Dearborn Trade Publishing
Nix on Corporate America
"We focus, as I'm sure all business publishers do, on trends," says Dearborn Trade Publishing publisher Cynthia Zigmund. "We see corporations that continue to behave badly and employees being skeptical of corporate America." She's also found that readers are no longer interested in books on what corporate America is doing wrong, even though she continues to be inundated with proposals for such books . "We think readers are sick of that. We try to focus on corporations that do things the right way," says Zigmund, citing Jim Underwood's What's Your Corporate IQ? How the Smartest Companies Learn, Transform, Lead (Sept.).
Dearborn itself seems to be doing a number of things right. "We're having a very good year. If you look at the company 10 years ago," says Zigmund, "we were really a personal finance and consumer real estate publisher. We've diversified; business management books right now are 20% of our list and growing. It's such a broad category and these are good backlist books. " At the same time, she notes that returns are down to the lowest they've been in five years. "We're more aggressive than we have been in the past," Zigmund reports. "It's not unusual for us to go back to press three or four times in a year. Where we may have printed 50,000, we go out the gate with 15,000 or 20,000."
Zigmund characterizes Dearborn titles as "how-to. They're practical. I want a CEO or an employee to be able to say, 'I read this book, and now I want to put a plan into action.' " One forthcoming Dearborn title that fits this profile is Fast Company magazine columnist Charles Dexter's parable of Bee Natural (a fictionalized company) in the midst of organizational change—Lessons from the Hive: The Buzz on Surviving and Thriving in an Ever-Changing Workplace (Nov.). "It's our lead book," says Zigmund. "It has a simple message: in an organization, change has to start with the individual and not the manager. There's a disconnect between employer and employee. Too many corporations treat employees as disposable." Another business parable she singles out is B.J. Gallagher and Steve Ventura's Who Are "They" Anyway? A Tale of Achieving Success at Work Through Personal Accountability (Aug.), about preventing employees from getting caught up in "the blame game." —Judith Rosen
John Wiley & Sons
Responding to Current Realities
Triathlons, mountain bike races and marathons may be unexpected venues in which to market a business management book, though not if you're reaching out to an audience of athletic young executives, many of whom already have a desk drawer stocked with Clif Bars. Coming in September from Jossey-Bass (a division of Wiley) is Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business in which Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson tells how the maverick entrepreneur turned a homemade energy bar into a $100 million business. According to Wiley general manager Jeff Brown, "We want to publish books that respond to the current realities of the corporate world and Raising the Bar will connect with the new, younger managerial audience which is looking for information that's close at hand." The message for these readers, he adds, "has to be 'this will provide something that I can use right away'— a read-it-in-the-morning-and-use-it-in-the-afternoon kind of book."
The story format, Brown tells PW, is also a winner for Wiley: last month's Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass), "provides tremendous insight in how to work with people in a corporate environment. Lencioni makes his points through stories rather than long discourses. It's short and people-accessible and is doing extremely well for us." In another April title, Testosterone Inc.: Tales of CEOs Gone Wild, Martha Inc. author Christopher Byron shows—via profiles of Jack Welch, Ron Perlman, Al Dunlap, Dennis Koslowski and more—how CEOs' personal and business lives intersect.
While a crowded marketplace "is making it difficult to get customer mind share as well as shelf space in bookstores," Brown does see areas of opportunity on the rise. "One is publishing titles that will meet the needs of multiple sales channels. Another is the author as a publishing franchise for which a book is one component of a fully integrated marketing platform incorporating media, consulting, public speaking and online communities." And while everyone is looking for the next big thing that will drive publishers' lists, the bottom line, says Brown, is that "you have to be a visionary about what areas are around the corner. Then you find the most qualified authors—and get to them first." —Lucinda Dyer
Outperforming a Trend
When it comes to weathering tough times, HarperBusiness publisher Stephen Hanselman admits that it helps to have a backlist mainstay such as Peter Drucker. Now 94, the management icon will once again be moving to the frontlist with the October release of The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done. According to Hanselman, the book "distills the essence" of the author's body of work—more than 25 books—"into one volume that will reintroduce Drucker in a user-friendly way to a new generation of managers ."
While Hanselman notes that the last few years have seen a necessary reduction in title output and a general decline in business book sales, he thinks that publishers "have, overall, seen the bottom of this trend. We've been fortunate in outperforming the trend, especially in the management category." One reason Hanselman cites for this success is the company's decision to broaden its categories to strengthen the lists' overall balance, particularly in the area of business narratives with titles such as last fall's Bull! A History of the Boom, 1982-1999 by Maggie Mahar.
