7 Keys to Being a Successful Author Today
In this exclusive iUniverse webinar, Steven Piersanti, president and publisher of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., a leading independent publisher of progressive books on current affairs, personal growth, and business and management; and Keith Ogorek, senior vice president of marketing for Author Solutions, the world’s leading supported self-publishing company, share key things every author needs to know to be successful in the fast-paced and seemingly ever-changing publishing environment.
In their 30 minute presentation, you will learn:
There will also be time for you to ask questions.
So if you want to know what it takes to be successful as an author today, you do not want to miss this webinar. Space is limited, so register today. When you do, you will also receive a free copy of Steve’s 10 Awful Truths About Publishing and Keith’s 4 Path to Publishing whitepapers.
7 Keys to being a Successful Author Today*
Date August 20, 2014
*Presented in partnership with the Author Learning Center
About our presenters:
PRESIDENT AND PUBLISHER OF BERRETT-KOEHLER PUBLISHERS, INC.
Steven Piersanti is president and publisher of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., a leading independent publisher of progressive books on current affairs, personal growth, and business and management. Berrett-Koehler pursues its mission of “Creating a World That Works for All” by publishing groundbreaking books that promote positive change at all levels – individual, organizational, and societal.
Steve received the “Champion of Workplace Learning and Performance Award” from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) in 2003. The five previous annual recipients were Jack Welch of General Electric, Thomas Stewart of Fortune Magazine, Robert Galvin of Motorola, John Chambers of Cisco, and Fred Smith of FedEx.
Prior to founding Berrett-Koehler in 1992, Steve served as president of Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, a publisher of books and periodicals on business and management, education, health care, public administration, the nonprofit sector, and the behavior sciences. He began his career at Jossey-Bass in 1977 as a promotional copywriter, then served as marketing director, editor, editorial director, and executive vice president before becoming president in 1989. He founded the Jossey-Bass Management Series, which became the company’s largest and most profitable publishing program, and he helped develop the Health Series, Nonprofit Management Series, and Public Administration Series.
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING
During his tenure as Author Solutions’ senior vice president of marketing, Ogorek has spearheaded extensive product and services innovations. As a member of the company’s executive team, Ogorek’s leadership was instrumental in the company’s July 2012 acquisition by leading trade publisher –The Penguin Group – now part of the world’s largest book publisher, Penguin Random House.
A recognized publishing thought leader, Ogorek brings the dual perspective of executive and author, having self-published A Clear View: The Formation and Impact of Worldview; Eli the Stable Boy (a children’s book); and 7 Secrets of Successful Self-Published Authors. A sought-after speaker, he’s appeared at leading conferences including Book Expo America, The San Francisco Writers Conference, Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference, and The Textbook and Academic Authoring Conference and The Writer’s Digest Conference.
BK Leadership Exchange Caps Foundation’s First Year
The Berrett-Koehler Foundation has accomplished a lot since it was incorporated in June 2013. The Foundation helps young and emerging leaders (ages fifteen to thirty-five) learn and apply new leadership and change methods to bring about positive systems change in their communities and organizations.
The Foundation is continuing to move forward by sponsoring its first event, the BK Leadership Exchange, at Impact Hub Oakland on Saturday, July 19, 2014, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. BK authors and other experienced leaders will join with young and emerging leaders to create mentoring and learning connections among all participants. This intergenerational dialogue will offer the opportunity for established leaders to share their wisdom and knowledge with the next generation while learning from young leaders. And it will offer an opportunity for young leaders to find new mentors and learn new community engagement practices and whole-systems change methods.
This BK Leadership Exchange will also launch the Foundation’s Experiential Exchanges program and demonstrate new ways of action learning and group facilitation. If you would like to learn more about this event or the Foundation, please go to www.bkfoundation.org.
First Year Highlights
Here is a partial list of the Foundation’s accomplishments in its first year:
Organization: Incorporated as a nonprofit public benefit corporation * applied for IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status * created governing bylaws * set up an active board of directors and an advisory board * hired a founding executive director * set up financial, accounting, and other administrative systems.
Programs: Sponsored the first four pilot projects of the Foundation:
Also, the Shinnyo-en Foundation gifted to the Berrett-Koehler Foundation a prime booth at the National Service-Learning Conference, which allowed a representative of the Foundation to dialogue with young leaders and educators focused on service learning.
Communication and fund-raising: Set up the Foundation website * sent six newsletters to the Foundation community * arranged for the Social Enterprise Trust to be the Foundation’s fiscal sponsor so that donations are tax deductible while the Foundation’s 501(c)(3) application is being approved * began the Foundation’s fund-raising campaign * received donations from over fifty BK authors and other supporters of the Foundation as well as from Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
All in all, it has been a great first year for the Berrett-Koehler Foundation.
Berrett-Koehler is on the move!
After twenty-two years in San Francisco, this October BK is moving across the Bay to beautiful new offices in Oakland.
