Sunday, December 23, 2012

3 Main Goals for One Health Care Publisher in 2013

We publisher-types examine our goals every year, setting a course for signings, markets, research, and so forth. Those goals are, of course, private, and you won't learn about them here.

But we also set our own personal goals for working with authors, sales reps, developmental teams, and other in-house departments. Mostly we don't talk much about these, but here on the cusp of 2013, I thought I would lay out a few of my goals for 2013.

  1. Get out of the office more. I enjoy traveling around to schools and talking with faculty about their needs. That's one of the most enjoyable responsibilities I have. The last couple of years, though, I haven't been able to get out as much as I would have liked. So this year, watch out, I'm-a coming at ya!
  2. Stay true to my authors. I always try to stay true to my authors. To me that means being honest with them about all aspects of their books and advocating for their vision throughout the process. When I stay true to my authors, I automatically stay true to my company.
  3. Methusela
  4. Learn more, teach less. I must admit, I do get a little preachy sometimes. Too often I talk when I should listen. I'm going to work on that this year. Even with me being, as my mother would say, as old as Methusela, I can always learn something.
So, tell this Methusela Man, what are your goals for the new year?

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Most Popular Blogs of 2012

Here's my annual countdown of most popular blog posts of the year. Granted, I use the word "most popular" rather loosely, counting my blog readers in the hundreds rather than the millions, like, you know, Justin Timberlake and such.

Onward...

#10  Why Textbook Authors Should Also Be Textbook Marketers

Yes, if you want to write a textbook, you'd better prepare for the marketing aspect of the business.

#9  The Six Content Categories for the Holy Grail of E-Textbook Publishing

The second of a pair of posts on what I call the holy grail of publishing: a true e-book.

#8  The Holy Grail of E-Textbook Publishing

The first of that pair of posts.

#7  So This Is What 60 Looks Like?

Who'da thunk this silly little post would finish so high on the list? Not I, said the old man.

#6  Mary Kinn

A post about the inestimable Mary Kinn.

#5  Guest Post: To Post Or Not To Post

This guest post is the first to make it to the Best Of list and is from Allison Morris at OnlineClasses.Org.

#4  8 Tips for Fitting Social Media into Your Already Busy Day

Three of the top four posts deal with social media. Here's the fist one.

#3  5 Tips for Health Care Professionals Using Google+

The Google+ tips finished just behind the tips for Facebook.


And the number 1 most popular post of 2012...

10 Characteristics of a Successful Textbook Author

Ah, yes, the ol' have you got what it takes to write a textbook post. Gotta love it.


Happy holidays, one and all!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Understanding the Acceptability Paragraphi in a Publishing Contract

Authors who have signed a contract with a health care educational publisher have no doubt come across a paragraph that says that the publisher won't publish the book unless it finds the author's manuscript "acceptable."

The paragraph also comes with a date by which the author must present the "acceptable" manuscript. If the author hasn't presented the manuscript by then, a publisher may cancel the contract and try to recoup its losses.

Yikes!
That can be one scary paragraph.

"What if my book isn't good enough?"

"What if I didn't do exactly what they wanted?"

"What if I don't get the book to them in time?"

Seldom used

First, take a deep breath. Publishers seldom invoke that paragraph, and when we do it's typically because we received a truly lousy manuscript despite all the work a developmental editor surely would have done by then.

We want authors to succeed, because when they succeed, we succeed. So we'll work with a manuscript as much as we can to ensure success.

Sometimes, though, nothing we do can salvage the manuscript. In those instances, yes, we'll invoke the acceptability clause. But we don't like doing it.

In more a decade at F.A. Davis I've invoked that clause exactly twice.Most of us publisher-types have, I think, invoked that part of their own contracts at about the same rate.

Seldom abused

That paragraph is also seldom abused by authors. Well, the acceptability part of the paragraph anyway. But we find that many, many authors don't meet their manuscript deadline. Many.

Lots.

Numerous.

Copious numbers.

Did I say "many"?

See, we're accustomed to authors who, for one reason or another, find themselves unable to deliver a manuscript by the date on the contract, even when we think we've provided more than enough time. We understand why that happens..

We don't like it, but we understand it, and we work with it.

To a point.

So, where's that point?

That point varies with each publisher and with each product. Some of us are more forgiving than others, and some products are under less pressure to publish than others.

Example: We published a book a year or so ago a full ten years after the contract was signed. The only reason we allowed it to go on was that, for that particular book and that particular market, the author under contract was the best person to write it and the book was still sorely needed by the market.

That's an exception, though, and certainly not the rule. I would say that, on the whole, regardless of the publisher, if you haven't been able to finish your book within, at the outside, four years of signing your contract, you probably won't be publishing a book.

By the way...

I should mention that the publisher is and must be the sole arbiter of what makes for an acceptable manuscript. The author certainly can't do it, so who else can? Who else should?

Right. No one, just the publisher.

Now, about that paragraph...

The gist of that whole acceptability paragraph are these two points:
  1. Your publisher will most likely do everything in its power to help you develop an acceptable manuscript. So work with your editors, learn from them, and grow. That's what we want to see, growth. We want authors who can succeed, and we'll work to help them get there.
  2. Don't dilly-dally. Your publisher has only so much patience, and then...bye-bye.

Monday, November 26, 2012

8 Tips for Fitting Social Media into Your Already Busy Day

Many of my coworkers have asked me how I manage to fit all the things I do in social media into my workday. Sometimes I wonder myself.

But I've been doing this for a while now, and so have learned to streamline my social media work. I thought I'd take a few minutes to give you some tips for working social media into your workday. It's really not as difficult as you might think.

First please keep in mind that I use social media for work, not for personal stuff. That distinction makes a difference.

#1  Lay the groundwork first

When I first started using social media, I spent a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook. I was trying to build a base to work from, building Twitter lists and Facebook friends and fans.

If you're starting out, you'll need to do the same. No getting around it, just dig in and do it. Believe me, it'll pay off.

For great info on getting started on social media, check out this Quickstarter series.

Rome. Get it?

#2  When in Rome, check out Rome

During a typical workday, I'll check Facebook (FB) and Google+ (G+), my two main sites, first thing in the morning to see what has been posted overnight. The rest of the day I check those sites mostly when I'm already online for something else.

In a way I'm lucky that way, because my job requires me to do quite a bit of online research. So when I'm there I'll quickly check updates on FB and G+. If I find something I think my followers would like, I'll repost it. It doesn't take much time once you get the hang of it.

