Monthly Archives: March 2013

Publishing Networkers and Baseball (Yankee Fans)

Yankee Congrats on Completion of my Masters Degree

Yankee Congrats on Completion of my Masters Degree

AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR…

Hi All:

I am the founder of the Denver chapter of “Yanks in Exile” group on Facebook.

I have scheduled a viewing party on APRIL 4, at 4:30 PM at:

CB & Potts

555 Zang Street

Broomfield, CO

Yankees versus Red Sox opening series viewing Party!!  Join with fellow Publishing Professionals,  Yankee and Baseball fans to usher in the new season!

Go Yankees!

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Layoff Phase III: Excellence: Is it Subjective?

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Spring Training has Begun!

http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2013/03/05/layoffs/

This article in Fortune is an excellent example of why layoffs are a bad way to run a corporate structure.

If you read my bio, you will note that I have been working in the publishing industry for a good many years.  I have had the good fortune to work at some enterprises that pride themselves on the caliber of the employees that they have within their corporate structure.  I have learned from some incredible publishing minds, and been in the midst of people I would rather stay away from as well.  Within all of these individuals, was a drive for excellence in what they were accomplishing in their craft.  Whether the colleague was someone liked, or someone not necessarily cared for, you had a shared goal and that was the overriding factor in how you achieved success in your given workplace.

Good Employee/Bad Employee

The lauded employee was the one who went the extra mile to make sure that some project was completed correctly, on time, and on or under budget.  They did not mind that they might have to put in some extra time to get everything finalized for a revenue capture, but the extra diligence was noted by the manager overseeing the project.  Have we lost this view of excellence?  Have we become a corporate society where whims and cronies overshadow those with real potential for producing and excelling at given tasks?  Are we now the “T-Ball” generation of workers, where shared responsibility in bad times is offset by Star-Performers in good times?  My question would be “Where are the Star Performers when things don’t work out as planned?”

The T-Ball Generation

I fear that as a nation we are becoming one that looks at people in a very different light.  The “T-Ball” mentality, as I refer to it, has everyone on an even playing field going through the daily grind of working out productivity.  When the company as a whole loses revenue, the entire team is subjected to reviews that are sub-standard since the goal of the entire company is to make money and keep the enterprise viable.  But not so fast on this line of thinking:  The entire company has no input into how the products are Developed, Marketed and Sold, so it would seem that some areas, like the one that produces the product on time, on budget, and at the highest quality should be exempt from this line of thinking since they were given a task and completed the task assigned.

Shared Responsibility vs. Lack of Strategic Vision

On the other hand, when good things happen and the products are selling, “Star-Performers” are rolled out in front of everyone for their viewing pleasure.  Only when times are good do the “Star-Performers” get a mention, when times are bad, the company staff as a whole are to blame for underperforming.  Isn’t strategic vision the focus of the executives on the top?  If the company goals were not reached, then some executives have some “splainin” to do.  This is a morale killer and will be the start of staff defections faster than you can say “jumpin jehusaphat” when economic times begin to improve.

Employees would like to be in an environment that tightens the belt when revenue projections don’t meet goals instead of knee-jerk layoffs to offset the losses.  The Japanese model until very recently treated the staff employee as a valued commodity in the corporate enterprise and did not have layoffs involved.  In good times, everyone prospered, in bad times, the company tightened the belt and made sure all of the employees were kept on for the economic turnaround.  Everyone brings something good to the table.

Theme Song

A theme song is crucial in this day and age.  It epitomizes who you are, where you are, and the focus and vision you have on where you are going.

Epilogue

On a personal note:  I was laid-off February 21, 2013.  I am not upset, I am not angry, and I am not eating my sneakers yet!  I see this as a gift from God to begin anew and make a difference in new ventures and new challenges.  I will continue to blog on topics 2-3 times a week, and will keep everyone posted on the next phase in my publishing career.  Sometimes your work environment is like a bad marriage, and you need to file for a divorce.

