The questions in this post got me thinking about the publishing industry, so I decided to answer them.

1. Which industry do you work in?

In the publishing industry (where I have worked since 1997), the transition from print-only to print-plus-digital that began around 1999 and really got underway after Amazon released the Kindle in 2007 has finished. Now we have an industry in which print and digital co-exist (at different levels – 50/50 for fiction, but more like 80/20 for non-fiction, and even less of digital for more complex product types like Bibles). Currently the growth area is audiobooks, led (of course) by Audible.

2. What are the biggest problems stopping your industry from growing?

Publishers have not really solved these problems:

(a) How to distribute very small publications and receive very small payments? We’re still reliant on credit cards for payments, which pushes us to a smallest payment size of about $1.99 or so.

(b) How to increase discoverability? Most publishers are reluctant to post all of their content in a web-searchable and social-shareable form (for somewhat obvious reasons). However, this means that it’s hard for them to draw direct traffic to their books.

(c) How to reduce reliance on the behemoth of online retailing? As physical bookstores have died away, publishers have recognized that they are too reliant on one distributor, which is a dangerous position to be in (as that retailer has shown itself very ready to use monopsony powers to bully their suppliers). Most publishers have direct-to-consumer selling operations. But (a) and (b) and other factors mean that they find it extremely difficult to draw traffic to their sites.

3. Can something be done about it?

I have been working on some of these problems in my business (http://blackearthgroup.com). Here is a sketch outline of how I would encourage publishers to solve these problems:

(a) Micropayments are needed, and to do that we need an online currency that can be used to buy content without going through the credit card processing network. Publishers should invest in the development of an online token that they would support on their sites. Customers could then purchase a supply of tokens and use them on publishers’ sites to buy content. There are a couple of projects like this in the works. The simplest approach would be to create a coin based on the Ethereum network, and then support that coin for all purchases. (The hardest part of this is probably that the value of the coin would not be completely stable, because Ethereum is not, which means that publishers would have to either adjust their token prices regularly, or would have to live with variability in revenues to sales – this problem is solvable, but it requires a lot of capital to create a value stabilization mechanism.)

(b) Publishers should put all their content online in excerpt chunks using non-discoverable public URLs, then submit it all to the search engines, and start sharing excerpts through social channels. It is true that some of the content would be given away, but that would be limited because each excerpt chunk would not be linked to the others in the same publication – access to one would not grant access to all. Using full-content search and sharing is one of the best ways for them to draw more organic traffic to their own sites. (They’ll need to invest in better discovery mechanisms on their sites, too.)

(c) Publishers have a real chance of building a customer base in their own content niches, if they invest in developing a content discovery and purchase experience that is significantly better in that niche than what customers experience on Amazon.

Digital books need good indexes even more than print books do. The best way for publishers to provide robust content discovery is to hire experienced indexers to craft excellent indexes.

Can you imagine a publishing future in which marketers will compete for the services of experienced indexers? I can imagine it. In fact, I think we’re not that far from it.

Search engines are not very good at returning useful results, because most search indexing is based on automatic processing of the content. We have all experienced frustration in using search engines to find information, especially when the topics we are exploring move beyond the purely factual into the realms of ideas, imagination, and feelings. But some of the most important topics about which we are searching for answers are ones in those realms. In areas like these, search engines have not delivered the value they promised.

In light of this reality, I disagree with those who still put hope in automatic semantic tagging of content as a stand-in for intelligent indexing. Good content discovery requires the creation of intelligent indexes by human indexers.

An good index is a semantic map of the content of a book. The better the index, the better the semantic map it provides. This “semantic map” cannot be adequately engineered by keyword tagging or automated search indexing.

. . . the intellectual part of indexing – the analysis of meaning, significance and uniqueness, then modelling the likely behaviour of human readers and providing for their predicted access paths – cannot be automated.[1]

A good index has long been a valuable component of non-fiction books. But indexes are even more important in the digital future of publishing. Not only will indexes help people discover content within a particular book, but they will help people discover content across a whole library of books and other content. In other words, indexes will become a crucial part of content (and product) discovery.

The more thoughtfully and intelligently the index has been crafted, the more likely it will be that the search index will yield useful results.

Here is how it will work:

  • Index entries will be embedded in the content and attached to a range of text — as small as a word, as large as a group of paragraphs or a section.
  • The embedded index entries will be used to create, not just print indexes, but also a semantic map of the content in that book (or article, or feature).
  • This semantic map will be loaded into a search engine. Using the intelligently-crafted semantic map provided by the indexer, the search engine will learn from the indexers what the content is about and provide intelligent results.
  • The reader will have a much better search experience using the search engine that is created in this way. The more thoughtfully and intelligently the index has been crafted, the more likely it will be that the search index will yield useful results.