#3  Stay focused on your core goal

When you use social media for work, you need to develop and stick to a clear, compelling goal.

Take my friend Lorry Schoenly's blog at correctionalnurse.net. Her goal is simple and straightforward: "To make visible the challenging profession of nursing in a correctional environment." Her blog posts, Twitter tweets, and FB updates consistently fit that goal.

When you focus on one goal, you can skim updates more efficiently and make better use of the limited time you can spend on social media.

#4  Make use of the tools available to you

I rarely tweet directly on Twitter. Instead, I use a website called Iffft. Weird name, but great site. It allows users to set up rules (they're like macros in Word, but online), to initiate a set of functions.

For instance, I use one Iffft rule to send all my FB updates to my Twitter feed. Easy. There are thousands of these rules already created, so all you have to do is find the ones you need and go through Iffft's easy configuration steps.

Lots of people rely on social media managers like HootSuite to aggregate tweets, FB updates, LinkedIn posts, and so forth, into a single interface. I'd suggest that you try one to see if it works for you.

Basically the more social media sites you're on, the more tools you'll need to keep track of them.

#5  Use FB's scheduling function

Not long ago Facebook instituted functionality to allow users to schedule updates. Yes, it's ridiculously clunky, but it works.

Use it.

If you've got a few minutes free, make a few updates and schedule them sporadically over the next day or so. Your friends will think you're a wizard at posting great info all day long, but actually you'll be in class at the white board.

I'd very much like to see Google provide similar functionality on Google+, and I suspect at some point it will.

3 final tips

  1. A little at a time.
  2. In and out quickly.
  3. Scan, don't read.
Now, go forth and social mediate!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mary Kinn

Mary Kinn once came to a seminar of mine called "So You Want To Be An Author."

Let me repeat.

Mary Kinn came to a seminar I once gave called "So You Want To Be An Author." Mary Kinn.

THE Mary Kinn.

The Mary Kinn of Kinn's The Medical Assistant, now in its eleventh edition, the one that's been around since 1956, the year Elvis first hit the charts and gas cost 22 cents a gallon.

That Mary Kinn.

It was at the 2006 AAMA annual conference in Milwaukee, and it was my first seminar for them. I really wanted to wow the attendees, but I also hoped that out of the seminar a potential author might evolve. I was signing heavily at the time and looking for budding authors everywhere.

I droned on about royalties, contracts, the publishing process, and how difficult authoring was but also how deeply fulfilling. Not like saving a life but still, pretty great. And that's how I ended that day, on the worth and promise of authoring a book.

A tallish woman approached me afterward to, I thought, ask a question or perhaps tell me about a book she wished to write. I put on my best salesman face.

That's what we publisher-types do, after all, we sell. We sell ourselves and our abilities. We sell would-be authors on the services we can provide. We sell the potential for great sales down the road and the payoff all authors seek but not enough find.

But the woman didn't ask a question or talk about a book. Instead she stopped near me and sort of stepped to one side, opening the path for someone behind her. A tiny, aged, wisp of a woman appeared in my gaze. Her fine, completely gray hair was coiffed into a bun atop her head, a perfect fit for her aging frame.

The color of her eyes I cannot recall, I just remember the sparkle in them and the kind, gentle face that surrounded them.

"This is Mary Kinn," the woman to the side said. I looked at her and said, "The Mary Kinn?"

"Yes."

I was stunned. "Oh, my God," I sputtered, turning back to Ms. Kinn, "it's such an honor to meet you."

I reached for her hand, careful to grasp, not grab--my usual, clumsy practice. Her hand was a rose, most of its petals long since fallen off but still having a few ruby fronds remaining. It was a careful hand, weathered but soft, the hand of a truly admirable woman who has earned every wrinkle.

The feeling stays with me to this day.

"I enjoyed your seminar," she said, her voice sweet and light.

"Thank you," I said, "but why on earth would you come to a session on being an author?"

"Oh," she said,"I just like to keep up with what's going on."

I gushed a bit more about how much I respected her, my words fumbling from my mouth like a quarterback with no thumbs.

Our time together soon ended, and she and her friend turned and walked away. I felt as if I had just met a durable Hollywood star. Susan St. James, perhaps.

What Ms. Kinn was like to work with I have no idea, nor do I care. Her book is now being ably authored by Patricia Young-Adams and Deborah Proctor and is still selling well. No matter.

Mary Kinn is an icon in the medical assisting world, and in the health care educational publishing world where I spend much of my time, and for that moment she was my idol.

She still is, actually.

That's what being an author can mean and a plateau I wish every author could reach.

Thank you for that moment, Mary. I'll cherish it always.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Is "Manuscript" and What Should It Look Like When It's Finished?

New authors hear the word manuscript and think it's some magical being that can't be understood by human people persons.

So not true.

Let's take a look at what actual manuscript is and why you shouldn't be afraid of it.

What is it?

Manuscript is nothing more than a book in chapter form in a word processing document, typically Microsoft Word. One chapter per file. No big deal.

How is it formatted?

Each publisher has its own preferences for how a manuscript should be formatted, but here are the basic parameters most of us use. Please do be sure, though, to check each publisher's author page for more specific guidelines.
  • Most publishers want just a plain, unfancified, unstyled (if you don't know what styles are, you'll be all set to roll) Word document.
  • Double-spaced
  • 1-inch margins all around
  • Times or Times New Roman font, 12-point
  • One tab in front of each paragraph except the first paragraph after a heading (for most but not all publishers); no tab in front of first paragraph after a heading
  • NO EXTRA TABS (more on that in a moment)
  • ONE space between sentences, not two
  • Headings in boldface
  • Notations to indicate where photos, illustrations, tables, and other figures should be placed. We use something like this:

There are certainly other parameters, depending on the publisher, type of book, feature set, and so forth, but those are the main ones.

What’s the deal with extra tabs?

I tell you what the deal is with extra tabs. They get in the way!

Notice I said "extra" tabs. Single tabs, as noted above and for other purposes, are fine. It's those double-, triple-, and quadrillion-tabs that mess things up.

It doesn't make any difference what a list or table looks like on the manuscript page; it will all be designed in the final product.

If you want to make a three-column table of information, for instance, just make a table in Word and fill it in. Don't try to make everything line up with tabs and hard returns. If you do that, you'll make your editor go insane, and based on the editors I know (me included), that's not a long trip.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Writing on a Stormy Day

So I'm sitting here at the computer during Hurricane Sandy, listening to the wind hum, and thinking, hey, I should do a blog.

