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Blurb Operations SVP Bruce Watermann on photobooks and self-publishing

Published on November 16, 2012

Bruce Watermann, Senior Vice President of Operations for Blurb, talks to Cary Sherburne about the company, their photo-book business, as well as their self-publishing business.

Cary Sherburne: Hi, I’m, Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at What They Think and it's my extreme pleasure to be here with Bruce Waterman, who is the Senior Vice President of Print Operations for Blurb. What and exciting company, high tech.

Bruce Watermann: Well thanks. Thanks, we think so.

Cary Sherburne: Yeah, located in the Bay area, San Francisco Bay area and maybe you could just tell our viewers a little bit about Blurb in case they, by some weird chance, don't know who you are.

Bruce Watermann: Sure, actually we sort of live in that middle group between self publishing and photo books. So while we do four-color books and that's really our main business we also have a marketplace where people can sell their books. We're a global company. We ship to over 70 countries. We have print locations in three continents and we've only been in business since 2005. So it's actually pretty exciting.

Cary Sherburne: And when you say print locations those aren't owned by you, right?

Bruce Watermann: No, they're not. We have a PSP network that is exclusively, 100 percent Indigo, HP Indigo and we've got a strategic partnership with those guys and so when I look to add new printers we generally start with the HP folks and talk to them about okay who are the people in the different marketplaces that really have—we've got four businesses that they need to be pretty well versed in. The first is printing, which we think is the easiest thing to do. The second is really production and a volume of one. There is a lot of commercial printers that can do 10,000 books and send them in a pallet to one place, but doing 10,000 packages is a little bit different part of the business.

Cary Sherburne: Right, big different.

Bruce Watermann: And then the third is really IT and having a real expertise at how we're going to transfer the files because our books in order to get the price point where we need them to be they have to be untouched until they come out of the Indigo press and then they're ready to be bound. Basically it's got to go straight through and our files go through 99.8 percent of the time to our PSP. So they know our very well known type of file and so it's very easy for them to print them and then the last is just really having that craft relationship and understanding that when you print a book that someone made themselves there is a higher bar to meet if you know what I mean. We've always said that we're a bookstore quality and since we've been—the beginning of our business that's what we wanted to do, but we found that I mean if you buy a book in a bookstore and maybe it's trimmed a little bit off you're not going to bring it back, if you do your own book and it's trimmed a little bit off you will.

Cary Sherburne: Or if there is a big mark across Grandma's nose or something.

Bruce Watermann: Yeah, it's not going to work. That's not a good situation, yeah.

Cary Sherburne: Yeah and so what would be the average run length then of the books that you produce? I'm sure it's different between photo books and regular books.

Bruce Watermann: Sure, it is, so traditionally in the POD marketplace with books it's usually about 1.6 books per order. You know we are actually about double that and the reason why is because of our author marketplace and plus we do a lot of books that are also—we done one-color books as well, trade and pocket books and so that tends to drive up the average a little bit, but still you've got the mean order is one book, right. Most orders are one book and one box going to one place.

Cary Sherburne: Yeah, I guess mean is better than average. I used to have a boss that said, "If you're sitting on a block of ice and your hair is on fire on average you'll feel just fine."

Bruce Watermann: That's right.

Cary Sherburne: Averages don't mean a lot.

Bruce Watermann: That's right and-

Cary Sherburne: Well that's great and we'd like to have you come back again and chat with us a little bit more about more trends in the book industry.

Bruce Watermann: Happy to do it.

Cary Sherburne: Okay.

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