We’re thrilled to be making this move. Oakland is a diverse, vibrant, and welcoming community, and it has become a hot spot for innovation. In May the New York Times ran a front-page story titled “Oakland: Brooklyn by the Bay” that described how Oakland’s “deep cultural roots entwine working-class African-American and ethnic communities, progressive politics, arts, food, and more recently technology entrepreneurship.” “Oakland is becoming the creative engine of the Bay Area,” according to an observer quoted in the article.
Oakland and neighboring Berkeley have long been home to scores of book publishing companies, including many friends of BK, such as New Harbinger Publications. Recently Oakland has become a rising tech home, and it was ranked among the most attractive cities for tech startups by a report of the National Venture Capital Association. And numerous leading nonprofits are moving to Oakland, such as a pioneer in our marketplace, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).
Room to grow
Our new offices are on the tenth floor of 1333 Broadway, right in the heart of the flourishing Oakland City Center area. These offices will be more than 70 percent larger than our current San Francisco offices—giving us urgently needed room for growth—but our annual lease cost will be about the same as the cost would be if we stayed in our current smaller space. And they have lots of other advantages as well:
We’re very excited about this new chapter in our history. Watch our website for news about the move and for photos of our fantastic new digs!
Wendy Wong Joins Berrett-Koehler Board
BK Gains Deep and Broad Business and Marketing Expertise
San Francisco, CA – The Berrett-Koehler Group, Inc., which is the parent company of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., is excited to announce that Wendy Wong has joined its Board of Directors. Wendy is Senior Vice President of Marketing for The Ken Blanchard Companies, where she manages the integrated marketing and global branding of a distinguished leadership development firm that helps leaders create winning workplace cultures that result in organizational and performance improvement.
Berrett-Koehler Publishers is a leading independent publisher of print and digital books and other resources on leadership, management, socially responsible business, organizational change, career development, personal development, community development, economic justice, and social change. Its mission is “Creating a World That Works for All.”
“We are delighted that Wendy has agreed to join our Board,” states BK president Steve Piersanti. “Wendy brings deep and broad knowledge of the business and organizational marketplaces that generate a large part of the sales of our publications. And we have been impressed by Wendy for many years in conjunction with our collaboration with The Ken Blanchard Companies on many book projects authored by Ken Blanchard and other Blanchard Company leaders.”
Wendy joins seven other members of the Berrett-Koehler Board. Two Board members represent the management and staff of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, and the rest of the Board members are outside directors who represent BK’s various stakeholder groups, including shareholders, customers, suppliers, service providers, sales partners, and the communities in which BK is embedded. Here is a link to information on each Board member:
In her role as Senior Vice President of Marketing for The Ken Blanchard Companies, Wendy serves on the Leadership Team, and contributes to strategy and new business model innovation for the company.
Wendy has spent most of her career in business-to-business marketing and has led her teams to win awards for their web, social media, event and marcom execution. Wendy approaches branding much like an “organizational therapist,” ensuring that the soul and spirit of the organization emerges authentically from the collective perspective of key stakeholders. She is known as a leader of high-performance teams, and a servant leader who creates shared purpose.
She brings 20 years of experience in all aspects of marketing management, having led marketing communications and branding at HNC Software/Fair Isaac (now FICO); and strategic marketing and e-commerce initiatives at Dun & Bradstreet. At D&B, Wendy held a dual leadership role in strategic planning and marketing communications and was voted by her peers as “most creative thinker.” Having cofounded a startup within D&B, and later having worked with independent startups, she defines herself as an “intrapreneur.”
Wendy has authored articles on marketing topics, leadership, and intrapreneurship. She holds an undergraduate degree in literature and international studies from Cornell University and an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She also earned a Certificate in Book Publishing from the University of Denver, and spent her early career as an editor and marketer in the book publishing business. She was an AAUP/MetLife Scholarship Recipient, which granted her a year-long stint at Princeton University Press. She later worked as a production editor for HarperCollins, freelance edited, and did business analysis for Penguin Books.
Wendy enjoys travel, yoga, jazz, and jigsaw puzzles. She is married to a “venture activist” and they have two college-age children. They live in La Jolla, CA.
Become The Hero of Your Career in Vietnam
We invite you to join this interactive and engaging webinar, sponsored by the Global Task Force of the Berrett-Koehler Author’s Co-op which is aimed at emerging leaders in Vietnam, one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Other professionals interested in leadership and career development will also gain insights about the impact of Vietnamese culture on leadership, how to develop your talents and succeeding as an introverted leader.
Our panelists are the authors of these distinguished business titles:
Meet Our Panelists who all have been involved in work in Vietnam.
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., Certified Speaking Professional, is an author and international speaker. Hailed as a “champion for introverts” her bestselling books, The Introverted Leader and Quiet Influence have sold over 60,000 copies and have been translated into eleven languages. Clients include GE, NASA the US Embassy In Vietnam and the Vietnam Education Foundation.
