Corporate Anniversary Books: 2 Early-Phase Considerations
Recently Joan, a former client, called for a catch-up chat and to let me know about her promotion to director of communications, several steps above her role when we worked together. She said that she still relies heavily on the anniversary book we produced back then, and that today it is actually more valuable as a marketing tool than when it was first published six years ago.
During our collaboration, I sometimes kidded her that I planned to clone her so each of our future projects would come with a similarly terrific colleague and run as smoothly. So what she said next really startled me: After her boss assigned the anniversary book project to Joan, she "back-burnered" putting it in motion for almost two years. Why? She was worried she didn't know enough about book production even to begin the discussion with book packagers.
"I guess I didn't know what I didn't know, and the whole thing simply stymied me," she admitted.
Joan's remark made me wonder how much immersion in publishing methods and costs others in her position think they need before jumping into the process of developing an anniversary publication. Several ideas about preparing for first-phase discussions with book producers or publishers came to mind, and I will share some of them over the next few weeks. While this post deals specifically with organizations developing anniversary books, the suggestions are applicable to most long-form publication projects.
#1: Must I know book-making basics before actually beginning my project?
As with most pursuits, numerous paths can lead to a satisfactory outcome (i.e., an anniversary book that reflects well upon your company and has a long, valuable life as a marketing and/or development tool). For many such pursuits, these paths are well trod, clear cut, and visible from the outset. Not so for book production, however. It is my firm belief that every publication worth its paper (or pixels) has its own peculiar DNA that will dictate what needs, challenges, and development issues will be faced. Therefore, hours of preliminary study of the publication process won't help much.
Certainly, you can consult any number of books and websites about self-publishing, but they aren't likely to reveal a magic blueprint for your particular project. Books about publishing cannot—indeed, don't attempt to—take into account a specific book's "organic" growth. On the other hand, lack of awareness of other possible approaches is a prescription for unforeseen extra time (yours) and money (ditto), and in the end your publication falls short of the mark you've set.
2: Isn't not knowing the ins and outs of book production going to cost me?
Not being up on book-making procedures and budgeting won't cost nearly as much as delaying the project's launch. Consider these two givens for any anniversary publication:
(a) Because it will be used to celebrate a date-specific event, "late" isn't an option; and
(b) As the old advertising jingle queries, "Why wait for spring? Do it now—when there are folks who know how."
We encourage anniversary-bound clients to begin development of their publication no fewer than three years in advance. (Four or five years is much better, but attuning decision makers' radar that far in advance is completely impracticable.) We treat the three-year mark as start of a countdown, and in most cases we have noticed that each passing month generally ups the ante and leads to cost increases and a decrease in satisfaction with the finished product. As the months tick away, adjustments must be made to provide books for that still-firm release date—the client's "ideal" writer may not be available on short notice, say, or printing costs triple because shipping time precludes working at more distant, more economical plant venues.
Concern #2 should not be dismissed, however. Many disparate elements must be considered, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. The way to make well-informed decisions is the same as it is for any other industry or service: seek multiple bids. Look to the book packagers from whom you request bids to answer all the questions—those you ask as well as the ones you didn't know needed consideration in the first place. (Frankly, I would be a little uncomfortable with any bidder who didn't raise issues that may seem out of left field. Knowing about these concerns up front can yield enormous benefits down the line.) Once you have gathered all the proposals, use the nature of their bidders' responses to help you determine how well they fit with your project, your in-house team, and your organization overall. Such scrutiny is apt to be as revealing as the bid's financial components.