Monthly Archives: February 2013

What’s In a UNIT?

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The publishing industry is built on a few different functions that get a finished product into the hands of the awaiting public.  There are the Editorial and Developmental teams, the Production and Manufacturing teams, followed by the Customer Service, Marketing, Sales and Accounting teams that make the entire operation work to completion.  Interspersed there will be other teams that contribute like the Information Technology team, Research and Development team and the Executive team, but this is the line-up of a fairly basic publishing enterprise.  All of this activity is based on one very important item:  The UNIT.

What is the Unit?

Loosely translated, the unit is your final sellable product: Whether it is a print book, a print-on-demand book, an e-book, an enhanced e-book, a database, or any variation on these particular items.  The lifeblood of any organization is how well the unit will sell in the marketplace.  The process begins by assessing all the different aspects that will contribute to costs in the final preparation of the unit.  The unit cost, which is defined as the amount of money it takes to make one unit copy of the product, is determined by taking all of the associated costs to finalize the unit, combining them into a total, and then dividing that total by the number of books you want to print in your first printrun.

A Sample Unit Cost Breakdown

Marketing:                                       $2000

Editorial and Development:         $2500

Copyediting:                                     $3500

Photos and Figures:                        $2500

Design and layout:                           $5000

Proofreading:                                    $2750

Indexing:                                           $3250

Cover/jacket design:                      $2500

First Printing:                                  $7500     (3000 first printrun)

Total:                                                 $31,500/3000 = $10.50 total unit cost

This cost is composed of both plant and variable costs.  Plant costs are all the costs which are assumed to be one-time costs in the life of that particular title.  These would include: design, copyediting, composition, proofreading, indexing, cover/jacket design.  The other costs would entail Variable costs which would be those that are forthcoming from the printer in the process of finalizing the run for shipment.  These costs would include: Paper, printing, cover make-up and binding, jacketing (if applicable), shrink-wrapping/cartoning and final shipping to the warehouse.

Why is this Unit Stuff so Important?

This information is extremely important to determine how closely a title will come to delivering a revenue stream that is in the black instead of in the red when the final analysis is run by the financial mavens in the Accounting department.  Normally, the financial minds will complete a Profit and Loss statement that will give an estimated breakdown projection of how well the content should sell when it is put into the marketplace.  The actual costs are unknown, but estimated costs are used to build a projection and also solidify a number for a price on the title based on the guidelines of the individual publishing company.   Also, the P & L is an extremely important document in the formulation of the print-run, which gives us our final unit cost.  It’s always a good idea to UNDERSHOOT your sales projections by a percentage to ensure that if the content does not take off in the market you are not left with a dog of a title in the warehouse.

In Conclusion…

Know your market and your customers.  If you lose touch with what your customers want to buy, you will find yourself in a warehouse full of books that no one wants, and a “For Rent” sign on your office door.

Publishing like it Oughta Be!  (Homage to the ’86 Mets!)


Follow me on Twitter at:  Donald Schmidt@thebookkahuna


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Ebook Suit Article Enlightens Another Problem at PW: Proofreading!

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

The Original Read…

I was going to make this blog post an update of my article from yesterday.  I read the title and thought that this particular PW article Indie Booksellers Sue Amazon, Big Six over E-book DRM by Jim Milliot would be a perfect companion piece to Digital Rights Management: To Buy or Not to Buy, That is the Question…, but that is not to be the case until a future post later this week.  This post is going to deal with something near and dear to my heart: accurate proofreading.

Now I am sure that Jim Milliot is a professional of the highest order.  I met the man at the PubWest conference in Santa Fe, NM two years ago and had lunch with him.  This is no judgment of his writing or the way that he has constructed his article.  I am sure he is not the person who proofs the article before it is put on the website, but the number of errors in the article was glaring.  There were a good number of word breaks that were missing, where two words are running into each other.