Lan Bercu, born in Vietnam, is a founder and president of Lead Across Cultures International, a seminar leader and expert on cross-cultural competence and global leadership development. Lan is the author of new book, The 36 Ancient Chinese Strategies for Modern Business and has been featured on the Finance Business News Channel, Vietnam Investment Review, Entrepreneur magazine and other media channels.
Don Maruska guides leaders and teams to be their best. Prior to becoming a Master Certified Coach, he founded and was CEO of three Silicon Valley companies and received the National Innovator's Award. He is author of the books "How Great Decisions Get Made" and "Take Charge of Your Talent."
On January 28, 2014, BK hosted a webinar with Tom Szaky, author of Outsmart Waste: The Modern Idea of Garbage and How to Think Our Way Out of It, and Brad Edmondson, author of Ice Cream Social: The Struggle for the Soul of Ben & Jerry's, discussing the complexities of green business.
Some of the topics they covered included staying true to business values/missions in times of growth, partnering with other business, and the dangers of "greenwashing." Download the webinar powerpoint here.
View the full webinar below:
Transcript and slides from Steve Piersanti's keynote at the “BK Makes the Future” strategic planning event.
Many thanks to all of you for taking so much time in your busy lives to participate in this event.
We want to recognize all of our participants. To do so, I’m going to ask each of you to stand when I announce a stakeholder group to which you belong. Please stand each time I announce a group to which you belong, even if that means that you stand several times.
Thank you for being here!
I was asked by the planning team to introduce ideas and perspectives that will help ground, inspire, and set the tone for this event. I’ve chosen to organize these ideas and perspectives around 15 “Secrets of Berrett-Koehler’s Success.” To help me do so, I reached out to various BK staff, authors, and other stakeholders for their views. And I received many wonderful responses, some of which I will quote in this presentation.
1. Multiple Stakeholder Focus
This is really the foundational concept of Berrett-Koehler. This concept came before our publishing programs, our mission, our books, everything. It goes back to before Berrett-Koehler existed. Before founding BK, I had been president of Jossey-Bass Publishers during its challenging transition from being an independent company to becoming part of the media empire of Robert Maxwell and being placed as a division of Maxwell Communications Corporation. I quickly discovered that our new corporate parent was calling all the shots, and none of the other Jossey-Bass stakeholders really mattered. Not the Jossey-Bass employees who were central to the company’s success; not the authors with whom Jossey-Bass had longstanding relationships; not the suppliers and service providers on whom the company depended. All that really mattered was the call from my boss in New York City.
What was especially troubling about this new balance of power was that there was nothing our new corporate parent was doing that made Jossey-Bass more productive or profitable. Yet, without adding any value, the corporate parent presumed to unilaterally govern our company. It was easy to see that something was deeply wrong with this equation.
And so, when I created Berrett-Koehler’s founding document, “Vision and Plan for a New Publishing Business,” the starting place for my attempt to “rethink the concept of the publishing company” was what I called “Multiple Stakeholder Focus.” “Five ‘stakeholder’ groups – authors, employees, suppliers, owners, and communities (customer, societal, and environmental) – contribute to the success of publishing ventures. Each has a ‘stake’ or investment in the publishing business, whether that investment is time, talent, money, or other resources. . . . Berrett-Koehler believes that more balance and equity is needed in the dealings among the stakeholder groups, so that the employees, authors, suppliers, and communities benefit more from the investment each makes and the value each creates for the publishing business. Berrett-Koehler also believes that the relationship among the stakeholder groups needs to be more of a partnership and more fair, open, humane, ethical, and interactive among all of the groups.”
An early manifestation of this focus was that our very first catalog in May 1992 listed many of our stakeholders by name in the catalog (show catalog). We’ve done this in every catalog since then (show catalog).
This has gone hand-in-hand with multiple stakeholder focus from the beginning. We were deeply influenced by the ideas in Peter Block’s book Stewardship, which I started working on with Peter right after I began organizing Berrett-Koehler Publishers. In our first catalog I wrote: “If I were to choose one word to describe our vision, it would be ‘stewardship.’ By this I mean a deep sense of responsibility to administer the publishing company for the benefit of all of our ‘stakeholder’ groups.”
Block defines stewardship as “the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us. Stated simply, it is accountability without control or compliance.”
So here was our role as BK managers and employees: to be accountable for serving the interests of all of BK’s stakeholders without needing to do so through control or compliance. Actually, we hope that all BK stakeholders will view themselves as stewards who are accountable for serving the interests of other stakeholders and the whole without needing control or compliance to do so.
3. Community Engagement and Support
A couple of years into my service as president of Jossey-Bass Publishers I got a call from my boss in New York in which he said that there was a corporate-wide workforce reduction going on and all units were required to cut their headcount by 10 percent. Jossey-Bass had 68 employees, and we were instructed to reduce our headcount to 60 employees. This made no rhyme or reason for Jossey-Bass because we were highly successful and growing rapidly; we had just finished a year in which our sales were up 22 percent and our profits were up 46 percent. Moreover, our business plan of adding 8 more employees had already been approved, and now we were told that we had to instead cut 8 employees. This would have required us to lay off 8 employees, which was unjust and unjustified to me, given the circumstances.
