us, our world-class manuscript reviewers who go above and beyond in helping our authors improve their manuscripts, devoted customers who spread the word about our books, sales partners around the world who help our books succeed, our production and printing partners who work with BK and our authors in uniquely collaborative ways, and our shareholders who have been tremendously supportive of BK’s mission and values. BK community members often report being amazed by the degree of shared purpose, mutual respect, openness, generosity, welcoming, collaboration, and hope that they experience in BK communities. All of these qualities are manifest in the BK Authors Cooperative, a one-of-a-kind organization in the world where authors come together to help each other in many big and small ways.
5. Author Friendly. BK has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most author-friendly publishing companies. This begins with a publication agreement that has many unique author-friendly provisions. It continues with numerous distinctive practices (such as our “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for BK Authors”) to improve the author-publisher relationship, enhance timely and open communication, and give authors more involvement than publishing norms in the design of their books. And it comes together by launching each new book with an Author Day that connects the author to the whole BK staff, gets everyone excited about the book, and creates close collaboration between the author and publisher on all aspects of making books successful.
6. Intensive Editorial Support. Whereas many publishers no longer provide much editorial support, BK’s publishing approach continues to be distinguished by in-depth, beginning-to-end coaching of authors by BK’s senior editors, detailed reviews of manuscripts by prospective readers of the books, and top-notch copyediting. Authors often find this editorial support to be more rigorous, value-adding, and helpful than what they have experienced from other publishers.
7. Design and Production Excellence. For each publication, BK assembles a design and production team that not only has top credentials and experience in book publishing but also is uniquely suited to the requirements of the particular publication. The result is that BK goes from final manuscript to bound book in less time than most publishers require while also publishing books that are exemplary in their appearance, functionality, and professionalism and virtually free of the typos, poor design, poor editing, and other mistakes that often plague books.
8. Multichannel Marketing and Digital Leadership. BK markets books through more channels in more ways – and invests a much higher portion of our revenues in marketing – than do most publishers. BK is also a leader in digital publishing, marketing, and community building, which was recognized by a recent Publishers Weekly story (May 23, 2011) that stated: “The publisher putting the most concerted focus on digital developments in the business book category is the independent, California-based Berrett-Koehler.” For more information about the many things that set BK’s marketing apart, please see my article, “10 Awesome Truths about Berrett-Koehler’s Marketing.”
9. Fiscal Prudence and Stability. BK competes in a tumultuous and challenging publishing environment that has led many of our competitors to have large layoffs and restructurings, to be acquired by other companies, or even to go out of business. BK has been fortunate to avoid these disruptions in part because of the continuing strength of our publishing program and in part because of fiscally solid financial practices. BK avoids practices that get other publishers in trouble, such as overspending on a few projects and basing authors’ compensation on speculation and bidding wars. We compete successfully for top authors by offering a whole range of distinctive publishing advantages that authors value highly rather than reducing the equation to just buying authors with the highest bid. BK’s remuneration to authors is based on the actual sales performance of books, which allows us to give attention to all of our publications, to devote greater resources to sales and marketing, and to be more stable as a company.
10. Continuity and Constancy. Unlike many publishers that change strategies, personnel, and even ownership frequently, BK has been a model of constancy. Not only have our mission, vision, and ownership remained durable, but we have also been blessed by great staff continuity: our average BK staff tenure is 9 years and our average BK manager tenure is 10 years. This has many benefits to authors, including maximizing the experience and expertise of the BK staff members working on their books and creating a higher likelihood than in most other publishers that the same team will work with the authors throughout the publishing process for their books.
Posted by BK at 10:59 AM
Cynthia Shannon, BK's Publicity Manager, lists five things authors shouldn't do when it comes to using social media:
Social media, when used correctly to promote your book, can help you build a platform and establish authority. When used incorrectly, it can severely backfire and make you look incompetent. Here are a few things not to do when using social media to generate awareness of your book:
1. Talk about your book. I know this may be confusing, but the best way to alienate your online audience is to talk about your book, and only your book, incessantly. It’s fine to weave the book into the conversation when you can do so seamlessly, but don’t force it. Don’t make every status update on Facebook be about your book either.
