We thought you must have been kind of curious. Why else would you have visited a page called "About Us"? We also thought, since we're going to be talking about ourselves a little, that we might as well tell you a little bit about what goes on in a publishing house generally – and about how our products are made. In fact, about everything. Why do things by halves?
Let's start off by saying who doesn't work here: The authors who write books don't work at publishing houses at all. Neither do the people who illustrate those books and take the photos. These are freelancers, sitting at home in their lonely chambers, staring at blank sheets of paper and chewing their pencils. Occasionally, someone in our publishing house gets an idea for a book or a game. Then we ask an author to write or design it for us. Other times, an author approaches the publishing house with an idea. Then we receive a manuscript, complete with photos or illustrations and thus, so to speak, we have the raw material for a book or a game, which lands on the table of our editing department. Our copy editors, however, are called product managers because, over and above the classical job of editing, they are also responsible for the design of the book or game cover, the selection of illustrations or photographs, the contracts, monitoring the market and a thousand other things - for the success of their products, in other words.
This publishing house doesn't just do books, it also has a wide range of gift items, useful book accessories and games. In bookseller's jargon these things are referred to rather bluntly as 'non-books'. They are all those little objects you see at your bookshop which somehow belong together with books and make the shop look more attractive. Non-books work is a piece of cake. It just means zooming around the world, visiting trade fairs, chatting with product designers and finally arranging for the production of a few nice little items by over a hundred different suppliers worldwide. There’s also a bit of coordination to be done here and there to make sure they deliver the right quantities in the right colours at the right time at the right quality to the right place. Of course, the team can hardly contain its delight when a truck transporting our wonderfully colourful and exotic key-ring pendants veers off into a ditch somewhere in India. Or when the boss, two minutes before production is due to start, suddenly decides that he would like the lettering on the packaging 2 mm bigger. Oh well. They say a little stress is good for the health.
We have a third area of our product range alongside books and non-books: games. But games is a very general term. To be precise we do children’s games, family games, card games, games involving patience, communication games, word games, puzzles, and games involving mental exercises. To preside over this area we have two 'professional game-players'. Cushy job, you may well think? Playing all day long and getting paid for it? But, games aside, nowhere is quite so much time and effort spent on development. Nowhere else do we test more and test more carefully. We play countless rounds of each game we develop. Is it fun? Can you understand the rules? Does the game progress as intended? Is the duration about right? And so on and so forth. Then there’s the packaging design and pricing. Phew! With so much work, a better name than professional game-player would be 'Games Area Product Manager' – and that is what they are called.
But back to book production. So let's now assume we have a Word file with the author's text and – let's say – a CD of photos or illustrations. This doesn’t look much like a book yet. Now it's time for our graphic designers and manufacturers to step in. Being responsible for product manufacturing, they know a number of industrious book designers adept at compiling text and images on one page and, of course, on the many pages of a book. These people then send the result to a printer, who makes a complete book out of it. And because our colleagues are also responsible for making sure the whole thing is worth the effort, they calculate and haggle over prices until the right figures come out under the bottom line.
Once the books have finally been printed and are lying in our warehouse, we feel proud as punch about them – but unfortunately you, our potential customer, are completely oblivious of them. This is not on. Which is why we tell you on the Internet, go to trade fairs, print catalogues, insert advertisements and do a good many other things. We call this, somewhat exaggeratedly, "marketing". And just to keep our marketers from getting bored, we publish two new catalogues a year. Since catalogues are not very different from books, we're really good at making them. Photos and descriptions of a couple of hundred items are compiled so expertly that… well, need we elaborate? And when they’re not in the middle of working on a new catalogue our marketers take care of our press and public relations. This means they tell journalists working for newspapers, magazines, radio and television about our fantastic books. The journalists see these reports and print articles about them. (If only it were as easy as that!) So, if you should read an article about us in the newspaper any time soon, you can be sure our marketing colleagues are behind it.