Long story short, our management team fought this edict for two months and I refused to carry out the corporate order. On the afternoon of May 29, 1991, I was fired and told to clean out my desk. But the grapevine worked very quickly and the very next day at my home my phone started ringing with calls from Jossey-Bass authors, suppliers, and service providers who expressed their dismay at this chain of events, their belief in my work and stance, their encouragement to start a new publishing company, and their offers of support. These calls continued for many weeks, as one person who had heard the news would tell another person and encourage that person to contact me, and so on. It was through the support and engagement of all these people that Berrett-Koehler Publishers was born. Listed on the screen are some of the many people who became part of our original community in the first few months when Berrett-Koehler was being organized.
Today there are hundreds of ways that BK engages our communities and receives support from our communities. In the interests of time, I’m going to mention just one. BK authors and other community members are an army of scouts out searching for good authors and good book projects for us and recommending to those authors that BK would be the best publisher for their books. They are the most credible and influential scouts we could possibly have because they know so much about their fields and about BK.
Here’s how bestselling author Peter Block describes this engagement: “I have been a constant source of new authors. When someone comes to me about publishing a book, BK is the first place I send them. I do this partly because I know they will be treated with respect, and they will learn something about the market for their ideas. Most people I refer to BK get refused, but in a useful and sensitive way. So this publisher has a low cost feeder network for new properties, the life blood of the business.”
And here’s how bestselling author Richard Leider describes this engagement. “I have proudly referred dozens of would-be authors to BK over the years. So many that they have offered, partly in jest, to print a BK business card for me! Whether an author landed a contract with BK or not, EVERY single one of them thanked me for the care and insights that they received from BK. Now, that’s walking your talk!”
4. Publish Books That Make a Difference
When our Editorial Director, Neal Maillet, applied several years ago to work at Berrett-Koehler, he wrote: “As a business and leadership editor whose titles frequently competed for shelf space with BK, I can only express my deep sense of admiration and, to be honest, envy, for the consistent sense of mission and values that BK titles communicate. BK books are for people who are determined to improve themselves and their organizations – not just to rely on corporatespeak or easy answers. BK titles always present a challenge and an invitation – the challenge to do the hard but rewarding work of making positive change, and the invitation to seek beyond self-gratification to community. . . . More than anything, a BK book isn’t just a product to be sold. It is invariably part of a message that is consistent across the entire organization.”
It may surprise you but publishing books with a difference-making message was not part of the original concept of Berrett-Koehler. The original concept was more mainstream, which I described as “Leading-edge publications that make new contributions to professional audiences.” But this quickly changed. The books we attracted – and the books that most interested us – were books with big, pathbreaking messages about changing individuals, organizations, and the world.
This started with Leadership and the New Science, which was one of the first three books BK published. When a former college advisor of mine sent me Meg Wheatley’s manuscript, I immediately saw that this was different from all the hundreds of books that I had worked on in my previous thirteen-year career as an editor and book marketer. The Library Journal review captured the difference: “Hold onto the top of your head when you read this book. . . Using exciting breakthroughs in biology, chemistry, and especially quantum physics, Wheatley paints a brand-new picture of business management . . . nothing less than an entirely new set of lenses through which to view our organizations.” A newspaper columnist called “The Lazy Literate” expressed the uniqueness of Meg’s work on her next book in a less flattering way: “Yikes! These folks have been eating too many avocados in their hot tubs!” Either way, Leadership and the New Science went on to not only sell nearly 400,000 copies but also to profoundly influence the work of thousands of other book authors, organizational thinkers, and organizational leaders.
In your binders is a list of “20 Ways BK Books Help Create a World That Works for All.” In our 20th Anniversary Celebration a year ago, I cited, as one example, the case of how a single BK book, Future Search, has made a positive difference for tens of millions of people around the world through the many thousands of future searches in more than 90 countries that have been conducted by the more than 4,000 people who have been trained in the future search methodology.
To give a very current example, the annual meeting this month of the foreign ministers of the thirty-five member countries of the Organization of American States focused on drug problems in North America, Central America, and South America. This meeting was organized around the methodology of Adam Kahane in his new BK book, Transformative Scenario Planning. For the past year the president of Columbia and other country presidents and prime ministers have been working to develop new approaches to drug problems, and they turned to Adam Kahane and his book’s transformative scenario planning methodology to help create and articulate those new approaches.
5. Eat Our Own Cooking
From the beginning, we have been striving to learn from the books we publish and to practice our book’s ideas in our own company and community.
For example, a central concept in Stewardship is to avoid class systems in management, employment, and compensation practices. One manifestation of class systems is that most organizations have two compensation systems, with the executive compensation system designed to pay those at the top as much as possible and the employee compensation system designed to control costs. Inspired by Stewardship, Berrett-Koehler has just one compensation system for everyone in the company, and it is designed to pay a living wage to everyone, to minimize the disparity between the lowest and highest paid employees, and to direct our company success to raising the whole boat. Accordingly, the difference between my salary and the salary of the lowest paid full-time BK employee has always been less than four to one from the beginning of our company until now. And the same benefit programs and incentive compensation programs apply to everyone.
