If You Can’t Predict the Future, Invent It!

John Kilcullen picBy Guest Blogger John Kilcullen
Creator & Original Publisher of the …For Dummies Books, Executive Chairman of Fast Pencil & CEO of Brand Revolution LLC

Click Here to listen this interview any time after 9:00 am EST Tuesday June 14th, 2011 on the WomensRadio Network

I enjoy talking about the book biz.  Over the course of 17 summers I shared a ton of stories and publishing strategies in my lectures at the Stanford Professional Publishing Course. I got as much out of it as I put into it.

Part of the fun was to intellectually challenge participants:  Why not dare to be different? Why not lead instead of follow?

The questions (for publishers and authors) continued:  Do you have a carpe diem culture or an analysis-paralysis operating philosophy? Do you follow a “done is better than perfect” credo? Are you constantly experimenting and tinkering? Are you spending enough time living inside the hearts and heads of your customers and qualified prospects?

Winding down:  Are you in the products business or in the service business? Is customer service an obsession or a necessary evil? Are you converting nameless, faceless book buyers into customers you know a lot about? Is the publication of the book the celebratory end of the process or the beginning of a lifelong relationship with customers?

At times, there was radio silence. Often, we engaged in a spirited discussion about this crazy business we call publishing.

Today, I feel like I did when I was at the Frankfurt Book Fair when the wall was coming down …. Some people were clinging to the past as if they were holding on to the railings of the Titanic. Others bravely supported the winds of change. Those same feelings were evident last month when I walked the aisles of Book Expo America.

John Kilcullen pic 2My advice to today’s aspiring authors and to publishing professionals alike:  If you can’t predict the future, invent it! Embrace ambiguity. Make change your friend. Build your digital/mobile/social DNA. Be open to new partnerships. Build a direct to consumer customer data base. Mine it regularly.

Apple’s famous advertising campaign summed it up best:  “Think Different.” I would add … “Act Differently, too!”

Almost 20 years ago I defied conventional wisdom and published the first For Dummies book. Time and time again, we would sign, launch and market another bestselling title by first time authors, great “explainers” and sometimes even celebrities. Together, for 10 consecutive years, we created a dominant, how-to brand supported by a great authorial-editorial-marketing services team. I understand – and implemented – a consistent brand architecture driving brand preference (measured in repeat foot traffic and recurring revenue streams). Those early branding and publishing decisions continue to deliver value to this day.

Most importantly, we understood that our best brand ambassadors (now numbering 250 million) were our customers. Treat them right and they will reward you with their purchases and their evangelism … a powerful combination.

Let me know of your branding and serial success stories. Ping me at johnkilcullen@yahoo.com.  If you are an aspiring author with any question, don’t hesitate to ping me as well.

Carpe diem!

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