Instead: Find #topics on Twitter to which you can contribute useful information, and share interesting articles around that topic. Keep a mention of your book only in your Twitter bio. Limit FB posts about your book to the highlights only, like when you win the Pulitzer.
2. Set up automatic replies. Some people may argue for it, but automatic replies are the worst thing you can do with your social media account. They’re impersonal, and can make it obvious that you’re a robot. Just don’t even go there.
Instead: Make sure you’re getting real time notifications with every mention of your name on Twitter, reply to those messages asap. Don’t forget to also check out your followers list and politely follow back.
3. Put up a Facebook account for your book. This might come as another surprise. Facebook is an easy way to create a web presence, right? Wrong! Setting up a whole separate account for your book is going to take a lot of time, you have to gain fans from scratch, and inevitably the page is going to go stale.
Instead: Learn how to use your privacy settings on your personal profile, and work with Notes and Questions pertaining to your book. That way, when you write your second book, you can use the same platform and already have a built in audience. Note: Set up lists and use them well, otherwise you’re not following point 1 very well.
4. Plug your book on other people’s blogs. Going to someone else’s blog and posting a comment about your book that is not even remotely related to the topic of that person’s blog is just too obvious. It’s the equivalent of interrupting someone’s presentation with a random story about your cat.
Instead: Find a handful of bloggers whose writing you enjoy and start commenting regularly about their posts. Post a link to your website or mention your book only if the information you provide will enhance another readers’ knowledge about that subject.
5. Give up after six weeks of doing social media. Social media is a lot of work. Many people start off with a lot of drive and gusto but then decide after a few weeks that their foray into social media was a failed experiment. It’s hard to understand that everyone starts off with zero followers and no fans, but the more you use it, the faster you’ll get a fan base.
Instead: Get into the habit of doing social media every day for ten minutes. Actually use it, don’t just lurk in the background. Instead, send a tweet with a link, upload a picture, send a friend request to Jeevan (if you absolutely can’t come up with anything else). Focus on one platform, learn it well, then move on to the next. Social media is ever evolving, and you’ll learn as you go.
Posted by BK at 3:33 PM
Few books published in the last 20 years have been more influential than Leadership and the New Science. It has profoundly altered people’s understanding around the world of how organizations and leadership work, including the dynamics of order and change, control and participation, structure and chaos, planning and innovation, and much more. And it has deeply influenced the work of thousands of other business and management writers, scholars, and practitioners, who have incorporated its ideas into their programs, interventions, strategies, and curricula.
When Berrett-Koehler Publishers was founded in 1992, we were blessed to publish Margaret Wheatley’s pioneering book as one of our first three books. It quickly became a bestseller and continues to be a bestseller today, with nearly 400,000 copies sold in 18 languages. It has won numerous awards, including being named “One of the Top Ten Business Books of All Time” by Xerox Business Services Magazine. And it has had tremendous impact on the culture and organization of our company as well as on my own thinking and leadership.
Now we are blessed that Margaret Wheatley has agreed to prepare a 20th Anniversary Edition of Leadership and the New Science, to be published in July 2012. And this is where you come in. If your work, your relationships, your organization, or your communities have benefitted in some way from the ideas in Leadership and the New Science, we invite you to send Margaret Wheatley an example or story describing this benefit and what you have learned from it. Margaret will then select examples and stories to include in the 20th Anniversary Edition, and Berrett-Koehler and Margaret will place other stories and examples on websites promoting the 20th Anniversary Edition.
Please send your stories and examples by October 30, 2011, to Margaret Wheatley at firstname.lastname@example.org and to me at email@example.com. The stories and examples can be written (up to 500 words), or they can be videos (up to five minutes), or they can be pictures or artwork or poems or some other mode of expression.
I hope that you will join us in spreading awareness of the wonderful contributions of this revolutionary book.
President, Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Posted by BK at 3:46 PM
Associate Marketing Director Mike Crowley attended the whole workshop and even he learned one or two new things. However, as a service to our community, he decided to share his new-found knowledge with these five key takeaways about books, publishing, and marketing:
1. A clever twist or gimmick isn’t enough any more. If you are going to try to be a thought leader in a particular area you have to do one of three things: predict the future, sound the alarm, or call the game. More importantly, what you predict, sound, or call shouldn’t be the same as what others have already predicted, sounded or called. The U.S. economy is going down in flames and the resulting instability could impact financial markets worldwide? You don’t say! Actually, everyone has already said it.
2. LinkedIn is your corporate boardroom — Facebook is just your playground. Facebook is useless for promotional purposes if you’re a business author. You want someone to “like” your work on Facebook? Fine, but that person will also “like” a bunch of other things like “Laughing so hard that milk shoots out of your nose.” You are judged by the company you keep. LinkedIn is where people go to find serious professional information, and that’s where you should put your energy. So fill out your profile, join key professional groups, and leave Facebook for recommending movies and sharing vacation photos. Sure, mention your book, but that’s not what’s going to sell it.
3. “If it’s good enough to steal it’s good enough to productize.” Think about things you’re giving away at your presentations. If people are grabbing them like popsicles in the Sahara maybe you could charge something for them. Presenter Michael Soon Lee did speeches to realtors, who are always desperate to prove to their clients that they’re actually doing something. He made a list of 13 things realtors do. They loved it! So he started selling it for a buck. Then he decided to make it fancy: he laminated it for maybe $.25. And sold it for $4.95. That’s better royalties then he would make per book!
4. Budget? What budget? To put publishing companies’ minuscule promotional budget in perspective: Procter and Gamble brings out about as many products every year as Berrett-Koehler—about 50 for P&G vs. about 40 for BK—with roughly 10,000 times the annual sales. Bigger publishing companies have bigger budgets of course, but they bring out hundreds of products. Overall the numbers are the same. The publishing industry is like the Bumble Bee – somehow it flies, but it shouldn’t.
5. A personal brand is more than what you think it is. One way to strengthen your personal brand is to actually make it personal in a way that connects with your audience. Presenter (and BK author) Mark Levy had a brilliant magician as a client, but the guy was struggling. His client had started doing magic as a kid growing up in a very affluent community, performing for what was, he realized in retrospect, a very demanding audience. So he knew these people, he knew how they thought. Mark took that and rebranded him as “The Millionaire’s Magician.” Mentioned his background, got him to dress better, and pitched him to very upscale audiences. He did the same tricks—I mean “illusions”--as before, but he is now a millionaire magician among millionaires.
Posted by BK at 6:06 PM
BK's chief Steven Piersanti outlines his thinking and gives five reasons why he feels that acquiring seven titles from PoliPoint is a very good idea:
Over the years Berrett-Koehler Publishers has had many opportunities to acquire the rights to books published by other publishing companies. Yet until now we have always passed on these opportunities. So why did we jump at this opportunity? Here are five reasons why we found these seven PoliPoint Press titles to be a great addition to the Berrett-Koehler book list.
#1. All seven titles are important and well-written books. They make significant new contributions to major topics in our world today, including health care, education, politics, free speech, journalism, racism, and the economy.
#2. Each of these books is a great fit with the Berrett-Koehler publication list. Each advances our mission of “Creating a World That Works for All” and each fits right in with our “BK Currents” line of books.
#3. We wanted to be connected with these authors, because each is an authority of her or his topic, is highly respected, and has a great story to tell and message to share.
#4. Several of these books have strong sales potential. And as if to make my point, as I am writing this I just received word that Never in My Wildest Dreams is currently number 2 on the Seattle Times hardcover bestseller list.
#5. We always look to publish books that will be of enduring relevance and have a long sales life, instead of books that will have only a brief day in the sun. These books will continue to be important and useful for many years to come.
