Monthly Archives: May 2013

Publishing: Mentors vs. Newbies: Who Profits and Who Loses?

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

I read with interest Jeremy Greenfield’s article on the Digital Book World website: Tender Words For Publishers From Self-Publishing Success Story and the supplemental interview he conducted with Sylvia Day, What Publishers Need To Do In The Era Of Self-Publishing and thought to myself, authors are part of the publishing process, but they do not know publishing.

Publishing:  A Mentor-Based Industry

In deference to Ms. Day, she has published 40 titles and been successful at selling copies, but the internal workings of a publishing company are not fully understood by someone who has never worked for one of these companies.  Having worked for a few New York Publishing companies, I would like to give some information that might be controversial in nature, but is true and thoughtful at the same time.

  1.  Successful Trade authors are treated like Superstar Athletes at the individual publishing houses.  They are catered to and treated with deference even when they may not be pushing avenues that are in the best interests of the house in question.
  2. Some of the internal foot soldiers of the Publishing Houses are becoming more and more devoid of knowledge and professional job ability, that outside vendors are coaching and teaching internal employees how to do their job functions successfully. (This is not universal, but I have had more than one sales person tell me this story in the past year!)
  3. Publishing Houses are driven by cost considerations that continually see houses beat their vendors down for pennies in cost savings, while cutting loose employees with vastly higher experience levels to save on salary requirements.  This means that there is a “brain-drain” within the publishing industry and anyone over 50 who has a vast array of experiences to call upon to reliably answer questions and troubleshoot problems are replaced by staff who are younger and less experienced or, and this is the real kicker in this equation, replaced by Finance people who can count the beans correctly, but couldn’t tell you a sheet-fed from a web press if their lives depended on it.
  4. The employees who are younger and less experienced are hurt in their careers by not having access to their older supervisors and mentors.  Publishing is an industry where the knowledge and information are passed from the people who have been in the industry for long periods of time to the next generation of publishing professionals.  When you weed out the older, experienced employees to save some money due to the implementation of “Obama-Care”, you in effect have cancelled the educational process that gets handed down from publishing generation to the next publishing generation.

“Now Playing Left Field, CC Sabathia, Left Field”

The allocation of functions to internal staff “playing out of position” as a former supervisor of mine liked to imbibe, means that although products reach the market, they may not be at the highest quality possible due to the experience constraints of the people tasked with getting them out the door.

God forbid there is a problem somewhere along the way to the Marketplace (signatures upside down, left out, or duplicated in sequence!).  The resolution may have a very simple answer, but end up costing the publisher a fortune due to lower levels of expertise at the helm.

Experience Trumps Cost Savings Every Time!!

In conclusion, Ms. Day is right in her summation, the traditional publishing establishment needs to remain a constant in this ever-changing world of content delivery, but the teachers, mentors, and coaches who are the “Old Guard” and sentinels of knowledge need to remain a viable part of the equation to keep the products consistently at a high level of quality while ensuring continuous training for the next publishing generations.

Follow me on Twitter at:  Donald Schmidt@thebookkahuna

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Reflections on Memorial Day: A Personal Tribute

Editing at NBC, 1975

Editing at NBC, 1975

On this Memorial Day, it’s good to reflect on those who served the country and lost their lives in places like Yorktown, Shiloh, Meuse-Argonne, Salerno, Omaha Beach, Bastogne, Pusan Perimeter, Khe Sanh, Highway of Death and Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and the ongoing fight in Afghanistan.  For me, I will remember someone who never went overseas, but was called to active duty in two wars to defend our freedoms.  He was a jovial man, who loved to laugh, loved photography and film, loved boating and loved his family.

A boy from Queens, NY

The story starts in College Point, NY.  There a young man fresh out of high school is drafted into the Army Air Corps in March, 1942.  Now, in March 1942, the outlook for the United States was not all that rosy when viewed in the spyglass of world events.  We were in a world war and this one was on two fronts as opposed to how the First World War was fought.  The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and destroyed or damaged the bulk of the US fleet’s battleships while they were at anchor.  They then went on a wave of conquest across the Pacific that advanced Japanese forces thousands of miles away from the home islands.  Names like Singapore, Wake Island, Corregidor, Bataan Peninsula, Burma, Coral Sea and Midway were and would be household names in American living rooms over the next few months.

On the other side of the world, Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, been repulsed in the snows outside of Moscow, but still held the cards for another offensive into the Caucasus and the city of Stalingrad in 1942.  The British were reeling under the constant combat and defeats inflicted on them by the Desert Fox, General (later Field Marshal) Erwin Rommel in the North African Desert.  Though small in number of troops, the Afrika Korps was a highly mobile and efficient force that utilized the desert surroundings to their advantage in many engagements.  The U-boats were sinking supplies to Britain in the millions of tons per month, and the ability to keep the English in World War II was not a guaranteed conclusion.  This was the world when Elwood F. Schmidt was drafted in 1942.

