Archive for December, 2009

To Book Publishers (Traditional & Self) Who Just Don’t Get It

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

In reading a response to a discussion I started on a writer’s group on LinkedIn, I was struck with the thought that it isn’t just self-publishers who need to pay attention to the quality of their products. Some very big names are guilty of foisting-off crap.

The kind of food you'll find at Cracker Barrel.

Recently I visited a Cracker Barrel Restaurant with my wife. For those who may not be familiar with Cracker Barrel, it serves southern style comfort food at reasonable prices. We like to go there when we just want foody-food. Nothing fancy.  No cooking with exotic spices like saffron or curry. On the menu will be dishes like meatloaf, country fried steak, and catfish. You can choose your sides from a menu that includes fried okra, turnip greens, and corn. For desert there are various cobblers, pie, and ice-cream. Yum.

Before you get to the restaurant part of the place you have to wend your way through kitschy collections of merchandise that change with the season. My wife loves to peruse their tables of nick-knacks, music boxes, and stuffed animals. Now, as I am writing this it is three days from Christmas, so they were all decked out in a torrent of red and green. Santas and gift items were stacked nearly ceiling high. My eye caught an illustrated book of The Night Before Christmas. The illustrations were beautiful. I wish I could say the same for the book. The workmanship, especially on the cover was a disaster. Both covers, front and back, bowed outward from the spine. It was not only ugly, but made it impossible for the book to lay flat on a table. Here was a book that I wanted to buy, wanted to take home and treasure, wanted to read it to future grandchildren, but I couldn’t get past the cover. This was not an heirloom piece; it was a piece of carnival crap. I looked at the spine and was surprised to see that Simon & Schuster allowed this mess to go out under their banner.

I believe that books are a treasure. They last decades and centuries even. It saddens me to think that the noble business of publishing, especially the giant houses like Simon & Schuster, may be more focused on profit than quality.

I have heard authors complain that their traditionally published books were an embarrassment to them. That the cover designs didn’t truly represent the book, and that cheap cost cutting methods were implemented. Authors who have sold their rights to the publisher have no claim on how the book is manufactured. As for The Night Before Christmas I’m guessing it was sent to a sweat shop overseas to be printed and bound for the lowest price possible, a price guaranteeing maximum profit but sacrificing the honor of the book. I didn’t buy it. I’m hoping no one does. If enough customers reject poor quality the publisher will have to ask why. Why didn’t this book sell?

I plead with self-publishing authors to realize that they have total control of their children. Dress them up in their Sunday best and send them out to play. The day may come when the marketplace will select a self-published book over a traditional one because of the value added that comes from your care.

Defending Myself–Printing, Publishing, and Observations

Friday, December 18th, 2009

I was half-watching Stephen Colbert on television yesterday. It was his final show for this year. He spoke about the recession and at the top of his list of suffering industries was printing. Boing–he got my attention. Finally, the world has started to recognize how badly damaged we have been. In a way that is ironic, because printing created the Union and is the backbone of  history. And yet, when filling out a form or survey and the question is asked, “What industry are you in?” you won’t find printing. It’s like we no longer exist. I sometimes feel like Mr. Cellophane from the Broadway show Chicago. Hey world, printing is an industry. We do exist.

Printing, Publishing, and Observations

A friend called the other day. This is the same friend who introduced me to blogging almost a year ago. He said that my blog posts aren’t like other blogs. He finally figured out the difference, he says that I’m not writing traditional blogs, I’m more of a columnist.

Sometimes it is about the observations.

I’ve thought about it and believe he is on to something. My posts tend to be longer than what other bloggers do. I tackle subjects outside of my “stated purpose.” Maybe that is true, and perhaps the search engines get confused when they send out their crawly spider things, and they go back and report that my printing and publishing blog includes the economy, big business, and social injustice. It makes it hard to nail me down.

“Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
The last honest president?

The last honest president?

I can’t help it. Maybe it is my maturity–I am sliding into senior citizenship quicker than I want to admit. After a certain age, you start realizing what you knew before, but only philosophically. You have seen enough, and experienced enough, to know that life isn’t fair. In my case, I truly know that life isn’t fair, but I haven’t given in. I still believe that it isn’t too late. I believe that if people gather in large enough numbers they can make the government listen. Is that naive? I suppose so, because millions of citizens contacted their representatives and the White House begging them to withhold TARP funds from ailing banks. Those millions had zero impact. For those financial institutions, the recession is over, and they can double their executive compensations, but for the rest of the country the recession they created continues. Mortgage foreclosures are still happening at an incredible rate. Is this “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people?” —Abraham Lincoln

We want it, but the government denies us.