Another example. Anyone who interacts with Berrett-Koehler soon learns that our culture is all about sharing information openly and freely, so that everyone knows everything. We are open source with authors, suppliers, customers, service partners, and even competitors. And I have always perceived my job to be continuously sharing information in many ways with all of our stakeholder groups. But you may not know the source of this culture and practice. It all started with internalizing the ideas in Chapter 6 of Leadership and the New Science, which is called “The Creative Energy of the Universe – Information.” Read that chapter and you’ll see what I mean.
BK has also been influenced by another of the first three books we published: Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge. Give up the illusion that you are ever in charge. None of us is ever in control. But we all can get things done when we are not in charge. Of course, this lesson applies to this event. We all can get important things done by acting on ideas that inspire us here even though none of us is in charge of others here.
Finally, here’s an example in the words of our tremendous Director of Subsidiary Rights, Maria Jesus Aguilo: “I was hired as a production and marketing assistant in 1996. At about that time we were publishing Managers As Mentors, so my boss at the time, Pat Anderson, took me aside and told me: I just finished this fantastic book and I really feel like I need to be a good mentor to you. Therefore, I would like us to talk about what it is that you expect from your work here at BK and help you all I can. I told her that I was very happy with my position and learning a lot, but what I would really like to do is rights licensing. A couple of years went by before an opportunity presented itself for me to do rights, but when it did, Pat offered me the position. I learned two things early on in my career at BK: that BK really walks the talk in ways that deeply affect others, and that my managers at BK really listened to my needs and acted upon them. Almost twenty years later, I still derive a lot of inspiration for my work from how the ideas in our books change lives in big and small ways. They changed mine!”
6. Mission: Creating a World That Works For All
For the first eight years of BK’s history we were in search of a way to express our mission. A mission articulates the fundamental purpose of an organization or enterprise, succinctly describing why it exists. We tried many different ways of expressing our mission. Some are shown on the screen. All had good points, but we were not satisfied with any of them. So we made articulating our mission one of the central objectives of our strategic planning process in the year 2000. “Creating a World That Works for All” emerged from that process and has been our mission ever since.
What has happened over the past thirteen years is that “Creating a World That Works for All” has come to be shorthand for everything that BK community members love about Berrett-Koehler. It has come to signify – all wrapped up in one short memorable phrase – our multiple stakeholder focus, books that make a difference, stewardship, partnership, sustainability, and many other dimensions of BK. It has come to have great meaning for many BK community members, who use it frequently in telling others about BK and expressing their own connection to BK. It has also served to communicate to authors and others a BK point of view, and this point of view is one of our major competitive advantages, as book marketing consultant Todd Sattersten recently pointed out to us.
What does this mission mean in terms of seeking changes in the world, selecting publications that advance these changes, and striving to pursue these changes in our own company and community? These questions are addressed in my Fall 2013 catalog letter in your binder.
Partnership is the way we seek to run Berrett-Koehler and to interact with all of our stakeholder groups – with collaboration, invitation, dialogue, consent, respect, openness, integrity, and mutualism, instead of compulsion, force, violence, or hierarchy.
Partnership is at the heart of the relationship we strive to establish with authors. One manifestation of partnership is our publication agreement, which has many clauses that create a more collaborative relationship between the publisher and authors than is the norm in other companies’ publication agreements.
The fullest manifestation of our partnership with authors is the BK Authors Cooperative, which is a one-of-a-kind organization in the world where authors come together to help each other in many big and small ways to increase their success and impact.
We are now seeking to establish a Berrett-Koehler Foundation that would further extend our partnership approach to helping young leaders around the world put into practice systems-changing ideas and methods that help create a world that works for all. Please see me or Jesse Stoner if you would like to know more about this proposed Foundation.
This partnership approach extends to our relationships with our suppliers, service providers, sales partners, and other stakeholders, as I’ll describe in later examples.
8. Quality and Value Added
All of our systems and approaches are designed to add value and create quality throughout the publishing process. For example, we create high quality in our books by forming longstanding, close, collaborative partnerships with about twenty of the best book production teams around the country, then by sending each new book to the book production team best matched to the unique requirements of that particular book, then by that production team, the author, and the BK staff all working closely together to customize and enhance the book.
Throughout the book publishing world there are constant lamentations about decades of decline in how much editorial guidance and support publishers offer to authors. In contrast, one secret of BK’s success is the extensive editorial guidance and support we provide to authors. We do this in three ways, of which only the third way is common today among other publishers. First, we do a great deal of up-front editorial coaching of authors to improve the core ideas, organization, and framing of books, even before draft manuscripts are written. Second, we send all draft manuscripts to multiple outside reviewers who provide readers’ views of how to improve manuscripts. And third, we arrange top-notch copyediting of manuscripts.