It is no coincidence that these five points closely match how Berrett-Koehler evaluates any potential title for publication. Over 1,500 new book projects are proposed to Berrett-Koehler each year, and these factors are central in our deciding what to publish and not publish.
Any thoughts, responses, or reactions would be most welcome.
Posted by BK at 2:39 PM
Many people have great ideas for nonfiction books that help change the world politically or socially or that help individuals grow in spirit and purpose. That said, keep these seven questions in mind when formulating your book proposal:
1. Is the book really needed? Authors often write books that they feel people need to read, but that fact does not mean people will read them. More and more people are getting cancer, recovering from mental illness, overcoming addictions, or getting sick of the economy every year, but there are already 1,001 books on these subjects. Why is yours different? What makes your book especially compelling? If you have teenage children or nieces and nephews, pitch your book to them and gauge their interest level -- you'll receive the same response from the marketplace.
2. Is your book tightly focused? Too many people want to write a “world as I see it and how it should be” type of book where they comment on all aspects of a particular subject. These sprawling works hold little appeal for most book buyers. Readers don’t want a grand vision or blueprint for a new government or economy or behavioral model (unless you are an influential world leader who has the clout to make these changes happen). Exhaustive books are just that –- exhausting. If you can’t sum up your book's core premise in two sentences, it’s too scattered.
3. Who is the audience for your book? Don’t look for overly general markets and say that your book is "for everyone concerned about the environment," "about democracy," "about spirituality.” In nonfiction, there is no such thing as a general reader. Be specific and carve out a niche for which a sizable yet specific audience exists. No one walks into a bookstore and asks for a book about "something that could be for everyone."
4. Are your qualifications, background, and knowledge directly related to your subject? There are doctors who write about politics, politicians who write about economics, and economists who write about spirituality. The problem is that these people lack the qualifications and professional consulting and speaking experience in the subject they are writing about. Are professional qualifications the only measure of authority on a subject? No, but consider this scenario: if you needed surgery, would you go with (1) someone who has conducted a lot of independent research and learned a lot about medicine, or (2) a board-certified surgeon? Keep in mind that you can disregard everything stated above if you are a celebrity, a fact that explains why Tori Spelling can write a New York Times bestseller about parenting.
5. What are the competing titles? This question is related to question number 1. Who else has written on this subject and what other books are already out there? How does your book differ (again, in a compelling way) from those? Be realistic and don’t list books by Elizabeth Gilbert, Deepak Chopra, Thomas Friedman, and Malcolm Gladwell as competitive titles, unless you are as famous as they are. Then again, if you're famous, you can write about anything you want.
6. What will the length be and how will the layout look? Be aware of certain parameters that affect your book. Books are getting shorter, so you will run up against more reservations once you pass the 200-page mark. Color photographs and other graphic elements increase the costs for most publishers, so they will have to price the book higher to recoup costs. Inserts such as CDs or other materials also drive up costs. Just be mindful of factors like these.
7. How will you actively market and support the book? Remember, books don’t launch movements; movements launch books. In the same vein, a book doesn't launch an author's career and visibility; an author's career and visibility are what launch a book (i.e., don't expect a book to kick-start your career). Don't tell the publisher that you are available to write articles, speak at events, and engage in other promotional efforts. You should already be writing, speaking, and consulting. Have a ready audience before you start your book so you have a base that you can market and sell the work to.
And finally, be careful when making assumptions about publishers and how publishing works. Publishing is an industry unlike any other, and the rules that govern business elsewhere don’t apply here. Learn the lesson that Borders recently learned. The company's last five CEOs did not have a publishing background and tried to run the company like the ones they used to run. What could have worked wonders in other arenas drove a great store to bankruptcy.
Alright, now get back to work.