Ethical leadership and "transparency" continue to be areas of strong focus for consumers, reports Hanselman. Herb Baum's The Transparent Leader: How to Build a Great Company Through Straight Talk, Openness, and Accountability (Oct.) "should find a wide readership from CEOs to mid-level managers. Baum is known for being very folksy and approachable—he drives a VW Bug and lives a management style that's really right for these times." And whose leadership skills are more open to discussion and review than an NFL coach? Coming in August is Winning the NFL Way: Leadership Lessons from Football's Top Coaches by Bob LaMonte, which continues, says Hanselman, the publisher's "strong tradition of lessons from the gridiron for business leaders."
As for the future, Hanselman sees business readers "getting back inside the box. Not in the pejorative sense of only seeing the status quo and business as usual, but in a much more creative and passionate attempt to really understand, own and leverage the unique assets of their organization, products and services. After a decade of surfing the best practices of other companies, readers are now shifting toward books that help to fuse relevant best practices to a deeper understanding of the core competencies of their own businesses." —Lucinda Dyer
A New Balancing Act
For Warner Books executive editor Rick Wolff, the key to success is "trying to stay ahead of the curve, trying to spot and identify those management breakthroughs or upcoming trends that are just on the horizon in the world of business. People in business are always looking to the future to find out what's new, what's working and what they can do to improve their company's or their own individual productivity."
Since the launch of Warner Business Books three years ago, the imprint, reports Wolff, "has focused mostly on prescriptive business books." He notes three titles that he expects to be standouts in this area. The Feiner Points of Leadership (June) by Michael Feiner, a former senior executive and "chief people officer" at Pepsi, is "a real hands-on guide that presents 50 laws for dealing with everything from crazy bosses to cutthroat peers." The ABC's of Building a Business Team That Wins by Blair Singer (Sept.) is the eighth book in Robert Kiyosaki's best-selling Rich Dad Advisor Series. And Lois Frankel's Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers "has been a real rocket for us. In today's corporate world we all like to think that men and women are treated equally, but some things do linger and women want to know how to fight the old boy network."
Warner, reports Wolff, has deliberately avoided publishing any of the corporate exposé books. "It was clear to us that corporate disasters are well-covered in the daily media. We really didn't think that people would want to read an entire book about these companies a year or two later. I know everybody wants to publish the next Barbarians at the Gate, but the truth is those kinds of books are very rare."
Looking forward, Wolff believes that today's younger generation of managers and leaders is going to be much more flexible about balancing their work and personal lives and will be looking for business titles to help them cope with this balancing act. And he sees a new kind of management icon who may just topple high-profile CEOs and military leaders from their best-selling pedestals. "I think the next trend will see the emergence of great entrepreneurs as leadership models. Given how many people have lost their jobs and have now started their own businesses, they'll be needing great role models." —Lucinda Dyer
Looking to the Past
The convenient thing about dead leaders is that they're not likely to show up on CNN, climbing court steps and flanked by a team of lawyers—which is more than you can say for a lot of CEOs these days. That's why Amacom Books is looking to the past for models to guide managers into the future, says editorial director Adrienne Hickey.
This month's Into the Unknown: Leadership Lessons from Lewis & Clark's Daring Westward Expedition by Jack Uldrich is just one example of the publisher building books around historical leaders. Having already published titles based on principles gleaned from the Wright Brothers and Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, Amacom's fall list presents strategies from three great military leaders—The Wisdom of Alexander the Great: Enduring Leadership Lessons from the Man Who Created an Empire by Lance B. Kurke (Sept.) and Lee & Grant: Profiles in Leadership from the Battlefields of Virginia by U.S. Army Maj. Charles R. Bowery Jr. (Nov.).
Overall, says Hickey, the market for business management books has brightened recently along with the economy. Executives who last year were preoccupied with filling the void left by laid-off colleagues—or hunting for employment—are now back to the business of doing their jobs and looking for ways to do them better.
Still, in this post— Martha-Enron-Tyco-Worldcom environment, publishers bank on the prestige of celebrity business leaders to turn out management bestsellers. "I can't think of any CEO out there right now who would command that much respect," Hickey says. "I just think that in addition to being a little suspicious, the reader is a little jaded."
Along with historical heroes, Amacom is basing management books on activities and organizations that aren't directly related to business, but that have applicable lessons to teach. Those include two May books, Operation Excellence: Success Strategies of the U.S. Military That Will Give You the Winning Edge in Business and in Life by retired Army Lt. Col. Mark Bender and Golf and the Game of Leadership: An 18-Hole Guide for Success in Business and in Life by Donald McHugh. The subtitles of both hint at another trend, says Hickey: business management guides that double as self-help books to improve life beyond the boardroom. "A business person is still a person," says Hickey. "And there are a lot of so-called business skills that are applicable to the rest of your life."