We are still in the throes of health care reform. In survey after survey, the American public proved we overwhelmingly  support  the public option. The percentages range from 61% to 77%. The public option is a no-brainer. We want it. Why then do our representatives continue to insist that the public option is dead?

Do you smell the stink of sellout?

Let’s think about it–the citizens want it, congress doesn’t. Where is the disconnect? It stinks of sellout. Someone owns the congress lock stock and barrel, and it isn’t the citizenry–is it? I’m willing to bet everything I own that the final health care reform bill will do more to benefit the health insurance companies than the people. It’s just like the prescription drug plan. The government said it was for the old folks and it is, a little bit anyway, but the real winners were the pharmaceutical companies. It has made it possible for Senior citizens to pay the high drug prices with public money. How do the drug companies benefit? People who couldn’t pay for their medicines before, are now able to. They hit the jackpot and the pharmaceutical executives are smiling all the way to the bank with their bonus money, perks, and lavish lifestyles, while the rest of us are destined to pay more taxes. What, you don’t think you pay more taxes, you do, it is just deferred. It is called the national debt. Someday the piper will come calling, and then we’ll find out what deficit spending has really cost us.

The lucky ones are those who are gone before the collapse.

Like I said, I’m sliding rapidly into senior citizenship, and maybe, just maybe I won’t be around to witness the final collapse because of all this selfishness, greed, and foolishness.


Shouldn’t Every Service Business Have a Bill of Rights?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

In my last blog entry Credit is Our Lifeblood, Usury is Our Deathbed I criticized the banking and financial industries for passing off PR statements as a  Customer’s Bill of Rights. I suggested some rights that I would like to see instead.  That got me thinking about my own business. What promises am I willing to make to my customers, and what should they be able to expect from me as a printing broker?

Bill Ruesch Print Broker’s Customer’s Bill of Rights

Whereas the customer and Bill Ruesch Print Broker are entering into an agreement to produce a printed product for the customer, the customer can expect the following:

  • The Right to be Heard.  The Customer shall be treated at all times with respect and cordiality. All concerns and questions shall be answered promptly to the best of the Print Broker’s ability.
  • The Right to Expert Assistance. The Print Broker will advise, consult, and assist the Customer in all aspects of the printing and mailing arrangements, using his experience, wisdom and common sense to place jobs with Vendors best suited to produce the work with proficiency, reasonable cost, and in a timely manner.
  • The Right to Free Consultation. The Print Broker will draw on his experience and the knowledge of other professionals to make recommendations  toward improving quality, decreasing costs, and saving time. The Customer is not bound to act on any of  suggestions.
  • The Right to be Fully Informed. A bid specification sheet will be prepared by the print broker for every job. The bid sheet forms the blueprint for the job and informs all parties to the scope of the work. It is the Customer’s responsibility to review said specs and make corrections, preferably in writing to keep the job on track and prevent misunderstandings.
  • The Right of Mediation. The Print Broker serves as an intermediary between the Customer and the Vendors. While not responsible for the Customer’s debt, the Print Broker will work in behalf of the two parties to assure smooth financial transactions. In the event a problem occurs with quality, timeliness, delivery or any other Customer concern, the Print Broker  shall be available to mediate and mitigate the issue to find an solution acceptable to all parties.
  • The Right to have Expert Access. The Print Broker is primarily invested in getting the Customer’s job done right, on time, and at a reasonable cost. At any point in the production or estimating process that the Print Broker sees a need to have the Customer interact directly with the Vendor or other sources of specialized expertise, acting immediately connect said parties.
  • The Right of Friendly Support. The Customer has the right to assume that the Print Broker is working in the Customer’s best interest, and will continue to do so as long as the Customer’s demands are moral, ethical, and legal.
  • No Surprise Fees. It is understood by the Print Broker and Customer that bid prices are subject to change. Any changes from bid specification sheet that become necessary in the process of the job will require adjustments. The Print Broker guarantees that all fees for his services will be included in bids, and charges for changes. The Print Broker is committed to a no surprise policy.
  • No Long-Term Contracts. Unless otherwise agreed, Bill Ruesch serves the Customer on a project-by-project basis. The Customer is not obligated to hire him for future jobs unless it suits the Customer to do so.

The above nine rights are flexible, in that if any of the readers have suggestions or recommendations for changes I would like to hear them. When my Bill of Rights solidifies I will keep it on my website as a continual promise. And that’s a promise.


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