Stay tuned…

Here is my LinkedIn link if you would like to connect or have an opportunity for me…  Consulting and writing opportunities would be welcomed and appreciated.

http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=320344&trk=hb_tab_pro_top

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Simon & Schuster Combats Content Piracy: Johnny Depp is Running Scared

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/simon-schuster-brings-attributor-anti-piracy-data-to-authors/

I just read the post on the Digital Book World website regarding corporate attempts to stem the stealing of content and had to comment on this problem that is always with us.
Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary gives the following definition of the word “PIRACY”:
PI*RA*CY:
1: an act of robbery on the high seas; also an act resembling such robbery
2: robbery on the high seas
3 a: the unauthorized use of another’s production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright
b: the illicit accessing of broadcast signals


The electronic/digital age in the book publishing industry has been one of astounding technological advances at breakneck speed. Unfortunately, the advances in technology have also meant that the ability to track down those instances where copyright infringement have occurred have been lagging over the past few years. This movement to safeguard intellectual property rights is a good step forward in the continuing struggle to keep content safe from nefarious distribution.

Publisher Intervention
I laud Simon & Schuster for taking these steps:
“In response to queries from authors asking how piracy is affecting their books, Simon & Schuster will add book-specific piracy-tracking data from anti-digital-piracy firm Attributor to its Simon & Schuster Author Portal.”
“Simon & Schuster has been using Attributor since 2011 to fight ebook piracy. The vendor scans hundreds of millions of Web pages every day, including peer-to-peer networks, for content that infringes on copyrights. Takedown notices are sent to infringing sites in the hope of successfully removing pirated content.”
Knowing who is pirating and where these pirates are is the first step in shedding some sunlight onto getting better international cooperation in the crackdown on digital pirates. Once there is undeniable proof that content is being stolen in certain regions of the world (China has been a place where intellectual property rights have not been upheld or honored), the wheels can begin rolling to make sure that this practice is made public and international standards on copyrights and fair use are amended, negotiated, and enforced.

Who Profits?
In the end, authors will profit from this crackdown. They will be better served and have a much more trusting experience with the publishing companies they are working with if they know the Attributor system is being used to safeguard their content. I am sure Simon & Schuster is just helping to push a trend that will take hold industry-wide. Random House has also been looking into the intellectual property theft arena:
“ In 2012, Random House released a series of videos explaining its business and the publishing process. The company also held an open-house for the public and influential folks in the publishing world at its headquarters in late 2012.”

Stealing in Other Media Formats
We have seen this piracy in all major media forms in the past as well. Napster has been slapped hard by the Department of Justice since the music sharing website was a phenomenon back in the mid to late 1990s. The DOJ even went after those who were the biggest offenders in using Napster to download music. Movies have always been subject to piracy. Who can forget the Seinfeld episode where Elaine’s crazy dance moves get spliced into the middle of the movie Jerry is supposed to be recording? Stealing is stealing and there will always be those among us who will break the law to make a buck. If publishers can stay one step ahead, then everyone will be much better off in the long run.

Funny thing, Elaine Benis worked for a book publisher too!

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E-Textbooks: Now THIS is Forward Thinking…

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http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/56305-ingram-and-taylor-francis-sign-e-textbook-partnership.html

I read a very small article in Publishers Weekly today:  Ingram and Taylor & Francis Sign E-Textbook Partnership.  There was actually no by-line on this announcement to attribute it to a person being the source.  Although this was a very small blurb of an article, it foretells monumental changes that will be occurring in the textbook publishing field in the near future.

Thinking Differently, You Don’t Say

The article in a nutshell said this:

“Under the program, students who purchase a Routledge Interactive textbook will receive 12-month complimentary access to the e-textbook through Ingram’s VitalSource Bookshelf platform. Each title includes specially-tailored interactive content, ranging from embedded videos to walkthroughs and quizzes to best suit the needs of each textbook.

