An Open Letter to My Pace MS in Publishing Alumni Brethren and Publishing Professionals Industry-Wide

Don 002-5x7_pp

Dear Publishing Professionals:

I write this letter from my home office contemplating what has been and what is to come.  Please take these words to heart from a sage veteran of the publishing wars:  YOU WILL GET LAID OFF IN YOUR CAREER THROUGH NO FAULT OF YOUR OWN.  I was given my walking papers from my last employer on February 21, 2013.

For me, this was layoff number 4 in my career.  The first time I was laid off was on January 18 of 1991.  I had taken a position at Van Nostrand Reinhold in September of 1990 after a year and a half at Springer-Verlag.  As is sometimes the case, V & R was not delivering on specified sales goals and needed to cut back.  They released my friend and mentor Joe Campanella, the Production Director, a week before they let nine of us go.  I was shocked, I was scared, and I was out of a job.

As fate would have it, Joe had worked at McGraw-Hill for years in the College Division, and called me about a position that had opened up in the Professional and Reference Division at McGraw where Gerry Fahey was the VP of Editorial, Production and Manufacturing.  I had met Gerry on a plant trip to RR Donnelley in Harrisonburg, VA a year before.  She had been down at the plant seminar with the Donnelley Eastern Sales Director, Tom Williams and I had been sent on the seminar when I was working for Springer-Verlag.  I guess I had made a pretty good impression when I met Gerry, because she remembered me when I called and told me to call her subordinate Tom Kowalczyk who was the Director of Production/Manufacturing for the Professional and Reference Division.

Tom and I spoke on the phone and he had me come in for an interview.  At the same time, I had another interview which looked promising, and I mentioned this to Tom before I left his office.  His words to me when I mentioned this were:

“Give me a call before you make any decision.”

I gave Tom a call within the two weeks after our first meeting, and ended up working with/for him for the next six years.  My start date was February 4, 1991.  The NY Football Giants had just beaten the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, and the future was bright.

Tom was a good guy in the publishing industry.  He knew his stuff when it came to getting manuscripts through the production/manufacturing process, and did not micromanage his staff.  He gave you the parameters of what he wanted to get done, and it was up to you to figure out how to connect the dots to a successful conclusion.  Unfortunately Tom passed away this past October, 2012, but we stayed in touch over the years.  Over time, I came to recognize the good boss he was.

This letter is Phase One in a continuing series which will look at how to deal with a layoff, what to think, how to react, and who to seek out for help.  The first rule:  do not panic.  The industry will find a place for you, and it may even be an upgrade from your previous situation.

At this time, I am blogging as The Book Kahuna, and looking for consulting work to help take companies to the next level.  I am optimistic about the future and look forward to all challenges presented to me.  The best advice:  Network, Network, Network.  You never know who you might meet on a plant trip to a printer… your next boss, maybe.


Don Schmidt    The Book Kahuna

I can be contacted through my LinkedIn profile for professional opportunities:


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