Vice President’s Message: My publisher has been acquired…Now what? A personal story
This past summer I gave a presentation at TAA’s 2021 Virtual Conference on the joys and benefits of working for a small publisher, which I have done for the past 18 years. Well, guess what? I no longer work for a small publisher because they were recently acquired by a larger publisher. This serves as yet another example of what we all know so well – the publishing business in higher education is changing rapidly and we all need to adapt to new paradigms.
Allow me to share how I have handled this transition so far. The first thing I did was contact my intellectual property attorney to solicit advice on questions to ask my new publisher. After getting all these questions answered, my path forward became much clearer. Thankfully, many years ago, I had an intellectual property attorney negotiate my first contract which will protect me with my new publisher. This was a source of great comfort to me.
Next, I did research on my new publisher to learn everything I could about them. Their focus is entirely on interactive, digital books. I started to explore books in my field to better understand their online platform. Then I looked at competing titles to see how my books would fit into their publishing landscape.
My books are stand-alone supplements in anatomy, physiology, and chemistry that are core-concept books with lots of active learning activities. Currently, over 90% of my sales are printed books, but that is soon going to change. Thankfully, I did not find any books that directly competed with mine. After finding an anatomy & physiology textbook that was created in the new platform, I reached out to the authors to inquire about their publishing experience. To my delight, they said they had a positive experience overall in creating their digital textbooks.
Transitioning to a new publisher can be very stressful, so let me address some of the emotional aspects involved in this big changeover. For me, I was initially distressed by the fear of many unknowns – new company, new editors and other staff, new distribution channels, new ways of working as an author, new digital and interactive format, and possible new pricing for my books.
The first thing I needed to do for my mental health was to take a deep breath and recognize that, like so many things in life, all these aforementioned changes were out of my control. To reduce stress,
I gradually shifted my focus away from what I could not control to what I could control. To varying degrees, all authors are in control of the quality and creativity of their content, so I began to focus on that. As I learned more about my new publisher, I began looking for their most successful titles and analyzing what it was that made them successful on this new platform. My goal is to replicate these best practices so that my books can also become successful as they are ingested into the new digital platform.
Helping my new publisher market my books is another thing that I can control. I am considering creating new YouTube videos to help my books become more successful. Moreover, being active in social media, such as posting on LinkedIn, can also help my books thrive in a competitive marketplace.
Finally, I want to consider the positives resulting from this acquisition. Though there can be many negative aspects to any acquisition, the news is not always all bad. While my small publisher had only 12 sales reps, each with multi-state territories, my new publisher has
over 100 sales reps to help expand their presence in the publishing world. I also now have the potential to gain international exposure for my books. Previously, most of my books sales were limited to the United States and Canada. Now, in dealing with a fast-growing company with global ambitions, my outlook becomes much more international. I can now sell my books in countries that I didn’t have access to in the past.
Another big benefit is that the new online platform enables professors to more easily integrate my book into their homework assignments within any of the popular Learning Management Systems (LMS) used at various colleges or universities. With online classes ever increasing since the onset of the pandemic, this is a very appealing feature. Perhaps the most exciting feature to me in my new online platform is the opportunity for greater active learning opportunities for students. Like it or not, Generation Z students – our current generation of college students – are digital natives who grew up with smartphones and prefer to access content online.
With my new platform, I can easily integrate YouTube videos, podcasts, animated gifs, and many other tools for active learning that bring a textbook to life. Having said that, for students who prefer a hard copy, there is also a print-on-demand capability. As I work with my new publisher, I try to keep a positive outlook and be open to new opportunities for creating engaging content for students. In the end, isn’t that what all textbook authors are trying to accomplish?
Paul Krieger, PhD, is Vice President of the TAA Council.