Business is always a changing dynamic, and the publishing industry is no different from any other industry in terms of change and renewal.  This announcement is a harbinger that some publishing executives are getting the message:  Think Differently or GO HOME.  If you are unwilling to think in directions that may be unorthodox, you are betting on mediocrity for sustained revenue streams.  With the amount of changes that are occurring all over the book world, this is a recipe for demise.

Corporate symbiosis is a way to ensure revenue coffers stay full.  Who better to partner with than Ingram?  Ingram with CoreSource and Lightning Source as umbrella units that cover electronic format distribution and print-on-demand fulfillment is the perfect partner to make a publisher successful in any format delivery system.  Taylor & Francis with a past history of excellence in the textbook publishing field, has staked out territory that other publishers can only view and salivate over.

Lack of Executive Vision Means Out-of-Business

As the old saying goes, if you continue to make buggy whips because you have always made buggy whips and that is what you produce, you will eventually be buggy whipped out of business.  Flexibility, innovation and constant analysis for a changing industry landscape will put you in the driver’s seat in the long run and ensure continued viability and profitability as a corporate entity.  Deviating from the normal constraints of due diligent business practices in an evolving and volatile economic environment is tantamount to corporate suicide.

Here is another quote from the original article:

“By providing these enhanced e-textbooks, with interactive content embedded within the text, we are empowering students and educators to more easily access our digital content and create their own personalized learning experience, combining the best of print and digital,” said David Cox, head of digital publishing and development, Routledge Books.

Corporate Planning:  “It goes to 11.”

A personalized learning system is what most publishers are looking to get out to the Marketplace.  Thinking differently, partnering, doing the unexpected are all traits and signs of a company that is forging a successful future off the beaten track.  It still remains to be seen if this partnering will be the dominant player in the textbook field, but with the track records of those involved, I think this will be a marriage that will be mutually beneficial to both parties in the short-term and down the road as well.  Thinking differently in this case means, “It goes to 11.”

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Now, Playing Centerfield, Number 22, Don Schmidt, Number 22

Don 002-5x7_pp

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When you are a child, inevitably you are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Sheepishly, a five, six or seven-year-old will go with Firemen, Policemen, maybe Astronaut.  Nowhere in the lexicon of reason do the words “Production Manager for a Book Publisher”, or “Vice-President for Publishing Operations” ever enter into the equation.  This blog is the story of a journey, a journey that began in West Islip, Long Island and continues to this day in a suburb of Denver.  It is a current journey that has no immediate ending.

Dad at NBC0001

Like Father, Like Son…

My dad worked in television.  He was a film editor for NBC in the RCA (now GE) building in midtown Manhattan.  He  was the funniest guy I ever knew.  He would crack jokes all the time with this big toothy grin and wire rim glasses.  He, like me, was follicley challenged, but never really minded having lost his hair at an early age.  Here is where the “like father, like son” comes into play.  Dad was always a photographer and took home movies endlessly when I was a kid.  This fascination with movies had been going on since his youngest days and he had shot many hours of super 8 film of his time in the Army Air Corps during World War II.  (As an aside, dad had the distinction of serving in a unit that was commanded by the eventual 40th President of the Unites States:  Ronald Reagan.)

I on the other hand, read voraciously as a child on anything that had to do with military history:  Civil War and World War II especially.  By the time I was in fifth grade I had read every book on World War II in our school library.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was deftly preparing myself for the position that I (until recently) held.

Publishing: The Accidental Career

Having a passion for what you do career-wise makes everything that comes afterward fall into place like an incredibly intricate jig-saw puzzle.  I had no idea that I would end up in publishing.  I graduated from college in 1984 with a degree in European History and English Lit.  Other than teaching, I was not really cut out for any career path divergent from an apprentice industry as publishing has been and continues to be.  It took me six months to land my first job as an assistant to the assistant’s assistant at the New York Yellow Pages: The Blue Books.  You have to add that last part because this was a completely different directory publisher from the actual Yellow Pages.  As fate would have it, I landed my second position at Macmillan less than a year later.

