Friday, May 23, 2008

Language Log moves

Announcing the renaming of PMA to IBPA a week ahead of time does not make up for being six weeks late to announce Language Log’s move. Truth be told, I’m not sure Language Log announced the new URL before two days ago.

In April, their old server gave up the ghost. Posts accumulated, and if you want to start reading (as I do) with the first cached post from six weeks ago, start here. The main page is here.

I’ve updated the link in the sidebar.

PMA is dead. Long live the IBPA

PMA, the Publishers Marketing Association, is officially changing its name to IBPA, the Independent Book Publishers Association. If you are reading in the blog archives and come across references to PMA, you will henceforth make the mental substitution and access the organization under its new name. Yes, you will. That is an order.

The official switchover takes place in another week. But I got a postcard about it today, so it’s not a secret. The new URL is (still showing the PMA logo until the switchover, though).

Name changes are always problematic, whether for corporations, brands, or nonprofits. Old friends can’t find you anymore. People are confused as to whether there are now two entities where there used to be one. What feels to the insiders involved like a statement of a clear new vision can seem like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to everyone else, though.

A fault of editors

By which I mean to suggest a term of venery for our august profession, not to point out any particular flaw that we share.

We tend to be a solitary lot, more so in this day of independent freelance editing and telecommuting (saves gas, for one thing). So it is always a particular pleasure when we gather face to face.

Yesterday, half a dozen of us gathered for dinner and conversation in New York, on the flimsy excuse of showing hospitality to a Californian in town to give a workshop. New York City is quite capable of keeping a visiting Californian entertained without such a pretense, but we all agreed how nice it is to be able to put a face with a name and have a real person to conjure when one of us contributes a post to an email list.

What I found fascinating was the wide variety that we described, particularly in such a small and random group, of types of editing, categories of clients, methods of managing our one-person businesses, and methods of doing the work itself. In a very real way, it became obvious that we do not compete with each other. This is not because we conspire to avoid competition. It is rather because no two of us do quite the same thing.

What does this mean to the potential client in need of an editor? It means that finding the right editor for a given situation is more complicated than sending off a bunch of emails and requesting a price quote. Matching the editor’s skills to the job at hand is a subtle task, one made easier when a fault of editors gather and learn enough about each other that they can make appropriate referrals.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Friday, May 09, 2008

Weak link

I’m casting about for a printer to handle a particular book. Because of the nature of the job, I may end up using a printer I haven’t used before, and so I’ve sent off requests for quotations to several companies. One that I contacted because they came recommended by people on a publishing list came back with an attractive price quote. So I followed up by requesting they send a sample of a similar book.

The sample arrived today.

The question I have for you is this: If someone—a sales prospect to whom you had gone to the trouble of quoting a price—were to ask you for a sample, would you make an effort to send a sample of your best work, or would you take a piece from the reject pile, rescuing it before it went to the shredder?

I’ve got to think you’d send a sample that at least met your minimum quality standard. Maybe you’d go out of your way to send your best work.

So I’m always mystified when I receive a sample such as the one I got today. I assume the person who packed it thought it was a good enough example of the company’s work. But if that’s the case, does that mean their customers accept shoddy goods without complaint? And why was the company recommended to me? Does that mean there are large numbers of people in the publishing business who are incapable of judging well made books from badly made books?

Problems vary. But in the case of today’s sample, the book was actually printed quite well (there were several problems with the design, but I can’t blame the printer for those). The weak link was the bindery. In the first place, the perfect binding equipment, which glues the cover to the book block, was out of adjustment. As a result, there was barely enough glue on the spine to hold the cover on, but there were great gobs of glue squeezed up between the cover and book block, front and back, top and bottom (but not in the middle). In the second place, while the book was trimmed square (as opposed to being trimmed askew), the dimensions were not what they were intended to be. I’m really not sure what they were intended to be, but I’m quite certain that 5 9/32 × 8 3/8 is not right.

I’m glad I requested the sample. I won’t be ordering from that printer, now or in the future.

Price matters, but not as much as quality.