Do I have a life or what?

Nevertheless, here I am, and I'm just writing. I don't have a topic, just a desire.

That's what I do, it seems; I write.

I'm an editor at work, a salesman, really, but I write all the time. I write e-mails, letters, proposal documents, all sorts of items that every other publisher-type writes everyday.

Sometimes I'm on the phone, and sometimes I'm in meetings, but mostly, it seems, I'm writing.

And I love it.

So on this windy, rainy, waiting-for-the-power-to-go-out kind of day, I'm sitting here writing. And I thought of you, dear reader, and I thought of me and what I do, and I decided to write.

And I'm glad.

Friday, October 26, 2012

5 Tips for Reviewing Manuscript for a Health Care Textbook

People who can review drafts of a manuscript and provide cogent, reasoned, and intelligent feeback are considered gold by us publisher types. Gold, I tell ya.

If you're a subject matter expert and have been asked to review someone's manuscript, here are some tips and guidelines for turning yourself into gold.

#1 Be fierce.

Publishers don't want their manuscript reviewers to tell them what they want to hear. They want reviewers to tell them the truth.

If a chapter's organization doesn't work, say so. If a description doesn't make sense, say so. If an illustration is inaccurate, say so.

And don't sugarcoat it. Don't dance around it. Come right out and say it.

#2 Be vigilant.

Look at everything. Simple definitions can look simple but be wrong.

Here's an example. The manuscript defines diabetes as "a disease in which there's too much sugar in the blood." Simple, yes, but wrong.

Sucrose
Diabetes is a disorder, not a disease, and it's not sugar that's too high, it's glucose. "Sugar" implies sucrose, a compound consisting of glucose and fructose. I can understand using "sugar" when writing for children, but certainly not when writing a textbook for students in a health care program.

#3 Be flexible.

Know that the content you're reviewing hasn't been edited by a copyeditor, so you will almost certainly come across misspellings, punctuation errors, and grammatical faux pas. Resist all editing urges and pay them no mind.

Seriously.

Don't waste your time pointing out errors we'll catch in a later phase of the project. Overlook those issues and focus on the content itself.

If you subsequently review page proofs, then point out all errors you find, because that content will have already gone through the copyedit stage. If you find an error then, let us know.

#4 Be professional.

Maintain the same level of professionalism in your comments as you would in any other endeavor. Harsh comments about the writing style or knowledge of the author don't help anyone.

If the author has stated something inaccurately, just say that. Don't say, "This author doesn't know what she's talking about."

Just, you know, be nice. Truthful, but nice.

#5 Be prompt.

When you agreed to review manuscript for a project, the editor most likely set a deadline for when the review should be finished. Do everything you can to meet that deadline.

If you can't meet it, let the editor know so she can find someone else. It's not the end of the world if you can't finish a manuscript review in the time allotted, so don't fret none, but you gotta let us know.


Good luck!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Write a Foreword for a Health Care Textbook

Not to be confused with forward — and why would you, really — a foreword can be valuable for health care textbooks and reference books.

A foreword is a kind of Good Housekeeping seal of approval for a book. Typically written by a well-known person in the field, a foreword tells potential buyers why they should buy the book, why they must buy the book, why they would have to be sophomoric kumquats not to buy the book.

Perhaps that's being a bit harsh.

The point is, forewords should put a high-gloss shine on the concept and execution of the book. Foreword authors should meet a few basic goals:

  • Promote yourself. Readers should understand right away that you what you're talking about. If you've published in the field or won awards for pertinent work you've done, say so. Don't be modest.
  • Say great things about the book's author. If you know the author, or at least one of them, say so. Give some insight into why you respect the author and trust him (or, you know, her) to create the best book possible on the subject.
  • Say great things about the book. This is where you need to actually have a copy of either final manuscript or page proofs. Page proofs are printed or PDF documents that show exactly what the final product will look like, including images, page numbers, and so forth. Take a close look, overlook any typos, and try to paint for the reader a portrait of all the great content they'll find in the book.
  • Finish with a prediction of success. Surely potential buyers who purchase the book and study it will learn in a new way, succeed beyond expectations, win the envy of their peers, and save the entire planet from almost certain destruction. Or something like that. 
The main goal here is that you, a leading expert in the field, a someone in the area the authors are writing about, are saying how wonderful the book is, how great the authors' approach is, and how perfect the book is for whomever it's being written for.
Apologies to Good Housekeeping!
In short, when you're a foreword author, YOU are the book's seal of approval.

Friday, October 5, 2012

How to Write a Preface for a Health Care Textbook

For a health care textbook author the preface serves a critical function, to introduce the reader to all the wonderful features of the book.

Most first-time authors struggle with this, as do some experienced authors. So here's a rundown on how to put a preface together for a health care textbook.

What is a preface?

A preface is a clear, compelling, almost promotional description of the book and its features, including and especially its ancillaries, such as an instructor's resource, PowerPoints, test banks, and so forth. It's your time to talk directly to the reader about what your book is and why it's the best thing since Cinnabon came up with those sticks. Are you kidding me? OMG, soooo good.

But I digress.

Who Is the Reader?

For a textbook, one that gets adopted (meaning required for students to purchase), the reader might be the student or, in many cases, the instructor.

That's a rather odd thing for a textbook author to get hold of. On the one hand, you have to write the preface for the student, because that's who's going to read your book. On the other hand, you have to address the instructor who's considering adopting the book, because if you can't sell her (yes, her this time) on the book, the students will never see the preface in the first place.

So write to the student but for the instructor.

What Should Be Included?

Start by looking at the preface in textbooks similar to yours. What do they include? How are they structured? What is the tone like?

Then write your version of what you've seen.

An author-friend of mine, Marilyn "Winkie" Fordney, who writes for another publishing company — a fact which I don't against her (ain't I nice?) — wrote a great preface for the 12th edition of her book, Insurance Handbook for the Medical Office. It's clear, well-structured, and covers all the main features.of her book.

She starts with a Welcome, which shows a bit of her wonderful personality. Then she describes the purpose of the book with these subheads:

  • Why Is This Book Important to the Profession?
  • Who Will Benefit From This Book?
Then she gets into the content, outlining the general features, special icons and sidebars, how the book is organized, and what ancillaries are available — what they are, where they are, and who they're for. Then she summarizes everything that can help a student succeed with her book.

That's a nice approach.

Why the Preface Is a Marketing Tool

The preface to a health care textbook is more than a description of the book, it's one of the key tools a sales representative will use to sell the book. They'll open the book with a potential adopter and go through the feature set.