In the late 1980s my cousin Mike got married.  It was a small wedding and reception, but it was fun.  During the course of the reception, Mike and I were having a conversation about work and what not, when he blurted out, “It’s really nice that you followed in your father’s footsteps and went to work in the media.”  As amazing as it sounds, I had never even made the connection until that minute.  Working in the GLAMOUR industry of publishing is part of the media, a very important part of the media.001

Dreams of Replacing Mickey Mantle

Whenever anyone asks me what I wanted to be when I was a kid, I always say, “The Centerfielder for the NY Yankees.”  With homage to my all-time favorite hockey player, Mike Bossy, I would wear number 22.  I would NOT be wearing number 22 because I am twice as good as Derek Jeter!   I can hear the late Bob Sheppard’s voice announcing me into the game:   Now, Playing Centerfield, Number 22, Don Schmidt, Number 22.

The childhood dream became a metamorphosis as an adult.  I love publishing, I love the work I do, and I highly recommend that those in the industry love it and cherish it as I do in its changing forms and functions.  “Now playing Vice-President for Publishing Operations, Don Schmidt, Number 22.”

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Layoff Phase II: Positivity is KEY

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

What Did I Do Wrong?

You’ve done everything right in your career.  You’ve helped get the biggest projects in some company’s history out the door and into the mainstream marketplace.  You went back to school and completed your MS in Publishing degree with a 3.86 GPA, even with 25 + years experience in the industry.  What went wrong?

NOTHING!

Sometimes corporate culture is completely different from what it should be.  Also, sometimes you step out of the shuttle-craft onto a beautiful corporate endeavor only to find out that the Romulans are running the show. (What would James T. Kirk do in a situation like this…?  Since Spock has already said to stay would be illogical…  Yep, Beam Me UP Scotty!!)

(I always liked this episode where the Enterprise crew battles the evil ice cream cone… without the ice cream of course!)

What should I read?

The winning strategy is always to think differently.  If you follow the herd, you only end up cleaning off your shoes.  Take yourself as a BRAND and build it.  I am Don Schmidt, Publishing Professional by day, but I am also, The Book Kahuna, fighting the unit cost and e-book wars by night.  Reading is essential to keep your hand in play, so here are a few books I recommend to keep your mind on the prize:

1.   Dale Carnegie:  How to Win Friends and Influence People

http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/0671027034

2.  Stephen R. Covey:  Principle Centered Leadership

http://www.amazon.com/Principle-Centered-Leadership-Stephen-R-Covey/dp/0671792806/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1362892565&sr=1-7&keywords=stephen+r+covey

3.  David J. Schwartz:  The Magic of Thinking Big

http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Thinking-Big-David-Schwartz/dp/0671646788/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1362892620&sr=1-1&keywords=David+J.+Schwartz

4.  Napoleon Hill:  The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons

http://www.amazon.com/Law-Success-Complete-Napoleon-Hill/dp/9562911012/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1362892664&sr=1-9&keywords=napoleon+hill+laws+of+success

5.  Norman Vincent Peale: The Power of Positive Thinking

http://www.amazon.com/Power-Positive-Thinking-Norman-Vincent/dp/4871876292/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1362892724&sr=1-1&keywords=the+power+of+positive+thinking+norman+vincent+peale

Five O’clock Club

http://fiveoclockclub.com/

Now, I am not affiliated with the Five O’clock club in any way, shape or form, but this is one career search organization that has all the ingredients to set you on the path to success.  Instead of giving you a list of companies to call, this is a very intensive graduate program in the art of advancing your career.  You have to complete the 40-year- vision (and you are not allowed to kill yourself off in year 23!).  You also have to complete the 5 stories exercise.  I have been through the Five O’clock Club process twice, and I am going to be signing up to go through it again in the coming weeks. (As an aside, in 2004 my FOC group voted “NO” on my last position, after nine years working there, maybe they were right!)