Mom Knows Best…

About 15-20 years ago I was visiting my mother at her home on the East End of Long Island, when she started to complain to me about the quality of the books she was reading.  My mother is an avid reader and even at age 84 today, she still walks over to her local library and fills a bag with books to read.  Her complaint back in the day was that no publishing company seemed to be checking for typos and incorrect grammar before publishing a book.  In other words, there was no one proofreading the title in a word-for-word proofing.  She knew she had a captive audience in me for two very important reasons:

  1.  Working in publishing I have always been tasked with making sure that the titles that get out into the market are of the highest quality.  My mom knew I would make sure that the books I oversaw would be proofed and as free of misspellings and grammatical inconsistencies as possible.
  2. The other reason:  I was a single guy and probably getting a home cooked meal from my mother.  That in and of itself would qualify me as an attentive audience member!

Possible Explanation

I’m pretty sure that I told her about line-scanning, a very rudimentary proofread that will catch only the basic glaring problems.  I cannot say that PW is only doing a line-scan on the electronic articles they are publishing, but all across publishing as a whole, line-scanning is replacing a word-for-word proofread for one very important reason:  It costs a good deal less for the proofreading function when you do a line scan as opposed to a word-for-word proofread.


In going onto the Publishers Weekly website, I was asked if I wanted an electronic subscription for $18.95 per month.  I am really thinking about taking this step because my blogging is dependent on my access to publishing news sites for material to discuss and critique.  That being said, I would really like to have a high-quality experience when I go back and read these articles to draw information for future posts.  I may have stumbled upon an anomaly with this particular article, or this may be a problem that needs some interaction from the editor-in-chief.

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Digital Rights Management: To Buy or Not to Buy, That is the Question…

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While reviewing some articles on the Digital Book World site, I came across this snippet from Jeremy Greenfield.  I was intrigued by the topic and had to read more.  His initial premise that customers would pay more for a DRM free version of an e-book as opposed to a version that has DRM controls inserted, was a complete surprise to me especially based on the comparative costs ($5.99 for the DRM free version versus $4.61 for the version that has DRM inserted).  Is not having DRM worth an extra $1.38 for the paying customer?

DRM:  Akin to KGB?

What is DRM anyway?  The definition seen on, no other authority than Wikipedia, is this:

Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of controversial access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale. DRM is any technology that inhibits uses of digital content that are not desired or intended by the content provider. DRM also includes specific instances of digital works or devices. Companies such as Amazon, AT&T, AOL, Apple Inc., BBC, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Sony use digital rights management. In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the United States to impose criminal penalties on those who make available technologies whose primary purpose and function are to circumvent content protection technologies.”

This seems like a perfectly logical set of circumstances to me.  The seller is trying to protect their copyright on the Intellectual Property that the consumer has purchased.  The consumer, in purchasing the product, has purchased the ability to use that product in the way intended for the content, for self-entertainment or any other purpose that reading a product would entail.  The consumer has not purchased a license to take that electronic product and use it in any way they deem acceptable to themselves.  The version with DRM should be fine for anyone in the buying public who has no plans to parse and disseminate the content contained in the e-book.  I seriously doubt people are wringing their hands waiting to get an e-book so they can split it up and re-use it in combination with other DRM free titles they have on hand.

Control is bigger than PRICE?

The real reason that the buying public would embrace DRM free e-books for a higher price is simply a matter of control.  The level of control that an outside entity would have over their content on their device is just enough to make the public opt for higher costs in return for no “Big Brother” shadowing their e-books.  We’ve seen this outrage before when Amazon pulled e-books off Kindles some years back.  There was a public outcry due to the fact that no company should be able to unilaterally take a perfectly good product back from consumers after they have purchased this content and have it all set up on a Kindle.  It was not even the title in question that Amazon deleted, it was the fact that they could do this without notification.

In Conclusion

This debate will continue to rage, but I predict the eventual winner will be the e-book with the DRM installed.  In the final analysis, price trumps all other issues and will make the market move in the direction of lower e-book costs, as happens with products all the time.

