Guest Blogger: Dwight Baker, President of Baker Publishing Group
Rachel Kent has graciously given up her usual slot in our blogging roster to make room for a guest blogger. This is the first time we’ve invited someone to write for us, and we’re pleased that Dwight Baker would do us the honor.
Wendy Lawton and I recently were in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Baker Publishing has its main offices. We had a delightful and stimulating conversation with Dwight and Marilyn Gordon, director of rights and contracts, about the state of publishing. I think each of us came away from the meeting with a better understanding of where authors, agents and publishers are coming from as we navigate the dizzying changes we’re all facing.
As we talked, Dwight offered some helpful thoughts on how he sees the interplay between publishing’s partners. We invited him to create a blog post sharing some of his perspectives. Here’s his take on how each part of the industry adds up to a healthy whole. Welcome, Dwight.
I love fresh vegetables, but I don’t have any incentive to grow my own. Our local soil is nasty, I lack the requisite knowledge, and I don’t wish to spend my leisure time pulling weeds and picking off tomato worms. Instead, we are members of a community farm co-op. A local farm family provides all the necessary acres, resources, workers, and expertise. We and our fellow members cover their costs and we all share in the harvest, through both good seasons and lean. Eating fresh produce is terrific, as is socializing with our farm community at our weekly pickups. We hear news about the harvest, exchange recipes, and enjoy the companionship of others who are passionate about organic food. If I committed enough time and resources, I could possibly accumulate more tomatoes if I grew everything by myself and for myself, but I would not be enriched by many new friendships. I am a big fan of our local farmer.
Community farms attract foodies, and the publishing world gathers book lovers. Baker Publishing Group, our home company, is one of those gathering points. We have hired professionals of unique skills and experience, forming a team that impresses both authors and readers. Many talented writers and experienced retailers have joined our circle. Our group is well resourced and, yes, it is also expensive to operate and it demands a lot of capital. I am a big fan of our local banker as well.
Throughout history—and presently—writers and readers have always been able to connect without the assistance of publishers. Therefore, if the Baker team is enlisted as an intermediary between the two, we are obligated through our every transaction to add value that outweighs the costs of our involvement. Any publisher that cannot do the same is not likely to endure—nor should it. Fortunately our profession attracts good people, and it cultivates its talent very effectively. This energy attracts great writers and readers into a vast and robust community. Providing an environment that allows this community to flourish is my daily satisfaction as an executive, after I’ve consumed my first six cups of coffee and the morning fog clears.
We love books, and we savor the companionship of others who love books. By our mission we are an explicitly Christian publisher: people of the Book. To quote our founder Herman Baker, “We love to sell a good book. There is no better business to be in. In books we have the richest treasures on earth, the output of the best minds of the ages.” For my part, I seek the companionship of book people at every opportunity, and some of our most aggressive publishing competitors are also friends whom I enjoy and admire. I am a big fan of our better rivals.
We often enlist literary agents in this process, and I am pleased to recommend the services of Books & Such. They have facilitated nearly fifty writers into partnerships with Baker Publishing Group, which is a testament to the energy and discernment of their agents. I am a big fan of Books & Such.
Dear writer, both Books & Such and Baker Publishing Group have much to offer you and your readers. You have an option to publish your work alone, but if you join with our team you will be introduced to more readers and you will be presented to them in better form. Our professionals will edit your work more effectively, design it more attractively, market it more aggressively, and sell it more broadly. We will endure in this effort long after your personal attention has moved on to other tasks. During our seven decades of doing business, we’ve made every possible mistake that can be made by a publisher, and we’ve learned from all of these experiences. These lessons are gathered into a collective wisdom that never sleeps. It’s a side effect of our over-caffeinating.
Finally, let’s revisit that farm stand. Some of my friends grow their own food, and I do admire their determination—from a safe distance. While they are tugging at weeds under the hot sun, I am socializing elsewhere around tables heaping with good food. The tomatoes we enjoy certainly didn’t raise themselves. Our farm family did all the heavy lifting to grow them so we can enjoy both the food and friendships associated with our common passions. If you love books, an association with the publishing community has all these same benefits for you to enjoy.
Thanks, Dwight. Do you agree with Dwight’s perspective on the value publishers add to the equation? What do you think of his statement, “If the Baker team is enlisted as an intermediary between the two [writer and reader], we are obligated through our every transaction to add value that outweighs the costs of our involvement.”