Applicable is the key word here. Says Hickey, "There is always a market for practical management books—the bread-and-butter, how-to-do-your-job-better books—and they're not going away." —Karen Holt
A Slow Recovery
San Francisco—based Berrett-Koehler publishes approximately 30 books annually, some on self-help and personal growth, but the bulk of its program—about 20 titles a year—focuses on business issues. "That number has remained fairly steady over the last three or four years," says president and publisher Steven Piersanti, "but we've found that what happened to Enron and other companies has really given us fodder for books. There's a renewed interest in business ethics, and people are taking a hard look at how things work. What has had a deleterious effect on business is the recession—that plus September 11." Noting that many business books are sold through employee leadership programs and other seminars and workshops, Piersanti says, "A lot of that dried up. People haven't been traveling. Authors have lost opportunities to speak about their books. There's a slow recovery going on now, although I don't see it booming. Our business is tracing the recovery of the economy."
Since its inception in 1992, Berrett-Koehler's purpose has remained consistent, Piersanti tells PW: "We like to do books that challenge conventional thinking." One that does that, he says, is Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development by Henry Mintzberg. According to Piersanti, the book turns tradition on its head: "Mintzberg argues that part of the malaise in today's business is a direct result of the education that MBAs are getting. He challenges business education. He says that we're educating the wrong people. We should be educating the people who are actually managing companies."
Underscoring this need to find what works, Piersanti says that one of the trends in business publishing is toward the tried and true. "Established authors, established books sell," he remarks. "We publish Ken Blanchard, and his books do very well. We expect that to happen with The Secret. [This May title, subtitled What Great Leaders Know and Do, was written with Mark Miller.] It's not a new, earth-shaking conclusion, but the core idea is that a great leader serves, as opposed to being self-serving. Another of our books, My Way or the Highway [by Harry E. Chambers, Dec.] also fits into the back-to-basics idea There are numerous articles on micromanagement. Everyone feels a victim of it, but there hasn't been a book about it until now." —Robert Dahlin
Expanding the Boundaries
After the first full year in print for Portfolio, the business book imprint of the Penguin Group, founder and publisher Adrian Zackheim says, "I'm cautiously optimistic. I don't want to overhype what I've accomplished. We've got pretty much traction, including two New York Times bestsellers." The imprint, which will publish 22 hardcovers and 11 paperbacks this year, also has more than a half dozen Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestsellers under its belt.
Looking at this year's titles, Zackheim says, "The big encyclopedic management manual, we don't have one. I don't think it's going to be on anybody's list. We're really taking the microscope out and looking at different aspects of management." He cites as an example Susan Lucia Annunzio's Contagious Success: Spreading High Performance Throughout Your Organization (Nov.), which focuses on how to manage work teams.
"What's happening on our list," continues Zackheim, "is that in order to deliver to our readers what's going on at the edge of business ideas, we have to expand the boundaries of business books." Many of these books are also in a slightly smaller hardcover format than traditional business titles. Portfolio used the 5" x 7" size and catchy graphics effectively last year for marketing guru Seth Godin's Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, which has sold just under 100,000 copies to date.
For Godin's next book, Free Prize Inside: The Next Big Idea (May), not only did Portfolio use the smaller size, but the cover, if possible, has an even more nontraditional business-book look. To push the limits even further, the first printing of 35,000 copies is packaged inside a cereal box, which contains a very grown-up free prize—an imitation copy of the front page of the Wall Street Journal with stories by Godin and Zackheim, among others. According to Zackheim, "the retailers have really supported this, because it's so on message."
Another smaller-format business book that strains against the constrictions of the genre is Keith Yamashita and Sandra Spataro's Unstuck: A Tool for Yourself, Your Team, and Your World (May), which has a highly designed cover and lots of art images inside. Zackheim calls it "a work of art and a management primer. It's a clever repositioning of how problems work their way through organizations." —Judith Rosen
Performance Is the Yardstick
The biggest challenge in the business arena right now, says Crown Business publisher Steve Ross, is the reluctant consumer, who has less downtime, less free time and less tolerance for the trendy, fly-by-night theories that helped fuel the wild markets of the 1990s. "People are working harder and carrying their computers around their waist with a BlackBerry," he says. For this crowd, he has to more clearly demonstrate value in what he publishes. "After the Nasdaq bubble burst, after 9/11, after Enron and the accounting scandals, people saw they couldn't cut corners anymore—performance was going to be the measure of how things were going. They started looking for tools to help that performance and that's what we're trying to provide."