Posted by BK at 1:33 PM
Hello BK community members,
I just returned from a trip to Singapore, where I met with our partners at McGraw-Hill Asia, who distribute our English-language print editions in that part of the world. I was pleased to see that BK books were amply represented on Singapore bookstore shelves; click here to see the 100+ or so I spotted. Our partners offered some advice about what authors can do to help their books sell overseas, advice I’ve heard echoed by other distribution partners in Europe, Australia, and Africa. Here are their pointers for the top six things authors can do to influence international sales (and a seventh one from another, equally helpful source):
1. Travel overseas. The single most impactful thing an author can do is visit in person. Just as in the US, immersive speaking events build community and drive sales. And foreign media is much more likely to cover your book if you’re coming to town.
2. Include international examples in your book. Overseas book markets are just as crowded as the US’s. If the stores are faced with choosing between a book that has local applications and one that’s just US-centric, they’ll go local every time. If your book is already published, consider creating an online supplement showing international applications and case studies illustrating your ideas in action.
3. Make connections with international professional associations. Groups like Global Speakers Federation and the Australian Institute of Management may be interested in hosting member events featuring YOU. AIM has a particularly good reputation for planning events well and supporting book sales at those events.
4. Collect international endorsements. Space on your book's cover is limited, of course, but just like us, publishers can share endorsements from overseas luminaries with their partners, to help build buzz and sales in their territories.
5. Team up with other authors. Over the last several months, I’ve seen impressive and inspiring examples of authors helping other authors by sharing their international networks, or by planning joint overseas trips. If you’re planning international travel, consider posting about it on Community Groups that you belong to on LinkedIn, or post news of your trip and what help you’re looking for on your blog site. And if you haven't started blogging yet, bkcommunity.com is a good place to start.
6. Keep in touch...and plan ahead. If you’re planning international travel, or if your community of fans already has a sizable international component, do let your publisher know, so they can alert their relevant partners. Remember that it can take several weeks to ship books across oceans and continents, so the more notice, the better. Many of our partners request at least two months notice to ensure adequate support of author travel in their territories.
7. Read 7 Ways to Get International Publicity, a piece by Alan Stevens that BK author Jennifer Kahnweiler recommended to me (thanks, Jennifer). It's brilliant and I have also posted the piece on my blog.
I hope this advice is useful to you. If any globe-trotting authors or others have additional suggestions, please do feel free to share with your fellow BK community members here.
All the best,
Vice President, International Sales and Business Development
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Posted by BK at 2:47 PM
Hi there. We need to talk. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now (the last two weeks, to be exact), and…
Oh my God, this is really hard… Let me start again.
I like you, I really do. The past four months we’ve worked together on publicity for your book have been truly amazing for me. For both of us, I hope. But it’s time to go our separate ways. I’m sorry, but we need to break up. I’m sorry, but I need to see other authors.
Actually, I’ve sort of met someone else. His book is about to publish and the press release isn’t even done yet. He needs me. Remember how much time you and I spent on that? You were so meticulous in your revisions, sending me four different drafts in the span of two days. I accepted all your changes, even if I didn’t agree with them. Now I have to start all over again with someone new. It pains me too, you know.
Of course you can still call me, but let’s cool it for a bit. Maybe try emailing me instead every couple of months or around the holidays (?) It’s not that I didn’t enjoy our long talks every week, it’s just that there’s only so much to talk about once the initial fascination associated with the pub date and media frenzy has died down. No, I can’t write another press release for you – that’ll just throw us back together in a dysfunctional relationship. Ok, maybe I’ll make this one exception to send out a media copy, but it doesn’t mean that we’re back together, okay?
Look, I want us to be friends. I’ll always be happy to hear about big media for your book, in fact, it’s imperative for both of us to keep each other in the loop. Just keep in mind that big media, by definition, is BIG, as in, national, as in, the Birmingham County Times is not big news. NPR is big news. The New Yorker is big news. But Silent Bob’s Career Podcast is not big news. Yes, I will call you if Oprah calls.
I’ll confess that despite me saying it’s not you, it is a little bit you – kind of. I mean the under-appreciation thing. Not even a thank-you card for all the hours I spent researching, compiling, pitching, organizing, reporting, staring at the computer and developing carpal tunnel in my wrist? It’s not like I expected to be mentioned in the dedication of your book like all your exes, since our relationship started only after you had submitted that part, but you could have shown some sign of appreciation. Chocolates would have been nice. Even a cheap-o Whitman’s Sampler. Oh well.