This quality pays off in helping many BK publications to be bestsellers, not just upon publication but for many years following publication. On the screen are the covers of three BK books that have each sold well over one million copies. In each case BK provided editorial guidance that made the book sell far more copies and have greater impact than otherwise would have been the case. For example, my and our manuscript reviewers’ guidance tremendously strengthened John Perkins’ messages in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, anticipated the major challenges from critics, and helped Perkins add and clarify materials to address the challenges before the book was published.
9. Author Friendly Practices
When Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine gave Berrett-Koehler its award for “Stakeholder Accountability,” it told the following story in the article announcing the award. “At first, Howard Karger says, he couldn’t figure it out. . . A two-time Senior Fulbright Scholar, Karger is the author of multiple books. In late summer of 2004 he found himself working for the first time with Berrett-Koehler. . . . [He said] ‘After 25 years of book publishing, I was suspicious. . . I was made to feel like a part of the organization. Almost like staff.’ He grew more wary when the publisher insisted that he travel to San Francisco to meet editorial, marketing, design, and publicity staff. Finally, he realized, ‘these were people doing what they believed in and producing books they were proud of. Democracy for Berrett-Koehler is not just a slogan.’ [The article concludes] In the rough-and-tumble world of book publishing, Berrett-Koehler stands out not only for its treatment of authors, but also for the manner in which it engages employees, business partners, readers, and community.”
This article is describing one of Berrett-Koehler’s many unique practices: launching each book with a full-day Author Day that connects the author to the whole BK staff, gets everyone excited about the book, and creates close collaboration between the author and publisher on all aspects of making books successful.
On the screen are listed some of our many other author-friendly practices.
10. Integrity and Transparency
These are two elements of partnership. I’ve decided to feature them separately because they pull together so many other dimensions of what makes BK work, as does Jamie and Maren Showkeir’s book Authentic Conversations.
One example of the power of our sharing information openly is our how our partnerships have worked with our two principal book printers, Malloy and Hamilton. There have been times in BK’s history, such as from 2001 to 2003, when we faced severe cash flow shortages and probably could not have kept operating as an independent company without agreement from our printers to extend substantial additional credit to BK even though we were far behind in payments on previous printing jobs. Here is the explanation from Bill Upton, Malloy’s president at the time, for why Malloy continued supporting BK: “One experience that stands out is how open you were with financial information, both current and projected, as you worked with Hamilton and Malloy during the years of loans and past-due payables with us. That openness is what made it possible for both printers to hang in there and continue to support BK.” He continued: “The obvious integrity and commitment of you and the entire staff was a very important factor. We’ve had experiences with other publishers in the past where they expanded their trade credit by working with additional suppliers – our old invoices were left unpaid while the publisher worked with new suppliers on a cash terms basis. We’ve also had publishers simply throw in the towel. Those scenarios were unimaginable with BK.” Fortunately, this trust paid off both for our printers and for BK. For some years BK has been, in Bill Upton’s words, “a model of correct, prompt, complete, problem-free bill paying.”
Our focus on doing what we say we will do, not overpromising, creating systems to fulfill promises, and holding ourselves accountable is especially noteworthy in the area of sales and marketing. Publishers are notorious for making lofty sales and marketing promises in their early discussions with authors and then not fulfilling their promises. Berrett-Koehler has just the opposite approach, which begins with being straight with authors about “The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing,” which is one of the documents in your binder that we share with all authors. The rubber really hits the road with the extensive systems that our Sales and Marketing Department has set up (1) to explicitly tell authors all the things we will and will not be doing to market their books, (2) to follow through on everything that we said we would do, and (3) to report back to authors that we have done what we said we would do. Kristen Frantz, in particular, has provided great leadership in setting up and maintaining these systems.
We strive to create systems of integrity and transparency in all areas of the company. For example, our book production systems are set up to enable us to publish books almost always on the schedule laid out at the beginning of the production process.
All of this is extremely challenging in an industry as complex as book publishing. BK Editorial Director Neal Maillet reflects this challenge when he reports, “I once asked the manager of a publisher’s royalty department how she kept track of all the tricky contractual exceptions editors negotiated and was told ‘We don’t – we just use the boilerplate and apologize profusely when an author or agent catches the mistake.’”
BK’s approach is to only commit to things that we can deliver, to create systems that enable us to actually fulfill our commitments, and to share information with our stakeholders that show how we have performed what we promised to do.
Here I am focusing on two dimensions of sustainability. The first dimension is the thrust of many of our books, such as those pictured here, to establish lifestyles, institutions, economic systems, environmental systems, and other ways of living and interacting that are sustainable for generations going forward. The second dimension is establishing strategies and practices that make Berrett-Koehler Publishers sustainable both in terms of being able to stay in business and in terms of the environmental and social responsibility of our own business practices.