So now our warehouse is full and the catalogues have been printed. But, alas, our customers don't automatically start beating down our door, instead we have to put our products on the market. At the end of the day, you are our customers – but there are of course bookstores, toyshops, museum shops and all the rest to think about. It is on their doors that our sales representatives, key account managers and sales director knock (the sales director always knocks a little louder…). We have to admit that our sales team’s task is a thankless one. For when sales are booming, everyone says our excellent books are selling themselves, but when sales aren’t so great, it’s naturally their fault. Fortunately however, our sales are such that our sales team always manages to escape unscathed. So now you know: if you're one of our customers and we can do anything for you – the ladies and gentlemen at sales will gladly take your call.
Assuming we've done everything properly, the orders will begin to flood in at this point. From book stores, toyshops, museum shops, online retailers the orders come. There is then much rubbing of hands among our customer consultants here at the office and at our distributor LKG in Leipzig. It is they who advise our customers professionally, receive orders, print out invoices – and make sure the money comes in at some point. If you don’t have a book store and would prefer to place an order here online, then your order will end up on the desk of our private customer department, which means you will be served with the utmost courtesy and promptness. If you would like to come and visit us at our factory shop in Kempen, then you'll find lots of super-cheap offers awaiting you. Whatever you decide you are most cordially welcome - online or in person.
Every company has a department which no-one quite knows the name of, let alone what it actually does. We'll tell you what it does: everything! We organise everything that needs organising and order everything that needs ordering, and in the time left over we do the post, book trips for our colleagues, arrange the catering for interminable meetings, operate the telephone and occasionally have the office rebuilt. In other words, without this bunch the whole show would collapse. 'General Office Administration' is a sorely inadequate title but we couldn't think of anything better. So we wanted at least to say a proper 'thank-you' here.
At the end of each day we all clear our desks. Any bit of paper with a number on it we chuck onto the desk of our accountants, who check whether all such numbers have been properly written down. You know: receipts, stocks, that kind of thing. Someone has to keep tabs on it all after all. In our company’s departmental popularity rankings, this one is right at the top. That of course has nothing at all to do with the fact that they pay our salaries, cough up for our expenses and manage the cash register. Nothing whatsoever.
"Orderliness," says a German proverb, "is half of life." Our warehouse and dispatch department certainly thinks so. But of course, orderliness is not an end in itself. It just ensures our customers can count on the reliable and prompt delivery of their orders. Here at our warehouse we receive not only books but everything else in our range, which comes from every corner of the earth. It’s about keeping order amid the chaos. Unpacking, packing, re-packing, packing displays. And our online orders have to be dispatched too – so make it snappy! No problem though. This tough team has everything under control.
Have you read the novel Den femte kvinann? No? Perhaps you know The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell? That’s its English title. Since you're not able to read the original (due to your limited Swedish), a British publishing house has acquired the rights from the book’s Swedish publisher, had the text translated and put it on the market. This way of doing things doesn’t just apply to novels, it also goes for non-fiction books – and even children’s books. We, therefore, can sell the publishing rights to our successful books in foreign countries. That is one of the reasons why our book 365 Experiments for Every Day is available in China, Korea, Greece and many other countries – in their languages of course. And our 'black-as-night black stories' are now being sold in more than 24 countries. So if (just for argument’s sake) you wanted to buy the rights for Papua New Guinea, then you could approach our foreign rights expert with confidence. She’s sure to make you a good offer.
This is the department of shareholders and managing directors. The two rather elderly gentlemen are Gerd Herterich (right) and Achim Tebartz (left). Both are Partners in the publishing house. Gerd Herterich is also a Managing Director and impassioned Product Range Manager. They belong to the small tolerated minority of men in the company. And because men, even at an advanced age, are still basically children, they're perfectly suited to the job of running a publishing house for children's books. They are also qualified by their broad shoulders, since that is where overall responsibility must rest. The young lady in the middle is Nina Tebartz, Partner and Managing Director. Her shoulders may be quite a lot less broad yet they too bear a significant burden: that of the future of the publishing house. Together we ensure that we don't stand still, that we keep on looking for new, promising ideas and pioneering products - products that have that something extra. And only if we believe in our products, if we ourselves enjoy our books, gifts and games, can we be certain that you too will like our range. We, after all, cannot be satisfied until you, our customer, are.