Visuals are important, here, so make sure you indicate in the manuscript for your preface which illustrations or photos make sense to include. Icons especially are important.

If your book follows an association's standards or guidelines, or if the content conforms to an accrediting body's standards, make sure you describe how in detail. Potential adopters will want to know.


Overall, take your time with the preface and enjoy it. I think you'll find it one of the more enjoyable items you'll ever have to write.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why Textbook Authors Should Also Be Textbook Marketers

An author of mine, the wonderful Arlene Muller, is fast becoming a marketer extraordinaire, and I couldn't be happier.

Arlene's book
Arlene writes How to Survive and Maybe Even Love Health Professions School: Retention And Career Placement Guide, a guide to success in health professions school. She also operates a service called Retention Specialist Today, which provides consulting services to schools that want to increase the rate of retention among their students.

Arlene is always thinking about ways to market her book. She promotes it whenever she speaks to school faculty and administrators. She calls me to suggest ways to help our marketing department better promote her book. She sends potential leads to us so our reps and customer service staff can follow-up and close the sale.

She wants her book to succeed and believes 100 percent that it will, but not just that. It's the drive she has to make sure her book succeeds and the time she spends working every marketing angle available to her.

I wish more authors did that. I wish more authors spoke at their professional conventions, created and maintained an author page on Amazon, blogged on topics related to their book, and overall pushed their book in every avenue available to them.

Marketing a textbook is a full-time, team-based job, and the more everyone works together, the more books we'll sell and the more students we'll help.

And that's the name of that tune, June.

Er, Arlene.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Podcasts on the Way

No blog this week on account of how I've been working on a few podcasts, which I hope to launch soon.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Guest Post: TO POST OR NOT TO POST

A guest post from Allison Morris at OnlineClasses.Org.
Thanks, Allison!

There are 900 million social media users plugged into Facebook alone, and nearly 500 million of them log into the social network every single day. In fact, in just one day on Facebook, 250 million photos are uploaded, and 532 million statuses are updated. And that doesn’t even count the millions of tweets sent, tumblrs updated, and instagrams snapped.

With so much personal content constantly being uploaded to the web, it’s no small wonder that so many recruiters and would-be employers are turning to various social networking platforms to determine the personalities of prospective hires. If you’re working toward your online degree, chances are you hope to one day apply for, interview at, and ultimately secure a great job.

The first step to preparing for that future job, however, is to stay forward-thinking in the types of things you post, tweet, and otherwise put up online. In the information age, when everything about a person is available for scrutiny, the fact of the matter is that one incriminating photo or post can make or break the way people perceive you in the future. And even if your social media habits don’t have an immediate impact on your employment dreams, the laws of social media etiquette dictate that sometimes, people need to think before they overshare.

The following infographic provides a handy flowchart to determine the ever-increasingly important question: To post, or not to post?


Monday, September 3, 2012

10 Characteristics of a Successful Textbook Author


Far more people think they can author successfully than actually can. Over the years I've identified several common characteristics of the people who not only actually write a book but who also become invested in its success.

In my view, successful authors:
  1. Are deeply devoted not just to teaching but also to learning.
  2. Stay up-to-date on what's happening in their profession.
  3. Focus on how they can teach better and make more successful students.
  4. Have a clear vision of how they can make a better book.
  5. Can focus fully on a single task for long periods.
  6. Are open, honest, and communicative.
  7. Expect more out of themselves than others.
  8. Can leave their ego at the door and work toward a common goal.
  9. Can put cogent, organized thoughts on paper.
  10. Prefer the lighter side of life.
Just my take.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

5 Tips for Health Care Professionals Using Google+

My G+ Profile
I thought I'd follow up my previous post, "5 Tips for Health Care Professionals Using Facebook," with one for Google+ users. Don't want to seem biased, though I absolutely am.

#1  First, get on Google+

Yep, that's the first tip. If you're not on G+ you're doing yourself a huge disservice, for a number of reasons.

Which brings us to the remaining four tips.

#2  Get in on the conversations

Google+ conversations, discussions, and posts are so much more intelligent and useful than much of the posts on Facebook. Really.

Here are just a few of the recent Google+ posts from a few of my circles. They're typical of the kinds of posts going on here.

#3  Tailor your posts to your specific targets

It's extremely easy to post only to those people you want to post to.  Google+ uses Circles to categorize your contacts. They're really easy to use and enormously helpful in communicating exactly what you want to exactly the people you want. 

Personal posts to friends, professional posts to colleagues, any way you want to slice and dice it.

With Facebook, everything goes to everyone. (Unless you use their ridiculously clunky List functionality. Which, by the way, they stole from Google+. Ugh.)

Circle, though, are pure genius.

#4 Take advantage of Hangouts

Google has been busy the last couple of years buying small application developers and folding their functionality into the Google+ experience, and Hangouts is one of their gems.

With a quick download and extremely easy setup, you can use the Skype-lke Hangouts to visually communicate with family, friends, and colleagues, up to ten at a time. You can hold virtual conferences from a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer.

Very, very powerful.

#5  Promote yourself or your work

Google+ is perfect for sharing information about the work you've been doing or are interested in. You'll find the Google+ community inviting and encouraging. And growing.

That's one of the criticisms I hear all the time, that Google+ is a ghost town. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are some fantastic health care-related professionals and other resources using Google+ frequently. So if getting information about your project "out there" is important, you need to post not just on Facebook but on Google+ too.

I think you'll find, as I do, that Google+ is an incredibly powerful application and professionally engaging community. For the kinds of information and commentary health care professionals tend to look post and for most, Google+ beats Facebook hands down.

And no, I'm not being paid by Google to say all this stuff. Google+ really is all that and a banana sandwich.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

5 Tips for Health Care Professionals Using Facebook

More and more health care professionals, students, and faculty are using Facebook to gather and share information.

I encourage my authors to get on Facebook too (and also Google+, but I'll address only Facebook here, because Google+ is such a different experience), to help get the word out about their book and to interact with the markets they serve.

The more health care professionals using Facebook, the better. Their posts can increase our knowledge of  health care trends and research and encourage a sense of shared community.

However, just as Facebook can help health care professionals, so can it hurt them.

Here are five tips for using Facebook safely and effectively.

#1  Post links and information your Facebook friends will most likely appreciate.

Posting a link to results from a new study or commenting on a news article you've found informative make for great posts for other health care professionals. To help all your friends decide which posts are right for them, try to include a kind of pointer in your post.