We did our best to make it work – and it certainly had its moments, didn’t it? But now it’s ending, and we both need to move on. Please know that I’ll always fondly remember you and our frenzied conversations and urgent emails in the dead of night, but I have a new author in my life now.
Posted by BK at 12:29 PM
Steve Piersanti, our publisher, has made it official -- he is going to start getting involved with social networking. While this is cause to celebrate in most cases, the staff is concerned about some trends we have already started to see:
1. Constant irritability about not having as many Twitter followers as Justin Bieber.
2. Starts engaging in that annoying practice of one-or two-word updates that make no sense ("Banana car!")
3. Posting sensitive author comments to his blog, "S@*!t My Authors Say."
4. Despises and routinely criticizes other publishers' online presence as "fancy-pants showboating."
5. Nonstop pseudo-humble updates to Facebook like, "Oh wow, an article about little ol' me in this charming small-town paper that no one reads -- the Wall Street Journal."
6. "Friends" other publishers just so he can post smack on their walls.
7. Makes up stories about hanging out with Charlie Sheen.
8. Really rubs it in the staff's faces on rainy days with updates like, "Is it wet outside? I didn't realize. You see, I work at HOME. Nice, warm, not wet HOME. Working in my pyjamas without shaving...at...you guessed it, HOME."
9. Hacks into authors' Facebook pages and changes the "People Who Inspire You," "Political Views," and "Activities and Interests" entries to "Steve."
10. Incessant tweets about "that moron executive managing editor."
Posted by BK at 3:29 PM
Our Executive Editor reflects on his first year at BK and everything that threw him for a loop about us (despite the fact that the man has been in publishing for decades):
I must confess that I was a bit stumped when Jeevan asked me to share my biggest surprise on joining Berrett-Koehler. The problem was most certainly NOT a lack of surprising things from which to choose. I’ve been pretty much amazed since the first day I got here at one thing or another. To name just a few awe-inspiring examples:
1. The employees got to vote on whether or not to give themselves a bonus at the first staff meeting I attended. Heck, we even vote around here on which holidays to take.
2. Berrett-Koehler authors are so proud of their affiliation that they’ve formed their own “club,” an independent co-op that stages retreats and provides tools and mentoring.
3. Berrett-Koehler does not “announce” whimsical print runs for marketing purposes as do many publishers. (Hint: If you read “First printing of 50,000 copies,” this translates in publisher-speak to 10,000 copies.)
Of all the things that have surprised me, our standard Publishing Agreement with authors has surprised me the most. First, I can’t resist pointing out that I was once chided as a young editor for sending a blank standard agreement to an author who was a member of the Author Guild. Trade Secrets! Here at Berrett-Koehler, we just post all our agreements for all to see here.
There are plenty of forward-thinking and equitable parts of our author agreement, but one paragraph, namely Paragraph 13, really stands out: “Right to Terminate Agreement.” To my knowledge, Berrett-Koehler is the only book publisher to offer authors, without asking, the right to cancel their agreement at any time for any reason. This one clause does more than anything else to signal our collaborative model—if an author just doesn’t feel that our publishing partnership is working for them, they are entirely free to move on. (And, unlike other publishers, we also don’t insist on an “option” for the author’s second book when signing the first.) I don’t know any other publisher who would consider taking the risk of adding this clause to their standard agreement. Yet, I’m told this clause has been exercised only once in the company history, and that parting was entirely amicable. (The departing author even asked us to continue selling his book’s subsidiary rights on his behalf.)
This clause is just one symbol of BK’s fierce determination to treat our authors as equal partners. Some of our other initiatives in this effort are our “author days” and our Author Bill of Rights. It’s a good feeling to know that Berrett-Koehler authors publish with us not because they’re locked into a contract or option, but because they have the freedom to choose the best place to be.
Posted by BK at 4:44 PM