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Fear and Loathing: Las Vegas, 2013

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

I spent the President’s Day weekend out-of-town, but I did want to check in about my trip to Las Vegas.  The Vegas that I saw is starting to show the signs of wear that you would expect to see from a city that is dedicated to being the playland for the Uber-Wealthy.  The highway billboards scream about Rolex watches and nightclubs with $250 cover charges, but where is the angst and indescribable conflict that Hunter S. Thompson was laying bare in his tome: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?  When the cabbie who took us to the airport and most of his neighbors cannot afford any of the items displayed on the billboards, a touristocracy of the first order is in play without equivocation.


I think the Vegas of today is becoming a caricature of itself.  The boom days of the post-mob 1980s expansion have given way to a new awareness; that to survive as an adult Disneyland, you need to be the adult Disneyland, but on a Disney World level.  Shows, concerts, events and the lure of winning it all on one pull of the lever will need to be the foundation of the Las Vegas revival going forward.  There will always be those who bet the rent or mortgage money on a chance to be a millionaire, but the regular guy (like me!) needs a place like Las Vegas to solidify his faith in the American Capitalist/Democratic system.  As inverse as this might sound, you have the freedom to take the rent money or mortgage money and wager it.  One person is in charge of making the decisions, and that is you.  This is an extremely empowering awareness when explored in the laboratory of Las Vegas.


On a personal note, I was walking down the sidewalk taking pictures of all of the hotels on the strip, when I happened to take a left-hand turn on the street between the Bellagio, and Caesar’s Palace.  Where the pedestrian overpass was allowing thousands of tourists to go from one side to the other, and possibly wager millions, at the base of a slight alcove in the Bellagio wall, a homeless man was urinating.  There before my eyes was the stark contrast of the realities:  Incredible opulence juxtaposed to utter poverty.  I was neither a detractor nor a proponent, but a witness to the event that completely encapsulated the meaning of the Las Vegas phenomenon.

But therein lies the rub, the myriad of questions surrounding this man could be leading to conclusions that are not explicitly relevant to the conversation.  Is he choosing this lifestyle of his own free will?  Did he have choices and advantages in his life that could have brought about a different set of circumstances?  Was he actually a tourist who needed to find a bathroom quickly?  As an observer, you cannot assume that what you see before your eyes is the actual fact of the matter.  This is the enigma of Las Vegas!


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Networking: Best Ways To Go…LinkedIn

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi!

I opened my email account the other day and what did I see, mail from LinkedIn that my profile was in the 1% of profiles viewed last year as they scrambled across the 200 million user mark.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I first got on LinkedIn, the IPad was still 5 years from hitting the market!

LinkedIn:  The Early Years

In the immortal words of David Byrne and Talking Heads, “This is not my beautiful house, or my beautiful car, HOW DID I GET HERE??”

When I signed up for LinkedIn, I was in the first 400 thousand people to sign up.  Actually, when they hit 100 million in 2010, I received a nice e-mail stating how great it was that I was a user in the first 500 thousand to join up.  At that time, I could see the viability of using the internet to link like-minded people together in various work enterprises, but the number of people on the site made it impossible to really get to the potential that we see today…

Even after I joined, I really did not do anything with my profile until 5 years later, when one of my staff sent me an invite to connect.  It was an odd occurrence, because I had forgotten I had the profile in the first place, but an e-mail showed up and she wanted to connect with me.  Once this event occurred, I knew that there was something to this “Social Networking Phenomenon”.  I linked with a few work associates, but still did not grasp the full potential of where this would end up going.

LinkedIn:  The “Bridge” Years

Next, I started to look for groups of publishing professionals.  At first, the associations that I belonged to like Book Industry Guild of New York and PubWest, were behind the curve on getting pages set up on LinkedIn.  One of my associates at my current job suggested that I start my own group.  I thought this might not be a bad idea, so I formed the “Denver Publishing Professionals Group” in 2007.  At this particular point in time there are 396 people in the group as of today.  By the way, anyone reading this blog can join the group, it is not bound by geographic location just as publishing in the electronic/digital age is not bound by any geographic location… 