For instance, if a post deals with, say, pediatric emergencies, you might preface the post with something like, "For my friends interested in pediatrics..."

Pointing out the "market" for the post helps your friends concentrate on the most appropriate posts for them.

#2  Post as a professional.

You're a professional or working to become one, so post that way. Even if you post principally for your friends and co-workers, be professional.

You just never know who will read a post ... or when.

Be kind, courteous, articulate. No profanity, no nastiness, no personal criticisms.

Do right by your profession, and Facebook will treat you well. Do wrong, and it will at some point bite you in the buttocks.

#3  Post images wisely.

Be aware that any photo, illustration, graph, or any other type of image you've created and subsequently post to Facebook immediately becomes the property of Facebook. It's not yours anymore.

If that photo you post belonged originally to someone else — say, your hospital or doctor's office — and you didn't have permission to post it, you would be guilty of copyright infringement.

Along those same lines, never "tag" someone in an image without their permission, even if it's a close friend or a co-worker you know well. That person may very well resent having their face identified to people they don't know.

Facebooking should never interfere with friendships.

#4  Use e-mail, not Facebook, for private matters.

I can't tell you the number of times I've seen highly personal information posted on someone's Facebook wall rather than as a message. (The following quotations are fake but similar to many I've seen.)
  • "My mother is having surgery to remove her uterus tomorrow at Main City Center Hospital. I hope everything goes well."
  • "Jane Doe, I'm heading over to the Bel-Air Lounge for a few drinks. Want to join me?"
  • "I'm looking for a babysitter for this Saturday night to go to a party. Know anyone who can do it?"
Seriously? First, does everyone on your Friends list need to know about your mother? Has she said it's okay to tell the world?

Remember, every single thing you post to your wall or on your friend's wall belongs to the world.

And so on, and so on, and so on.
You might think that post is going only to your friends, but you would be wrong. That's how posts on Facebook, videos on YouTube, and tons of other pieces of content posted to a social media site "go viral."

You post to your wall, and a friends reads it. And then one of their friends reads it. And so on. And so on. And so on.

Stick to e-mail, or at the  least a Facebook message.


#5  Handle taboo topics carefully.

It's funny, but for some reason Facebook seems to bring out the worst in people. People often feel quite free to bring up topics they would never bring up at a party, such as politics, religion, gay marriage, or similar hot-button issues.

But on Facebook, they're fair game. If you're a health professional, and certainly if you're a student in a health professions program, please choose your issues and comments wisely.

I say that not because of the standard reason, that a current or future employer might see the post and fire you or not hire you, though that's a good reason too. I say it also so you can avoid alienating the very people you're trying to communicate with.

Case in point. The recent happenings with the Chick-fil-A chain prompted a huge number of posts from people on all sides of the issue.

People wanted to speak out, let their friends know their opinion, promote their "cause," and otherwise put forward their thoughts and feelings on the topic. But how many of their Facebook friends disagreed? How many felt hurt or anger at those posts?

Most likely far more than the Facebooker knows.

Now, posting opinions is part of what social media is all about. But if you're a health care professional, you have an additional obligation to put forward rationed and reasoned opinions.

Rightly or wrongly, impassioned or inflammatory posts can be seen by superiors, colleagues, and patients as being indicative of how you handle yourself as a professional.

Don't let Facebook dismantle what you've worked so hard to build — your reputation as a professional.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Niche Publishing in Health Care Education




Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz might not need to fit into any particular niche, but health care textbooks certainly do.

Publishers identify each book's particular niche, or market segment, during the earliest stages of development, typically during concept development. We need to figure out who will buy the book before we can actually write the book.

We work to identify markets that offer the greatest opportunity for sales. We love when a book can appeal to a large market. Wheeee!

Some books, though, are made to appeal to a small market. Those might be a tougher sell to a publisher.

Consider two examples:

  1. Textbook A is designed for physician assistants (PAs) in the U.S., a market of roughly 84,000. Capturing even 10 percent of that market could prove profitable for a publisher.
  2. Textbook B is designed for PAs working in pediatric ophthalmology offices, of which there might be, I don't know, a few hundred? That would be a considerably tougher sell for most publishers.

That doesn't mean that Textbook B would never be published, but it does mean that the author will have to be more diligent in finding just the right publisher.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Authors Are Humans Too

Authors aren't robots, they're human. Oh, well.
We textbook publisher-types tend to be a patient lot. We work with authors who, as it turns out, are human.

Humans get sick. They get pregnant. They have babies.

They care for aging or ill parents.

They lose their jobs or have to take on more and more responsibilities in less and less time.

They're busy, and busy people don't always do as much as they want to do, don't complete everything they want to complete.

Go figure.

So we wait. We nudge. We cajole, tease, and yes, sometimes threaten. (Though, truth be told, that almost never works.)

We do our best to protect the publishing company's interests, but in the end, we're dealing with humans.

A colleague at a project update meeting once jokingly said, when discussing some of the travails yet another author was experiencing, that he (let's make the person male this time around, shall we?) had had it with authors. From now on, he would have a new rule: "No heart attacks. No pregnancies. No babies. Welcome to F.A. Davis!"

We all roared because we knew exactly what he was talking about.

Life happens. And when it happens to authors, we publisher-types wait it out and hope for the best.

Because we're human too.

Dang it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Six Content Categories for the Holy Grail of E-Textbook Publishing

In my previous blog I talked about the holy grail of e-textbook publishing and why we need to create content not as a single unit that flows from a topic introduction through to a summary but as non-linear, compartmentalized chunks of related content. We're not doing that now, but we need to start soon.

Our ability to create content as non-linear chunks and then to present them to the user in a truly useful electronic environment depends on the ability to identify one type of content from another. In essence, we need to be able to categorize types of content differently than we're doing now.

Here's a list of the six key content categories I envision being used for health care e-textbooks, presented here in no particular order save the last, the most important content category of all.