Let’s Win and Go Home…

My father fought most of World War II from Culver City, California.  There his photography and movie skills put him into a unit where he acted in training films, and also worked on examining some of the bombing footage that came from the reconnaissance cameras on missions over Europe and in the Pacific.  In this capacity he ran into many Hollywood stars including Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart.  His commanding officer was a certain Captain Ronald Wilson Reagan.

As the war began to wind down with Allied victory more a certitude, government distrust of the relationship with the Soviet Union forced the military to leave large contingents of forces in Europe, while stripping the forces that were handling other duties internally in the United States for operations aimed at ending the war against Japan.  In early August of 1945, Captain Reagan sent Corporal Elwood Schmidt for a physical with the base surgeon to see if he was cleared for overseas duty.  On August 5, the base physician responded to Captain Reagan’s request, and cleared Corporal Schmidt for overseas assignment.  On August 6, Colonel Paul Tibbetts flying the Enola Gay dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.  Upon hearing no communication from the Japanese government, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9.

I consider myself the face of survival.  The invasion of Japan would have claimed millions of lives, both Japanese and American (including, possibly, Corporal Elwood F. Schmidt).

National Broadcasting Company

My dad went on to be a Film Editor for NBC in Rockefeller Center for almost 30 years.  In the summer of 1980, he was working with his friend Mark Goodson on a revision of To Tell the Truth.  Unfortunately, Bill Todman had died in the middle of the planning in summer 1979.  Dad had previously worked with Goodson/Todman on the short-lived game show Personality in the mid 1970s.

Watch the end credits for FILM EDITOR!

For one episode, they needed a man just about Dad’s age to be on the panel.  The set-up was that an author had written a book on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945, the cruiser that delivered the first atomic bomb.  Dad agreed to be one of the “liars” to fool Nipsy Russell and Kitty Carlisle.  The taping went through, and the show was slated to air in early December, 1980.

To Tell the Truth, 1980

This is where the story is tinged with irony.  The sinking of the USS Indianapolis occurred AFTER the ship had delivered the Hiroshima bomb to the island of Tinian.  The ship was under orders to maintain radio silence, when a Japanese submarine torpedoed the ship, no one heard a distress message.  If you want to get the full impact of what happened when the surviving crew went into the water, listen to Robert Shaw as Captain Quint in Jaws give the account of the shark attacks that savaged the men in the water.

Corporal Elwood Schmidt died on November 22, 1980 from Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.  On Tuesday November 25, he was buried and Thanksgiving was on Thursday (mom would not let us overlook Thanksgiving, and we had a meal with an empty seat at the table for the first time).  His appearance on To Tell the Truth aired in early December, two weeks after his death.  It was the most painful half-hour of television I have ever watched, but I am glad that I watched it.  He was a patriot who I think about every year on Memorial Day.  He didn’t fight, he didn’t win any medals for valor, but he was my dad and I miss him to this day.

Remember those who fought and died, and remember the vets, living and dead, like Technical Sergeant Elwood F. Schmidt (his last rank in military service) and those serving this Memorial Day!

Commander Elwood F. Schmidt, American Legion Post 1738-West Islip, NY  1972

Commander Elwood F. Schmidt, American Legion Post 1738-West Islip, NY 1972

Follow me on Twitter at:  Donald Schmidt@thebookkahuna

Good Books for Memorial Day:



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Nook Kaput: Phase III: Microsoft to The Rescue

Graduation Day, 5/16/12

Graduation Day, 5/16/12

Fast and Furious

The stories keep coming fast and furious with the Nook and what may happen to this device.  The rumblings are that Microsoft, the company that currently owns 17.6 % of Nook Media will buy the rights to the device outright from Barnes & Noble for $1 billion dollars.  If there was a bright spot in the Nook saga, this may be the best possible outcome for the troubled reader.  In her post on the dbw: Digital Book World website, Deanna Utroske gives this news of the day in her post, Microsoft’s $1 Billion Bid for Nook.

Why would this turn of events be a good conclusion to the Nook story?  There are a couple of reasons why this purchase would be mutually beneficial to both sides of the deal:

  1.  Barnes & Noble would get a large infusion of cash that would keep the brick and mortar bookselling giant competitive in the current competitive state.
  2. Microsoft would discontinue the reader as a viable product, but would market Apps that would make the download of B & N products on other readers a distinct possibility.  This would be beneficial to both Microsoft and B & N for future revenue gains and profitability projections.
  3. The partnership between Microsoft and B & N would create an economic entity that could go toe to toe with Apple and Amazon for consumer dollars.  With the infusion of capital from the sale of Apps and the continued sale of ebooks for those Apps, the two companies would be in a much better position to sway consumer dollars into their coffers and away from Apple and Amazon, then they would ever be able to do separately.