Although I am looking for consulting work and not a full-time corporate gig, they specialize in helping to get professionals up and running on their consulting as well as full-time corporate positions.

The essential things that I took away from my initial times with the club:

  1.  BE THE EXPERT!  Make it known who you are and what you can do for a possible employer (personal branding).
  2.  Another good point from the club, go into the interview process as if you are the consultant who can trouble-shoot a problem for the prospective employer.  Ask about a problem, and then submit a report to the interviewer that details how you would fix the problem or change a process to make the problem disappear.  BE THE EXPERT!!

Multiple Streams of Income

In 2008 I had to sit across from three wonderful employees that I hand-picked for my department and watched as they were told they no longer were employed by the company.  At that point I made a decision, time to look for something else outside publishing.  I found an opportunity that I really liked and had already tried a few years before in New York when I was living there:  VENDING.  I founded Skootdad Vending and Refreshments in March of 2008.

I am still working to build this company into a full-fledged vending success story.  I have no doubts that this will be a successful venture.  Remember, you have to visualize the success, and then build the bridge to get there.  Staying positive is the only way to ensure you reach your goals.  What new ventures are you thinking of starting?

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Indie vs. Amazon: DRM or Not?

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

In his Publishers Weekly article, Indie Booksellers Sue Amazon, Big Six over E-Book DRM, Jim Milliot has put together the line-ups facing off in this suit to try to even the E-Book playing field.  The problem stems from publishers cutting a deal with Amazon to sell titles with DRM (Digital Rights Management) software inserted as opposed to the same E-book being sold through Independent Booksellers with no DRM inserted (as an aside, those without the DRM are more expensive).  As I read through I started to see that the playing field is not really all that uneven at this point in time.

E-book Capitalism

What drives a Capitalist market?  The ability to negotiate and sign contracts and agreements with viable corporate organizations is paramount and indisputable.  The suit brought against the six publishers will only make the waters murkier later when the ABA (American Booksellers Association) or individual Independent Booksellers try to negotiate new provisions with the publishers named.  As an example, remember when you were in elementary school and you were at lunch.  You have an apple in your lunch-bag, and Johnny across the table from you has a bigger apple in his lunch than you do.  Do you call the cafeteria monitor to come over and force Johnny to give you his apple because it is bigger?  Later, you need Johnny to help and tutor you with your Math homework because he is the class wizard when it comes to Math.  How willing is Johnny going to be to help you in Math when you had the cafeteria monitor give him a hard time about having a bigger apple than you did at lunch?  Seems like a Suit to nowhere if you ask me…

Even the Field

Couldn’t the Indies ask the publishers named to give them access to the same DRM protected E-books that Amazon is receiving?  Then, everyone is receiving the same content with the same constraints on it and the ultimate ability to choose purchase outlets is left to the consuming market.  From a previous blog post I wrote, we know that the DRM free E-books actually cost more than those that have the DRM software included.  If everyone received the exact same content, then the need for a suit would be negated.

I think the Indies are living in corporate fear that doing nothing will lead to a loss in customers and market share to the Amazon 800 pound gorilla in the room.  As Franklin Roosevelt so eloquently stated, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”  There are so many things that independents are doing and can do to offset the size and scope of the Amazon challenge, I don’t think they need to be overly concerned that these e-books will appreciably impact their bottom-line.  Amazon cannot be a meeting place for community events like an Independent bookstore can be.  Amazon cannot give a personal touch to consumers on book buying interests as the Indies can do.

Let’s Make A Deal

One other avenue that I have not touched on would be to have Independent Booksellers work in conjunction with Amazon.  Amazon is a corporate entity that wants to use the book/e-book publishing business as an inroad to consumer market-share.  They care very little about the book business in total, but only insomuch as they can use it to stream more customers to buy other items on Amazon.com.  Has anyone on the Indie side approached Amazon to try to make a deal?  In all things, the ability to do the unexpected may bring fruitful results that were unanticipated.

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