Breaking the First Rule of Publishing | Sherpa Learning

Breaking the First Rule of Publishing

The first rule of publishing is: We're not here to make books, we're here to make money.

Breaking the First Rule of Publishing

by David Nazarian, Founder/CEO

I can remember the exact moment in time when I learned the first rule of publishing. I was a young editor, fresh out of college – so it probably goes without saying, I was painfully naïve and idealistic. I was in a meeting with the entire editorial department and we were getting bad news from our department’s director. Our budgets had been slashed and as a result we were going to have to, "make sacrifices and change the way we do things." This meant publishing content that had not been fact-checked or copy-edited. Everything would be "spot checked."

Concerns were shared. Complaints were made. Much groaning occurred, although not the level of outrage that I expected. My colleagues—stand-up folks that I highly respected—were not in a state of shock, but I was. At some point, I uttered something to the effect of, “This is an educational publishing company. We make books. How in the world do they expect us to make books under these circumstances?” I really could not believe what was being proposed.

The wise and battle-tested Editorial Director laughed at me and said, “Nazarian, you fool, we’re not here to make books; we’re here to make money.” That, dear reader, is when I learned the first rule of publishing. This statement was not just the utterance of a jilted or beaten-down employee. As my career advanced and I worked for numerous other educational publishing companies, this rule proved to be universal.

Minimize cost so you can maximize profit. That applies to… well, every business. It’s the reason why new appliances don’t last as long as they should. It’s the reason why there’s so much high fructose corn syrup in our diet. And I submit that it’s at least part of the reason why the American educational system is slipping.

In my last blog article, I attempted to illustrate how great educational resources get killed in the boardroom. So am I saying here that profit margins kill educational products? No, but only focusing on profit for profits' sake does. When the end results or product contributes to the education of our future leaders, the loss is even greater (and grosser).

Maybe the real issue is the transient nature of business—constant mergers and buy outs set the stage for short-term profit-only goals. But when you make sacrifices to achieve those profits, the customer loses. And when the customer is the American classroom, shouldn’t we try a little harder?

If you want to grow a brand and business long term, offering legitimate value (not just perceived before purchase) is key. Focusing exclusively on profit, cutting off every corner until there is nothing left but marketing copy—it's fool's gold.

Now don't get me wrong. Profits are great. They’re necessary for growth and innovation. I want profits, but I also want to build a business that lasts, not just one that shows a few incredible quarters so I can sell it. My goals are long-term and they are related to my mortgage and my family.

As CEO of Sherpa Learning, my view is this: talking to teachers, getting their input, actually listening to them, responding to their feedback, and following their advice – those things aren’t marketing expenses, they’re investments. A great product means better sales.

As the founder of Sherpa Learning, I’ve come across so many passionate teachers who regularly go above and beyond the call of duty to help their students achieve their full potential. Just take a look at our “A PUSH to Innovate” blog series to see exactly what I mean. What if an educational publisher was able to channel that passion and purpose of those educators directly into a classroom resource, without all the dilution of the typical profit-focused publishing process? That’s basically the Sherpa Learning vision statement in question form.

Click the button below to learn more about how we work with teachers to build relevant and effective resources. We would love to have you on our team.

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