Repeat after Me…

As I stated in a previous blog post:

the lack of one competitor on the playing field would be a real drawback in terms of continued innovation in the realm of eBook formulation and dissemination.  Having Microsoft shoulder the burden of R and D and B & N providing the formatted content for the Apps would be a win/win in the ongoing strategy to get to a competitive edge.

Nook, Nook,   Who’s There?

Another good sign in the midst of this complete turn-around by B & N would be the fact that the viability of the B & N corporate structure would not be compromised in this deal as would happen if the Nook were allowed to Free-Fall into oblivion.  In fact, Barnes & Noble will emerge as a much stronger competitor once the smoke clears and winners and losers can be determined.   Even if a strategic victory cannot be claimed in the not too distant future, a tactical victory would be a draw and a shoring up of the losses that B & N has incurred since the Nook’s disappointing shows in the holiday marketplace over recent seasons.    Staying on the economic battlefield is vastly preferable to having to post the “For Sale” sign and shutting the doors permanently on the 600 + Barnes & Noble stores that are still operating across the United States.

Cal is still keeping Cool…

As Calvin Coolidge said, “The Business of America is Business.”     And always keep in mind, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend!”  However the deal works out, it will be a good day for those who love and acquire books and work in the book publishing industry.

Follow me on Twitter at:  Donald Schmidt@thebookkahuna

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Nook Kaput: Phase II

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

I read with interest the blog posting on the Digital Book World site CPR for Nook by Jeremy Greenfield, and I was quite disturbed by what this may mean to the marketplace in the near future.

Stay Cool with Cal!

Calvin Coolidge is reputed to have quipped the phrase, “The business of America, is business!”  If we are to believe this statement, then the overriding force that drives business to achieve is the competitive edge that comes from being engaged in trying to outsell the opponent.  Ford thrives on competition from GM and Chrysler.  Apple is innovating by keeping Samsung and Microsoft at bay.  The most famous of the competitors is Coke vs. Pepsi in the ongoing Cola wars (If you put the Cola wars together they are longer than all wars the United States has been engaged in since the revolution!)  Saying goodbye to the Nook would have repercussions and ramifications for the consuming public that they do not currently realize.

Barnes and Noble will continue to exist and sell books in the “Brick and Mortar” establishment that everyone currently knows, but without the Nook, Amazon will be left to battle Apple in the arena of e-readers and tablets that has engulfed the US Market in a firestorm of digital realities since the early days of the 21st century.  Can Amazon or Apple emerge as the giant that rules over the landscape of e-books and e-readers?  If I had to give a forecast, I would think that Amazon will eventually come out ahead, but the balance of power will not be a two-way street since Apple has their fingers in so many other pies for revenue share.

ET Phone Home, or read a message!

One other topic to keep in mind, the US market is the only one where the e-book forces are in direct competition with each other for sales of readers.  The rest of the world’s populace are reading e-books on Smartphones.  This could eventually have a spill-over effect as more and more people begin to use their Smartphones as the preferred device for reading e-books, periodicals and newspapers.  I’m not sure I would ever want to start reading War and Peace on a Smartphone, but there are instances where recipes and short articles on do-it-yourself projects might be feasibly readable on my phone.  The one good thing that may come out of the alleged demise of the Nook would be the simplification of formats and sales portals that increase the universal nature of identifier codes for file transmission.  If there is one universal code in say, an e-pub format, and only one file has to be saved in an archive, then the simplification and reduction in numbers would be a staggering advance forward in getting content out to those who are waiting for it.  Of course, this theorem only is supportive of a platform that has not developed an identifier coding system that will rename, save and forward an e-book file to the respective distributor.

Come With Me If You Want to Live…

With the possible demise of the Nook, it’s 1997 all over again and SKYNET has become self-aware!  Hopefully the Nook will be able to avoid Termination, but if I had to lay a wager on the B and N planning team I would think they are collectively saying:  “I’ll be Back!”

Follow me on Twitter at:  Donald Schmidt@thebookkahuna

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Feed Your Mind: FEED IT!

Graduation Day with my MS In Publishing from Pace University, 5/16/12

Graduation Day with my MS In Publishing from Pace University, 5/16/12

For less than a Large Big Mac Combo, you can get:  The Electronic/Digital Revolution in Book Publishing as a download for a Kindle or Kindle App on an iPad.

The Electronic/Digital Revolution in Book Publishing

As the Scotts lawn guys says:  Feed Your Mind!  FEED IT!

Don’t you want to know how we got to this point in ebooks and Print on demand?  Sure you do…

Follow me on Twitter at:  Donald Schmidt@thebookkahuna

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