Digital Dilemmas

Everyone agrees on one thing when it comes to the future of digital publishing. No one agrees.

Andrew Benneman, manager of the Digital Media Group of Chicago University Press (CUP), bravely lays out some thoughts on how publishers should think about their electronic future in a “free” webinar. (It’s free in that while it won’t cost you hard, cold dinaro, you will have to fork over your contact information.) If you have fifty-six minutes to spare, you can see the slideshow “Developing a Digital Distribution Strategy” with voiceover by Andrew here.

These were some of the highlights I took away.
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Accounting Mysteries

The accountants I work with are some of my favorite colleagues. It’s not their fault that accounting is backwards.

For example, “accounts receivable” is money other people owe you. And what does accounting consider this money to be that you do not have? An asset of course! And money you do have in the bank would seem like a good thing, right? Wrong. It is a liability if you have unpaid bills. No wonder eyes glaze over when accountants speak. (But as I say, it’s not their fault.)
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How a Weak Book Kills a Strong Book

I’ve seen the pattern all too often. We as a publishing committee are enthusiastic about a book because we see it as unique or because we are passionate about the topic or because it touches on a trend that it is rising. Then a year or two after publication we look back with disappointment. It didn’t catch on. There weren’t many readers as passionate about it as we were. It may have had fine editorial quality, but the experience left a bad taste in our mouths.
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Do You Itch for a Niche or Are You on the Leash of Your Niche?

Publishing consultant Tom Woll thinks a publisher needs to start by defining its niche. In an earlier blog I said I agreed. My wise friend, Al Hsu, commented on that blog that authors need to think the same way, but that “calling” might be a better way to think about it—a term that gives both focus and flexibility. This of course can be a helpful way for publishers to approach their work as well.

Niche (or calling) can be defined by:
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Define Your Niche

With 200,000 new titles being published in English every year, getting attention for your books is one of the hardest and most important tasks a publisher has. What strategies could you use to succeed?

One option is to throw lots of money at it. Large publishers (there are about 8) do that all the time. What can smaller publishers (there are about 80,000) do?
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Vice President of Looking Out of the Window

The story was a legend in my family when I was growing up.

Once my mom went to have lunch with my dad, who worked as an executive at a company in downtown Minneapolis. When she got to his office she saw him behind his desk with his back turned to the door, looking out the window. She was so impressed by how hard he was working that she immediately elevated him to “Vice President of Looking Out of the Window.”
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Long, Long-Range Planning

Last month I was at a conference in Toronto and spoke on the history of InterVarsity Press. One of the themes I highlighted was how IVP has been a conduit for British-style evangelicalism into North America over the last sixty years, a tradition that continues to this day. This is a brand of Christianity that is more comfortable interacting with culture than its American counterpart and is not afraid of the intellectual enterprise. We think the influence of the Brits on the American scene in this way has been very salutary.
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