One embodiment of our commitment to sustainability is that Berrett-Koehler is a Certified B Corporation. B Corporations meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance. To qualify as a B Corp, Berrett-Koehler had to complete and pass a 230-question “Impact Assessment” that examined BK’s performance on measures of corporate accountability, transparency, compensation, benefits, employee training, worker environment, worker ownership, social benefit, community service, local involvement, diversity, job creation, and environmental practices.
12. Multichannel Marketing and Sales
This has been part of BK’s formula from the very beginning. Our June 1991 “Vision and Plan for a New Publishing Business” listed 17 sales and marketing channels for the company. Today we still are active in all of the original 17 channels and have added many other channels, such as online booksellers and social media, that did not exist in 1991. An incomplete list of these channels is on the screen.
Our multichannel approach is good for authors and book sales because it increases each publication’s chance to succeed in the marketplace by giving each publication many diverse channels in which to find a market. For example, some books do poorly in bookstore sales but do well in special sales or foreign language translations.
Of course most publishers market through multiple channels. But most do not market as extensively in as many different channels as does BK.
The downside of BK’s approach is that it is very expensive. Berrett-Koehler devotes over 20 percent of our revenues to sales and marketing, which is far above publishing industry averages.
In an age of corporate consolidation, BK has remained fiercely independent. Berrett-Koehler is owned by our stakeholders, including our employees, authors, customers, suppliers, service providers, and sales partners.
This independence allows us to chart our own course and to not have our unique values and practices submerged in a giant corporate bureaucracy. And it allows us to own our own future and to not be governed by short-term stock market pressures and shifting corporate edicts.
14. Continuity, Constancy, Fidelity
One of BK’s great strengths has been our ability to keep good people and the resulting continuity of our staff. 18 of our 25 employees have been with BK for 5 or more years. And our average staff tenure with BK is 10 years. Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em has not only been a bestselling BK book, it has also been a guide to our company.
Another secret to our success has been the constancy of our purpose, vision, and distinctive practices over many years. Included in your binders is a list of 11 “Guiding Concepts for Berrett-Koehler Publishers” that was written 21 years ago. All of these “Guiding Concepts” are still our touchstones today – such as multiple stakeholder focus and environmental consciousness and action. This constancy increases our ability to move Full Steam Ahead!, as the title of Jesse Stoner and Ken Blanchard’s book proclaims.
When people ask me what about Berrett-Koehler I am most proud about, my answer is our fidelity to our mission and values during the many challenging periods we have had over the years. For example, when the great recession hit in 2008 and 2009, like most publishing companies we experienced a substantial revenue decline. However, we decided to respond to this crisis by doing more of what BK stands for – under the headings of Integrity, Mission and Strategies, Participation, and Efficiency and Effectiveness – rather than compromising our mission and values. Whereas Publishers Weekly reported that approximately two thirds of publishing companies laid off employees and cut back their publishing programs during this period, Berrett-Koehler did neither. Instead, we shared full information with all employees, and the employees collectively decided to take a 10 percent across-the-board salary reduction (except for the lowest-paid employees, who received smaller reductions), which the employees then lifted after revenues recovered. My hope is that our identity as a company and community is so deeply imprinted that it will be our destiny and carry us through the many other challenging periods that are surely yet to come.
15. Continuing Innovation
The previous 14 secrets may make it sound like BK is in good shape. However, it is clear that we cannot stand still. Everything is going through continuous change around us in our business and publishing environments. Unless we are leaders ourselves in making the future, unless we do new and surprising things to leapfrog over obstacles that have constrained us in the past, and unless we continue developing new ways of doing business that bring greater value to our customers and other stakeholders, Berrett-Koehler will not survive over the long term.
Larry Ackerman, author of Identity Is Destiny, recently observed that BK is now 21 years old and that this age can be viewed as having reached “adulthood.” I think that is a good image for where we are now. At 21, it is time to turn more of one’s focus outward to contributing to a larger work and to making a bigger difference in the world through service to others. This can be true of Berrett-Koehler as well and this event can help BK reach out in new and better ways to make a greater positive difference in the world.
As we seek to innovate in new ways, it is my prayer that we will continue to be guided by the secrets named in this address. I believe that there is great power within these ideas and that they will make our innovations better and more likely to succeed. We can do more to create a world that works for all. Thank you.
Berrett-Koehler Proud Publisher of 169 Bestsellers
Berrett-Koehler is pleased to report that as of June 2013, the company can claim 169 bestseller titles within their roster of books. This number represents approximately a third of the total booklist for the San Francisco based publisher.
A bestseller is defined as a book that has sold over 20,000 copies in all editions. The sales figures below include sales of all U.S. and international editions of these titles in all formats (including digital editions).
And among these bestsellers are 42 that have sold over 100,000 copies and 3 that have sold over 1 million copies.
Also very impressive are the number of translation rights sales for these books. The Berrett-Koehler rights department, comprised of Maria-Jesus Aguilo and Catherine Lengronne, have sold translation rights for almost every title and 10 or more translation rights for over 60 titles.
