Acquiring the right staff was even more important than finding the right distributor. I had access to and had worked with one of the best cover designers in the business (Jim Zach), as well as a couple editors, indexers, and formatters (more on that in the next entry), so I felt comfortable in those areas. The question I kept asking myself was, "What sort of person do I want to work with day after day, and who has the ability and desire to learn the intricacies of the publishing business?"
Sarah Stephan (now Keeney) had been a family friend for seventeen years. Initially, I hired her to edit, transcribe, and proofread an early project during her senior year at Cal Poly in San Louis Obispo, California. That toe in the water led to a full time job offering upon graduation.
When it came time to hire a key "partner" to help me grow the business, I wrote down a list of the key attributes I was looking for and took my wife out to lunch. She has a knack for reading people, and her advice--especially about people--is ALWAYS right. (Don't tell her I wrote that.) When I showed her the list, Carol took all of five seconds before proclaiming, "You are describing Sarah, and she would be a perfect fit--if she can work with you." [I have a unique way of working, and sometime I might blog about it.]
Many people are hired out of college to do the same monotonous thing sitting in a cubicle day after day, and often year after year until they simply burn out. I did not learn that way. In fact, I learned the old fashioned Greek way at the elbow of my grandfather while cleaning his restaurant with him on the weekends. "Always know how to do everything," he sagely advised. "And, make sure the key people who work with you know how to do everything, or at least know how it should all be done--just in case."
I promised Sarah her responsibilities would be legion, and I know I have kept my promise. Her functions initially included everything from proofing and editing to coordinating authors, marketing, mailing, invoicing, etc. In other words, whatever it took to build our foundation. However, I wanted her to get a good "education" at the same time, both for her benefit and for the company's future.
Two years ago Sarah assumed the mantle of Marketing Director. It is a perfect fit because of her strong people skills, amazing organizational abilities, and stellar gift of communication. Today, she spends most of her time branding our titles and helping our authors "brand" themselves. She does this while coordinating with Casemate on distribution issues and opening new sales channels. When I could not attend Book Expo last year, Sarah ran the entire show with Casemate. Her ability to obtain and coordinate publicity is better than many of the high profile "publicists" we have worked with over the years.
Sarah writes about these and other related issues on her new blog called On Marketing. Give it a read and bookmark it for helpful information you can really use.
Sarah is the cornerstone of our company. If you doubt me, just ask any of our authors.