Some times it takes more than structural changes or methodological changes to transform your business. This explanation from Brett Sandusky sounds overly familiar. In comes the new identity; we’re now a digital company. In come new ways of working; scrum-like and clustered. Out go the old; the editorial, the in-line hand offs… But for all of the new little regard is paid to the customer. The reader.
We started holding scrum-like meetings for eBooks, creating small task groups with representative from each of the traditional departments (editorial, marketing, design, production), and floated some operations and product development people in and out of most projects. We replaced our editorial board meeting with a “product strategy meeting,” opting for more of an ideation period rather than a yea/nay acquisitions meeting. Our book proposals look nothing like book proposals. In fact, each day they resemble function specs documentation more and more.
We’ve become intra-departmental. The traditional publishing cycle was much like a relay race—one person would complete work on a project and then hand off to the next in the series. In this new paradigm, we are working like a soccer team, passing the work back and forth to different team members and advancing together. We’ve let design, marketing, and editorial inform each other. We’ve replaced a lineal production process with a clustered one consisting of small pods of talent working collaboratively on projects, owning them, seeing them through, and advocating for them.
And, most importantly, we’ve done all of this with our customers in mind. Almost mind-numbingly, the book publishing industry has a history of creating product for a “customer” that they never speak to, speak of, see, interact with, or consider. In fact, many publishing houses could consider their authors to be their primary customers, with author services being one of the major components of the business.
The poor regard that is actually paid to readers, to customers, to actual book consumers, is embarrassing inadequate.