LinkedIn: The Frantic/Frenetic Years

As the years 2008 rolled into 2009 and then 2010, the wind of change within the publishing community made it very clear that tough economic times were going to force everyone into a branding schema for self-preservation purposes.  The time to build a high-profile network was at hand.  Since I was still in school, it was harder to start the process, but once school ended last year, the invitations flew out to publishing pros across the board.  This is the spot to make your mark.  Get the profile up to speed as your living resume to the world, and work the hell out of it.  The numerical logistics are staggering; right now I have 1,911 first tier connections, with over 500 invitations outstanding.  I have targeted individuals in all groups that I have joined, and I am gaining more and more visibility with my blog each day.

It does take time and effort, but I set a goal of having 2000 first tier LinkedIn connections by the end of 2012.  I did not quite make it, but I am on course to have 3000 by the end of 2013.

My Advice

Use the tools you have to get visibility in your field.  Join groups, place posts on group discussion boards, and build your visibility right now.  Link your LinkedIn to your Facebook page, and get your name in front of the movers and shakers in your career field.  You may think you are over hyping yourself, but think of it more as personal branding.  You are the product, and it is up to you to build the following of people who will look to you as the expert.  I promise you, this can only help you.  Sometime in the future you will get a fantastic opportunity, and at that point I want to hear from you.   Heck, I want to hear from you now, so send me an invite on LinkedIn and let’s continue the networking process.  Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was…

My LinkedIn Profile!

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Barnes & Noble: What Does the Future Hold?

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More Thoughts on B & N

I recently read the blog post by Mike Schatzkin in The Schatzkin Files, More thoughts about the future of bookstores, triggered by Barnes & Noble’s own predictions for itself.  This post really got me thinking about what has already transpired with the demise of Borders and how that might be a blueprint for what will happen to these B & N stores as they begin to close.

There is no second guessing the fact that B & N did not have a stellar holiday season this year. There are signs of gloom and doom on the horizon, but one thing that must be kept in mind: B & N is not Borders. Now this blog post is not about figuring out what will happen to Barnes & Noble as they begin to contract, but rather, this is a blog post about what may happen to the physical locations that B & N relinquishes to get a better handle on a revenue stream of survival.

Oren Teicher

In 2011 I interviewed Oren Teicher who is the CEO of the American Booksellers Association. I was writing a paper for my Book Sales and Distribution course and Mr. Teicher was gracious enough to let me ask him some questions. He has subsequently been a keynote speaker at the PubWest Conference in Keystone, CO this past October. In the discussion, Oren Teicher was adamant that Independent booksellers were not a group that was going under due to monstrous competition, but these were a group of talented individuals who were re-inventing the bookstore as a community center within their towns and villages:

“Any Indie store is doing lots of things to keep in the public eye. They now have cafes or restaurants or coffee bars. They sponsor events all the time. They want to be a fun place that people want to visit. Since we now do most of our interactions with a computer screen, the need for people to get out and intermingle is becoming more and more important in this day and age. Events at book stores have been better attended than at any time in the recent past. People are looking for inclusion and human interaction. People really want a place that’s theirs. Stores have to be smart in creating that place that is fun. Mix the merchandise that you sell. Successful retailers understand that books can be given as gifts, but successful retailers know that customers want to give a book as a gift but consumers may want to give something else as well and this is where the indie bookstores can capture market share. The stores are being very innovative on coming up with ideas to be different.”

Betsy Burton

The stores that Borders originally occupied have in some instances become new independent bookstores. Could this be on the horizon for the Barnes & Noble locations? I think this is a distinct possibility. Every community has entrepreneurs who love reading, love words, and love books. Another interviewee in my 2011 “White Paper”: Independent Booksellers: A Consultant’s View “White Paper” on Staying Viable and Profitable, was Betsy Burton, the owner of The King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City, UT. She first explained who her customers were:

“Our demographic is 60-65 % women who are over 40, well read and literary, with families. We do a great business in kid’s books. I would categorize The King’s English as a general bookstore. We pride ourselves on hand-selling mostly hardcover fiction.
This hand-selling puts books into people’s hands. They get a book that they will actually enjoy. We have mostly all repeat sales. The store is in a neighborhood in Salt Lake City.”

