Rather than dragging this out any longer, let me briefly outline the other 3 things that I love about my job.
Working to Become #1
It’s invigorating to shoot for being the #1 publisher in a topic area. Based on sell-through data we receive from Bookscan, the likely subject of a future post, I can say that we’ve been the #1 publisher of Linux books for the past few years. We also have the #1 title: Red Hat Fedora Linux Bible. We weren’t always the leader, however. About 4 or 5 years ago I sat down with the acquisitions editor on my team who was responsible for Linux and we laid out a plan to climb to the top. The strategy featured a lead title (the Bible) along with several others on Red Hat and other distributions.
My favorite part about becoming #1? Dislodging a competitor! For a while there, we had the top of the Linux heap to ourselves. Our good friends over at Pearson, however, have done a nice job stepping up the efforts with their Unleashed book. That’s the beauty of competition though: It forces us to keep innovating and raising the bar on our own products.
Pitching New Ideas
A lot of jobs out there don’t leave much room for creativity. I know it because I’ve had a few of those jobs over the years. Fortunately, my job is (mostly) free of that sort of mind-numbing repetition. I’m encouraged to study the market and work with the rest of the team in developing new product ideas.
The flip side to this is that I also happen to work with some of the toughest critics on the planet. I’m not naming names (Jim, Bob, Carol, Chris, Katie and Debra), but these guys can be brutal. I mean that in a good way though. We wouldn’t get anywhere if we didn’t kick the tires on each other’s ideas. I know that if I can convince this team that an idea is worth pursuing, we might be on to something. Here’s a tip for managers: Be brave and surround yourself with people who challenge your thinking. Sure, you’ll go home some nights second-guessing yourself, but in the long run you’ll have a much stronger team.
Helping Customers Develop New Skills
Our group publishes several dozen new books every year. These books cover programming languages, operating systems, hobbyist topics, etc. It’s cool to think that someone right now is probably using one of our books to learn something new. What could be more rewarding than that?
One last point… It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of this job and lose sight of the most important person in the publishing formula: the reader. That’s why I try to spend time each week reading through customer postings on Amazon, for example. Another great resource that we have at WROX is our programmer-to-programmer forum. Readers are encouraged to go there to present problems, share solutions and give us feedback on our books. Sometimes the feedback isn’t what you want to hear. While that can be painful, it’s important to keep an open mind and try to understand their frustration. Who knows…their point of view might just lead you to an entirely new product idea.