#1: Process

Process content would consist of steps in a procedure, routine, or sequence, as well as key supportive text. We create a lot of process content in health care textbooks, particularly in such topics as:
  • Medical coding and billing
  • Assessment
  • Clinical procedures (hand washing, transferring a patient, performing lavage, and many others)
  • Administrative procedures

#2: Reference

Reference content would consist of items that support the main textual content, including:
  • Charts
  • Graphs
  • Diagrams
  • External links
  • Definitions

#3: Pedagogical

Any activity or learning exercise to be completed by the student would fall into this category. In addition, heuristic information, such as learning objectives evaluative outcomes, would also fall into the pedagogical category. Pedagogical content would therefore include:

  • Multiple-choice, true-false, short answer, or any other type of test item
  • Learning or behavioral objectives
  • Learning outcomes
  • Relevant standards or competencies for accrediting organizations

#4: Supportive

Sidebar-type content that supports the main text but is secondary to it would be considered supportive text, including:
  • Thematic sidebars, which typically make use of a special icon and cover the same topic, such as legal issues, patient education, safety tips, alerts, and so forth
  • Non-thematic sidebars, which typically consist of stand-alone boxes of content
  • Case studies or scenario-type situations

#5: Administrative

This category would consist of content that provides functionality support, navigational support, and other kinds of content that carry no clinical information. This includes:

  • Navigational links
  • Directions for functionality
  • Help content for site

#6: Core

While all of the other types of content would allow students to wander through the e-text pretty much as they wish, core content would consist of the most important content every student must view and use. Core content would require special functionality that forced, in a way, students down a particular path of inquiry.

This kind of content might prove most difficult to develop because it requires authors to identify the most fundamental concepts for any particular topic area. It's critical, though, that those concepts be not only identified but also developed in such a way as to allow for focused learning.

To identify and develop this content, authors should look at what in a printed book would be, of all places, the summary.


Certainly the six content types outlined here are just the beginning. They need to be discussed, dissected, added to, and amended as needed.

My goal here is to present a foundation for moving forward into the next and essential level of e-textbook development. I hope it's at least a small start in that direction.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Holy Grail of E-Textbook Publishing

Every time I turn around, it seems, we in educational publishing are discussing the impact of e-textbooks and how they're perceived by the market. We talk about how to sell them, package them, promote them.

But we're talking about the cart before we've figured out how to move the horse. To move the horse we need to completely rethink how we develop textbooks and, most specifically, how we generate content in the first place.

Retrofitting content

Right now, textbook publishers are generally taking already-developed content and merging it with whatever electronic content we can find. Basically, we're retrofitting printed content into an electronic format.

Oh, sure, we try to make all that content pretty and "intuitive," but we're retrofitting it nonetheless. Right now, I think that's pretty much all we can do.

Eventually, though, and I hope sooner rather than later, we need to start developing content specifically and only for electronic delivery. No easy task.

Deconstructing content

To create truly useful electronic content we need to completely deconstruct the way we write books, and then build out with an entirely new approach, one that starts with a summary and then branches from there.

Let me explain.

When you sit down to write a chapter in a textbook, you start with a global concept and then start breaking down that concept into its many disparate pieces. Let's call these pieces of content chunks.

The process works perfectly for print, with the reader delving deeper and deeper into the chunks and each subsequent concept opening itself to discovery. Then, at the end of each chapter, we summarize what was discussed, highlighting each key concept.

We've been trying to do the same thing with e-books, and we've been failing miserably.

Students find retrofitted e-books disjointed and incomplete. They find it hard to follow the flow, and it's little wonder. We can't expect a student to follow a flow of information that has been lifted from a textbook and force-fed into a pretty software shell.

No, we need to write the content specifically for that delivery, and that's one tall order.

Creating content

To create a truly useful e-textbook, we need authors who can write about complex and comprehensive topics in ways that go against pretty much everything they know about writing.

Logical flow from one concept to the next? Not so much.

Gradual building of concepts one on the other? Nah.

Overall organization from head-to-toe, inside-to-outside, normal-to-pathological? Ho-hum.

What we need to create instead are non-linear, compartmentalized, almost blog-like chunks of content that can be manipulated in a variety of ways by the learner. Here's how it would work:
  • For linear learners, we would present the content electronically in a mostly linear way, much like a book, with links and other "off-shoot" functionality for related content always at hand.
  • For visual learners, we would present the content in a highly visual way, perhaps using concept maps that allow the learner to navigate through the area based on what they'd like to learn, when, and how.
  • For auditory learners, we would provide key concepts in audible and written format and allow them to navigate through the content through audible cues.
In short, we need to create content in such a way that it can be used by the end user  — the learner  — anyway they want it while still providing an effective learning environment. We just can't do that by retrofitting content from a printed textbook. It will take more, something new, and something revolutionary.

I think this new process is the holy grail of textbook publishing, and I for one can't wait for it to evolve.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Five Rights of Publishing

You've probably heard of the Five Rights of Medication Administration (actually there are six). No doubt you've also heard of the Five Rights of the First Amendment.

Well, anyone who writes a book or who is thinking about writing a book should become familiar with what I call the Five Rights of Publishing.

Every publisher considers these five rights when deciding what books to publish. They're that critical. You should consider them too to help ensure your success as an author.

Let's take them one at a time, looking at the questions you should ask yourself about your project.

#1 — Right Book

Is this the right book? Does its approach hit the mark? Is it organized appropriately?

#2 — Right Author

Am I the best person to write this book? If I'm working with other authors, is the team the best one to write the book? Do I have the requisite knowledge, experience, and background to write authoritatively about the topic?

#3 — Right Time

Is this the right time to publish this book? Is there a current need for this book, or is it a future need? If it's a future need, will the book be publishing in time to meet it, or will it be too far ahead of the curve?

#4 — Right Market

Is there a clear market for the book? Can I define the kinds of programs or individuals most likely to purchase the book? If the answer is that everyone will want this book, think again. Think about all the books in every bookstore you've ever been in and why you didn't gravitate to every single section in the store. Then apply that thinking to your own book.

#5 — Right Format

Should the book be hardcover? Softcover? Spiral-bound? Should it be 8-1/2 x 11 or 7 x 10 or 6 x 9? Should the interior be one-color? Two-color? Full-color?

When you think about all of these rights will you be able to ensure the successful outcome of all your writing endeavors?

You got that right!

Monday, May 21, 2012

3 Keys to Making Images "Work"

I learned my editing trade first at Weekly Reader and then at Springhouse Corp, now part of a conglomerate that shall not be named. The editors at those places drilled it into me: Make images do work.


An image does work when it provides clinical content in a visual way. An image of an ECG strip, the interior of a heart, or an algorithm of emergency care of ventricular fibrillation do real clinical work.

An image of someone at a computer doesn't do any clinical work. Who hasn't seen someone at a computer?

An image of an apple in an article about nutrition doesn't do any work. It's just there to look pretty on the page.

I hate those kinds of images, and I blame, specifically, Nancy Webb at Weekly Reader and Pat Schull at Springhouse. I love them both; they're incredible editors and incredible people, and they made me this way.