And then gave me an accounting of the biggest challenges to their continued survival in the market:

“The most difficult challenge is Amazon and the challenge of online retail. Amazon is trying to lock up the e-book market. They seem to want to own the world. We collect and pay sales tax and they do not, there is a 10% disadvantage. Utah may be making Amazon pay sales tax due to the “Shop Local” campaign we have initiated and support here in SLC.”

With more locations available as B & N contracts, could we see the reemergence of the small Mom and Pop bookstore that caters to local repeat customers?

Solutions and Continued Profitability

The independent booksellers are on the right track with thinking different, but what else can they do to separate themselves from the herd and continue to have market-share?

1.       Evangelization through Scholarship Programs

Deserving students compete based on the criteria the store creates to win full or partial scholarships to college and/or university.  In this way, the parents all become continuous customers and the students also become future customers with their families as well. This engenders good will in the community and keeps the families coming back to your store due to customer loyalty.

2.       Facebook Branding

In her BEA podcast on Advanced Facebook Strategies, Cindy Ratzlaff laid out some fundamental priorities that any corporate entity should employ to brand themselves using all social media but specifically Facebook.

  1.  Have a Facebook fan page.
  2. Sell books from the Facebook page as well as the brick and mortar store
  3. Collect e-mail addresses from customers and build relationships through a mailing list database
  4. Build a “Welcome” page with a video.
  5. Have something to give away.  Whether it is some content, some space in the store for meeting, or something else.  Be generous with giving to the customers.
  6. Host author chats on streaming video podcasts through Facebook and give all Facebook Friends (customers) opportunities to interact with the author and ask questions.

3.       Twitter Community

Another BEA podcast, Advanced Twitter: Strategies and Practice for Bookselling Professionals by Kathleen Matthews Schmidt laid out the fundamental tenets of how to use Twitter to build a social network community by having conversations with your customers.  The best points were as follows:

  1.  Create a profile for the bookstore
  2. Observe other Twitter feeds to see what people are talking about
  3. It’s all about Reading, Writing and Sharing
  4. Tweets are forever, so be mindful of what you write
  5. These are short conversations for people who love books
  6. Your corporate bookstore logo should be on the Twitter profile
  7. Make 140 word bookstore biography:   Make it witty but not common
  8. Humanize the Tweets, personalize the feeds and reply to people when they Tweet back.
  9. The tone should be polite, useful and unique:  Tweets need to have a warm tone with no snarkiness
  10. For an Ice Breaker first Tweet, ask people what they are reading
  11. Give the followers a sense of community

Working in conjunction, a Facebook and Twitter presence should help to kick-start your marketing campaign.

4.      Guerrilla Marketing and Conclusion

                        Now that we know what tools to use, the rules of engagement would lead us to use economically thrifty ways of keeping our base customers evangelizing and coming back as repeat customers now and in the future.  We have a ready-made “nano-base” of repeat customers and that is the community to keep engaged

“Guerilla social media marketers get customer-focused by

  • Diving deep into the online communities and answering and asking questions
  • Writing web content that doesn’t boast about corporate greatness but talks about solutions to the customers’ challenges
  • Listening, responding and helping instead of using marketing monologues
  • Providing multiple channels for feedback through major social networks and tools like Live chat.”

Since you cannot fight the big corporate entities on the global level of sales, you have to meet and defeat them in the trenches at the grass-roots level.  The community bookstore can excel at this since the owners and staffs know the community much better than the national competition could ever know it.


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Workplace Bullying: Know the Signs of Bullying and Mobbing and Fight Back!

I implore all of you to watch this video. There are many like this on YouTube, but this one is exceptional. Going to work should not be a psychological battlefield.

I’ve been there, I know what it looks like and how it can have an effect on you emotionally. Stand up and fight back, and don’t let the bullies and mobbers win!!

Bullying Free Workplace

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