The booming economic marketplace of the '90s, says Ross, was like a rigged slot machine that kept returning jackpots. "The markets' 'irrational exuberance' was reflected in microcosm in the book marketplace," he notes. "Basically, since so many companies were doing so well, a range of highfalutin' and trendy management theories gained traction. Similarly, since investors were doing so well, the appetite for finance and investing titles seemed insatiable." When the bubble burst, he says, "the business and finance book marketplace retrenched and became far more conservative and skeptical."
This has led to a hunger for "time-tested, authoritative and substantial material," says Ross, written by people with proven track records. "We are more selective about the books we're signing up and want really authoritative authors, like Rosabeth Moss Kanter, one of the top management gurus." Coming next month is Kanter's Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, which in Ross's words "is completely novel and has crossover appeal to sports motivation." Another case in point is ConfrontingReality: Master the New Model for Success by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, whose Execution has racked up 600,000 hardcover copies in print. This October title, says Ross, "is about the ability to confront reality in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
"We're doing well, but it's a difficult market. Because of the economy the business book buyer/reader is distracted and skeptical. But skeptical readers are a wonderful challenge. They make us make sure that the message is clear and unique and that the author is authoritative. " —Suzanne Mantell
A Big Bang
According to Roger Scholl, editorial director of Doubleday's Currency imprint, some areas of the business category that had been lagging—small business, career, real estate, investment—are on the rise again, while others, like straight management books, haven't quite rebounded. But one thing cuts across all lines: the need to be highly selective and go after the best within each category. "Even things that are new by very qualified authors sometimes seem too familiar," Scholl says. "We want fresh and something that will create a bang. And we translate our excitement into concrete terms early on for our accounts so they'll know why we're excited about a book. From the beginning, we go over how we can work together as a team—marketing, publicity, sales and the author and/or the author's team. And we include the accounts in our plans."
Sales, which were down substantially after 2001, started coming back last fall, Scholl says. Now, "there's plenty of room for growth in the category as the economy expands and as we uncover ideas that cover new ground and give new insights into how business works." Among the hot issues right now are outsourcing and globalization, but "a year from now we will want deeper insights into outsourcing. How do we respond as companies? We are constantly trying to envision what will be interesting and in the marketplace one year or two years down the road. We are constantly looking for people who are going to tell us where business is going to go next."
Despite the current lackluster performance of management titles in the marketplace, this area will continue to be a core strength at Currency, Scholl says, noting the forthcoming publication of two titles, It's Not What You Say... It's What You Do, by Laurence Haughton (Dec.), about how companies make their plans happen, and The Fiefdom Syndrome by longtime Microsoft COO Robert Herbold (Aug.), about the turf battles that undermine careers and companies. "These are management titles we think will work. They are fresh and say something new. And the authors have a platform. That's what we're looking for. Authors who are out there on the speaking circuit are tremendous assets. Even with the very best book, if the author isn't a strong promoter it's hard to make the book break out. Advertising isn't enough." —Suzanne Mantell
"If you look at the bestseller lists in recent months," says Philip Ruppel, McGraw-Hill Trade group publisher, "they've been dominated by personal finance books and 'light' business books. Good to Great and Execution have been on the list, but most are in the light category. The long-term strategic management book has become a much tougher sell." So why have consumers made the turn to "management light"? "Perhaps because many of the management gurus have gone underground," says Ruppel. "They were burnt by the e-commerce implosion and now these folks are playing it scarce. And it's possible that people aren't thinking about long-term strategies. Business has become very short-term and very survival-oriented."
So where does opportunity lie for business publishers? For Ruppel, it's in books that give practical advice in shorter formats tied to recognizable brands. Trout on Strategy provides easy-to-understand management rules and ideas from best-selling marketing guru Jack Trout. You Play to Win the Game: Leadership Lessons for Success On and Off the Field by Herman Edwards gives the unique perspective of the dynamic coach of the New York Jets. "The point here," says Ruppel, "is that these books are tied to names that are already well known. That said, a book like World Out of Balance: Preparing Companies to Rise to the Challenge and Face the Five Factors Shaping Tomorrow's Global Business Environment by Paul Laudicina [Nov.] deals with big picture changes; this also touches a real hot button with today's business leaders."
Thinking globally is also a key element of McGraw-Hill's business program. The company now has a "significant" presence, Ruppel reports, in China, India and Singapore, with M-H management titles appearing regularly on bestseller lists in those countries. He notes that China "has been particularly successful; we'll publish some 100 management and leadership titles for that market this year."
Information customized for the reader tops Ruppel's lists of must-haves for the future: "Broad topics are increasingly harder to publish. The Internet has made people accustomed to getting information tailored specifically for them. So as publishers, we must be more adept in finding the right niches and finding how to publish profitably into them. But in the end, there's nothing like a well-written, well-packaged book that hits the idea on the head." —Lucinda Dyer