So blame them.

Ask yourself these three questions to make sure the images that accompany your articles or chapters do good work.

#1 Does the image help illustrate a concept?

For every image you want to add, ask yourself, Does it move the content forward?

Let's say you're authoring a chapter on medical assistants using an electronic medical record (EMR). Does a stock photo above of a smiling woman at a laptop, like the one above, do anything to move clinical meaning forward?

No, it doesn't. So don't use it.

But if you used a photo like the one at right, now you've got something. Now you've moved the clinical meaning forward.

See the difference?

#2 Does the image carry the content forward?

Let's go back to that apple in a nutrition article. By itself, the apple image doesn't do squat. It just sits there.

Seriously, who hasn't seen an apple?

Right. So for that article, which describes, let's say, how fact sheets about common fruits can help people better understand nutritional requirements, suppose you used an image like the one at right? Now you've got something worthwhile.

#3 Is the image useful enough to take up valuable space on the page?

Your publisher pays dearly for every inch of space on the page. Do your part to make sure you're using it wisely.

http://www.cardiorenew.com/october2009.php
Images that do more than one piece of work always prove valuable. For instance, an illustration that shows blood flow through a partially blocked artery can show (1) narrowing of the arterial lumen, (2) decreased blood flow at the blockage, and (3) how a blockage can lead to disease.

If you aim to make most of your images perform that much work, you'll strengthen your textual content and give the visual reader great help in understanding the concepts.

So stay away from stupid, do-nothing images and make your images do real, honest to goodness work.

Nancy and Pat would be proud.

Friday, May 4, 2012

So This is What 60+ Looks Like?

I've been over 60 now for a little over a year and a half, and I've finally reached the point where I understand what my good friend Phil Carr once told me.

"Sixty is different," he said, a certain sadness and touch of fear in his eyes. "It's different."

I thought, Phil, hey, 60 is just another number. I was fine when I hit 50, no big deal. How tough can 60 be?

Pretty tough, as it turns out.

I've thought more about my own mortality since I turned 60 than at any other time of my life. I mean really thought about it.

  • Am I ready to die if I go sooner rather than later?
  • No, I'm really not ready.
  • I guess I could be ready.
  • Hell, no, I ain't ready!
  • How do I get ready?
  • What is ready?
  • Maybe I'm ready, I don't know.
  • How is anyone ever ready?

I've entered the mortality years, doing more looking back than looking ahead.

I've entered the been there, time to let someone else do that years.

I've entered the what's next years, the time when I'm not yet ready to retire but am thinking solidly and clearly about what I want to do with my remaining time.

Is it too late to be a David McCullough wannabe? I hope not.

It's certainly too late to get much better at golf, though I do think pushing my handicap down into the high teens is possible.

I just want have enough time, just enough.

Enough to have some fun without having to have to work.

Just enough time, that's all.

Phil, my friend, now I understand. The 60s really are different. Mortality different.

I don't know what the rest of the 60s will bring, or God willing the 70s and beyond, but I'd like to find out.

I would very much like to find out.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where Social Media and Public Schools Meet

The New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) has drawn an interesting line in the sand with social media. The department released a set of social media guidelines this week that lay out a line faculty, staff, and students can't cross.

There are two fundamental guidelines:
  1. Teachers can have their personal Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or other social media pages, but they can't interact on those sites with students. They call this use "Personal Social Media."
  2. Teachers can interact with students using social media but must do so through the Department's own sites. They term this "Professional Social Media."
The guidelines also require that DOE employees behave professionally regardless of whether they're using personal or professional social media.

On face value, I like the core message about remaining professional regardless of what social media you're using. Yes, teachers should do whatever they can to keep their professional life separate from their personal life, if only because their students need their own space too.

But the guidelines fall short in addressing student-to-teacher interaction. What if a student follows his teacher's Twitter feed? Can the teacher be disciplined?

I also fear the effects of making faculty go through their institution's social media managers whenever they want to use the media for their classes. Kinda goes against the whole premise of social media. And education, for that matter.

I think schools need to grab social media by the horns, not shirk from it, which is what the NYC DOE's guidelines are trying to do. They're trying to walk a fence between embracing social media and ignoring it, and when you're walkin' a fence, you're bound to fall off.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Facebook, LinkedIn, or E-Mail: How to Communicate with Your Publisher

With the enormous popularity of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media  have come an increasing number of ways for people to communicate with one another.

And that's good. But not always.

I'm finding that more and more people are contact me using Facebook or LinkedIn. I don't mean first-time contacts, which is absolutely fine, the more the better. I'm talking about people I've been consistently doing business with using social media to contact me instead of e-mail. And on weekends too.

Nuh-uhn.

Here are my Four Rules of Engagement for business communications in social media.

Rule #1: Keep typical business hours.

l'm not a fan of business contacts who try to message me on Facebook after business hours. It's bad enough they're using Facebook to communicate during business hours, much less after.

You might have time only at night to communicate with a publisher because you work at your regular job during the day, but I work during the day too. That's my time to communicate with business contacts.

Nighttime, that's mine. If you want to contact me after hours, please use e-mail.

Rule #2: Use e-mail for anything important.

It's no accident that e-mail continues to thrive even with all the other ways to contact people. It works.

If you e-mail me, I can always go back later and find the e-mail, usually pretty quickly. That's important for lots and lots of reasons, not the least of which is to remind me what I said.

I might be able to find a particular message on Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn, but it will take me waaay longer. Those sites just aren't made for archiving messages. They do archive them, but they don't make it easy to use the archive.

Rule #3: If you start with social media, move to e-mail as soon as possible.

Sometimes the only way you can find a publisher, or we can find you, is through social media. And that's peachy keen.

But get off social media as soon as you can and use e-mail.

See Rule #2.

Rule #4: Use e-mail.

Did I say anything yet about how you should use e-mail for business correspondence with a publisher?

I did?

Oh, good. Use e-mail.

Or, you know, that thing with the cord. The, um, whatchacallit? Oh, right.

A phone.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Should I Write My Health Care Textbook Before Sending It to a Publisher?

NO!!!

Do NOT write the whole book before you talk to a publisher!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

(Loud panting.)

Sorry, I got a little carried away, there.

Every now and then an aspiring author tells me that the book they're working on is nearly finished, and would I consider publishing it. I try to control my emotions and explain slowly and clearly why that's not a good idea.

No publisher, no guidance

Authors generally write their entire first novel before finding a publisher, and that's fine. It works in trade publishing. But in educational publishing, it won't fly.