Here is the complete list of all bestsellers:
Berrett-Koehler Authors Recipient of Nautilus Awards
Meg Wheatley and Marjorie Kelly both take Silver
Two Berrett-Koehler authors received recognition for their outstanding books by winning silver in the 2013 Nautilus Awards.
Meg Wheatley, author of So Far From Home, has won the 2013 Nautilus Silver Award in Inner Prosperity/Right Livelihood.
Marjorie Kelly, author of Owning Our Future, has won the 2013 Nautilus Silver Award in Business/Leadership.
The Nautilus Awards represents "Better Books for a Better World." Now in its 13th year, this unique book award program continues to gain prestige with authors and publishers around the world as it seeks, honors, awards and promotes print books that inspire and connect our lives as individuals, communities and global citizens.
Dedicated to excellence and the highest literary standards, the Nautilus assists its winners in getting wider recognition, marketing and exhibiting opportunities, media coverage, industry exposure and enhanced prospects for sales.
The Nautilus Awards seeks and promotes well-written and -produced books with messages about caring for, understanding, and improving every aspect of our lives and relationships.
Congratulations to Meg and Marjorie for this great honor!
What Do Bestseller Lists Really Measure?
By Steve Piersanti, President, Berrett-Koehler Publishers
A recent Wall Street Journal article has focused attention on one of the ways that scores of authors with dozens of publishers have gamed the system to get their books on national bestseller lists.
The article misses, however, the bigger story. In many cases, bestseller lists don’t really measure how well books are selling, at least if one means real, ongoing demand and sales for books. Instead, for many books, what bestseller lists measure is how much authors and publishers are able to concentrate sales during a one-week window, using all manner of means that manufacture short-lived quantities of sales, often in artificial ways that have no relationship to actual demand for the books.
For example, Book A sells 10,000 copies in one week through one or more of the manufactured means described below, but then in following weeks Book A drops to its real level of demand of a couple hundred copies or less sold per week, until it is remaindered and put out of print within a few years. Yet, in its one week of glory, Book A would have made it very high up on many national bestseller lists and be considered a “National Bestseller.”
In contrast, Book B consistently sells 1,000 copies per week and over 50,000 copies per year for many years. Yet Book B would probably never make it onto any of the national bestseller lists.
These scenarios are not hypothetical. For example, Berrett-Koehler’s book, Leadership and Self-Deception, has sold over 850,000 copies in English since it was published in 2000 (an average of 65,000 copies per year), plus hundreds of thousands more copies in 27 foreign-language editions. Yet Leadership and Self-Deception has never made it onto the New York Times bestseller list or the Publishers Weekly bestseller list or any of the other national lists that are based on one week of sales. (Leadership and Self-Deception did regularly appear on the BusinessWeek bestseller list before that list was discontinued a couple of years ago, but that was because it was based on one month of sales instead of one week of sales.)
The Wall Street Journal article focuses on how a company called ResultSource helps authors split bulk purchases by the authors’ clients into hundreds of smaller sales that are spread out among retail booksellers. The article does not mention various other means that are used every week to get books onto bestseller lists without real demand for the books. Here is a far-from-complete list of other popular ways of manufacturing bestsellers:
I am not saying that the means above are wrong or bad. Instead I am saying that it’s time to recognize that books are not true bestsellers when their large sales in one week have been manufactured rather than being the outcome of ongoing real demand for the book; we need different measures of bestsellers. And I recognize that there are numerous books on bestseller lists for which there is indeed strong ongoing demand, week-after-week, including books that made it onto the lists without the means of manufacturing a bestseller described above or that continue on the bestseller lists for long periods of time. Those books deserve to be called bestsellers.
What I am advocating is developing new ways of measuring and naming bestsellers that give preference to books for which there is real ongoing demand over longer periods of time than just a week or two. One step in doing this would be to discontinue weekly bestseller lists and go to monthly bestseller lists (or, if weekly bestseller lists are continued, to base them on rolling monthly totals of books sold, which are updated each week, instead of on one week totals of books sold). Even better would be to focus bestseller lists on quarterly or annual or lifetime sales. Another step would be to compare the quantity of sales to the quantity of returns, which would help weed out books for which actual interest and demand were much lower than the widespread distribution of copies in stores (and would have the side benefit of lowering returns and helping the environment by reducing the incentive to print and distribute large quantities of books for which there was no proven demand and which largely end up being remaindered and destroyed).
But what is also needed is to simply give less prominence to bestseller lists. I have come to believe that, like fad diets, it is actually counterproductive for most authors to focus their publishing and marketing efforts on getting on bestseller lists. Such efforts often consume authors’ attention and resources, which distracts them from doing the things that would result in much larger book sales over a longer period of time. I counsel authors to instead focus their time, energy, and resources on making their books better, developing marketing strengths that are not gimmicks or quick fixes, and building real demand for their books.
To republish this article, contact Cynthia Shannon cshannon (at) bkpub (dot) com