Successfully authoring a textbook or clinical reference without a publisher is rather like trying to drive cross-country alone, without a map, and expecting never to get lost. It could happen, but the odds are amassed against it.

In textbook publishing the publisher is the author's best friend. The publisher and her team (or, in my case, his team) help the author by:
  • fine-tuning the author's vision for the book
  • delineating the specific market
  • analyzing and enhancing the features of the book, including such tasks as:
    • identifying and formatting themed sidebars
    • reviewing the table of contents with an eye to the book's marketability, not just its clinical and pedagogical organization
    • providing expert feedback about specific chapter content, paying particular attention to pedagogy, clarity, organization, tone, and consistency in presentation
  • serving as champion for the author's clinical and creative vision when dealing with the publishing company's decision-making body
  • providing essential feedback early in the process to avoid problems later

Let experience be your guide

Experienced authors know well the benefits that a trusted publisher can bring to a project. I don't think any of my experienced authors would ever attempt to author a new textbook without getting a publisher first.

They've learned firsthand the value of having fresh insight into their vision. They know just how incredibly important a developmental editor's work is. They understand unequivocally how  important it is to marry the vision for the book with the markets best suited for it.

So take a lesson, you first-timers. Talk to a publisher before writing your entire manuscript. You'll be glad you did.

[Large, contented sigh of relief.]

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Healthcare, Health-Care, and Health Care

  • Are you a healthcare professional, a health-care professional, or a health care professional?
  • Are you interested in health care, health-care, or healthcare?
  • Are you a toh-MAY-toh, a toh-MAH-toh, or TOH-muh-toh?

I hope this post will answer all of those questions. Except the last one.

Noun or adjective?

The first item to consider is whether "health care" is being used as a noun or an adjective. When the words are used as a noun — as in "The clinic provides excellent health care" — the words should remain two words, not hyphenated.

But when "health care" is being used as an adjective, things get a bit trickier. (Yes, it's trickier, not more tricky.)

The Chicago Manual of Style and other sources generally apply a simple rule to constructs in which the words "health" and "care" are adjectives describing a third noun. If the phrase without hyphens can be easily misunderstood, then hyphens should be used.

For instance, is that 1996 Fiat a little-used car or a little used car?

Otherwise, the rule goes, leave hyphens out of it.

Pretty good rule.

From (top to bottom) CBS News,
American Healthcare Reform.org, and
The Washington Post

So, why so many variations?

Why is it, then, that if a pretty good rule exists there isn't more consistency when it comes to health care?

I think it's because people are unsure what to use, and I include myself in that list.

In the past I've been inclined to use "healthcare" when the words are used as adjectives, because I haven't wanted to cause confusion. But lately I've been reconsidering.

I think leaving health care as separate words, regardless of the use, is the better way to go.

The words are seen so frequently together that the reader now sees them as a unit, like ballot box and child care. So I think I'm officially in the separate-words camp.

For now.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

3 Tips for Your First Conversation with a Publisher

First impressions count. They're not always correct, of course, but they count nonetheless.

When you're planning to be an author, your first conversation with a potential publisher counts just as much.

To help you make the best first impression you can, follow these tips.

#1 Be honest.

The publisher will most likely ask you lots of questions about your book idea. Answer as honestly as you can. If you don't know the answer, say so.

Sometimes we ask about the market you think your book will be written for. You don't have be exact or even correct, because chances are that the market you first envision will change as you discuss the book in more detail.

If you're unsure about the market, say so. But don't get ahead of yourself and say that the book is for everyone. No book is for everyone, not a single one ever written including the Bible. (For more on writing for a specific market, see "Picture the Person You're Writing For."

#2 Be humble.

I've had potential authors actually argue with me about how and to whom their book should be written and marketed.

Don't do that.

When it comes to publishing, the publisher is the expert, not you. So listen to the publisher. If you think you disagree with something, that's fine, but don't take the publisher on from the point of your being an expert. Take him on from the perspective of wanting to learn.

#3 Be professional.

Sounds like a no-brainer but really, it isn't. We want our authors to feel comfortable with us, to feel open and talk with us as colleagues.

Sometimes, though, that familiarity breeds conduct a bit too, shall we say, loose.

Your publisher is still, when comes to authoring, your supervisor, in a way, so act accordingly.

Don't drink too much at dinner. Don't disparage colleagues. Don't invite friends or family members to a publisher's event without asking the publisher first.


The best tip, though, is to just be your very best you. That will be more than enough.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Social Media and Health Care Publishing

A lot of educational publishers aren't quite sure yet what to do with social media. They know they have to use it but they're struggling with the hows and whys of it.

They're working through questions like:
  • Should social media be the responsibility of Marketing, Editorial, or Sales?
  • Who should coordinate platforms and posts?
  • What should be our core message when we deal with so many different market segments?
  • How do we take advantage of each platform's strengths while maintaining our core message?
And perhaps most important, how will we know if we succeed?

Answering those questions

Each of us publishers is answering those questions, and many others, in their own way. There's no one size fits all answer, nor should there be.

The critical component of our efforts should be to explore the many options this constantly changing tool offers and to use each one as best we can to reach and influence the people we serve. I'll give you an example, using myself as the case.

I've been using social media strictly for my role at F.A. Davis for a couple of years now and have developed a kind of brand, which I call, surprisingly enough, Andy McPhee. I've been able to gather about 650 Twitter followers, more than 900 Facebook friends and fans, more than 1,000 Google Plussers, and assorted folks following me on my blog and YouTube and Pinterest channels.

Not awful for a simple acquisitions editor at a small health care publisher in downtown Philadelphia, but not exactly Justin Timberlake either.

I try to provide news and information I think my followers would be interested in and rarely present promotional information. I don't hit hard on promotion because, for me, gaining trust is more important than pushing individual titles.

Essentially my social media goals follow my company's overall philosophy of treating each customer with respect. With all those efforts, though, I reach a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of students, teachers, and practitioners in the markets I serve — medical assisting, medical billing and coding, health information technology, and physician assistant.

Yet I persist, and here's why.

The payoff

Publishers like me can use social media to help fulfill several key goals:
  • Attract potential authors and reviewers
  • Build a community we can tap for market knowledge and key trends
  • Identify thought leaders in that community and work with them to further publishing goals
  • Enhance our moral standing among the customers we serve
  • Detect trends and concerns of our customers and act on them accordingly
  • Strengthen brand identity
Meeting those goals takes work and persistence, but the payoffs are worth it.

Fer sure.