An excellent search experience is like excellent design: It is largely invisible, but very effective. In marketing, excellent design translates into more sales, even when buyers aren’t aware of the design and don’t realize they are responding to it. In product development, excellent design translates into greater customer satisfaction. Similarly, an excellent search experience leads readers right to the content they are looking for, and can motivate them to come back again in the future. If the search results are linked to product purchase pages, readers are also more likely to buy the book.

An excellent search experience is like excellent design: It is largely invisible, but very effective.

As publishers, we don’t need to wait for ebook reading software or global search engines to incorporate more intelligent indexing into their systems. In fact, as long as they don’t, it is a business opportunity for us: We can provide our customers with a better search and content-discovery experience by making use of intelligent indexing that has been done on all of our past (backlist) books, and by enhancing the way we index future books. Primarily, that means finding, hiring, and training excellent indexers to embed their index entries in our publications. Then we can use that all embedded intelligence to enhance content discovery on our own websites and in our own apps.[2] And if we make our content available to global search engines, we can use the embedded index entries to tell them what each piece of content is “about,” enhancing the chances that search engines will connect our content with those topics.[3]

Eventually, the world around us will catch up: Ebook reading platforms will (probably, eventually) support embedded index entries. When that happens, it will be a fairly straightforward matter to provide those platforms with an upgraded digital file that contains what they need to make use of the embedded index entries.[4] Publishers who do the groundwork of preparing in advance will have a significant leg-up over those who don’t.[5]

Note: While preparing this piece, I went on Adobe Stock to find a photograph of a book index, but most of what I found was pictures of phone books, dictionaries in German, and other irrelevant things. Does everyone have this much trouble with Adobe Stock? It seems that they need to hire some experienced indexers to improve the semantic tagging of their photos. In the end I “found” an image by making one: I scanned The Chicago Manual of Style, 15e, p. 800. 


[1] Bill Johncocks, “New technology and public perception,” The Indexer, vol. 30, No. 1 [March 2012], p. 10. Link: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/index/tiji/2012/00000030/00000001/art00003 (accessed April 25, 2016). I’ve uploaded a copy of this article with my own comments and highlights: New technology and public perceptions

[2] Some specialized tools and processes are needed to do these things, of course. There are a number of options available. If you want help, feel free to get in touch.

[3] The “semantic web” is the practice of embedding index entries (often called “semantic markup”) into content on the web, in order to inform search engines as to what that content is about. There is an overview page on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web), a W3C standard (http://www.w3.org/standards/semanticweb/), and an introductory site on the topic of creating semantic web pages (http://semanticweb.org). Once you have index entries embedded in content, creating semantic web pages that use these index entries becomes a mechanical exercise.

[4] The EPUB3 indexes specification (http://www.idpf.org/epub/idx/) is the most likely path by which reading software will begin to support indexes.

[5] The U.K.-based Society of Indexers has a very good introductory page on “Standards and Technologies” for indexing in the digital age: http://www.ptg-indexers.org.uk/about/technologies.htm.

We’re not entirely sure that we need an XML workflow, because we don’t see exactly how we will benefit from it in our publishing program.

Last week, I watched a webinar (well, a recording of it) in which university presses were discussing (in a “panel” format) how and to what extent they had implemented an XML workflow. A common theme in their discussion was, “We’re not entirely sure that we need an XML workflow, because we don’t see exactly how we will benefit from it in our publishing program.”

Several “advantages” of an XML workflow were stated by the publishers in the course of their discussion. According to the publishers on the panel, an XML workflow can:

For the most part these publishers understand some of the advantages of XML, even though they didn’t present those advantages in an analytical framework. (Publishers understand their own business better than they sometimes give themselves credit for, and some solution providers are all too happy to play on that lack of certainty.)

However, publishers don’t have a clear understanding of how to accomplish each of these advantages from within the context of their own publishing operation. There is a strong disconnect between the “ideal” of “XML workflow,” on one hand, and the practical matter of improving our own publishing processes, on the other.

It is also the case that many of these advantages are not in fact per se advantages of an XML workflow. In fact, several of these advantages can be realized without buying anything from an XML workflow vendor or adopting anything more complex than a few simple procedures.

So, without further ado, let’s talk about these advantages and point the way toward accomplishing each in the context of a publishing enterprise.

Disciplining the Publishing Process

The idea here is that, when you prepare for production in an XML workflow, you have to have a higher level of discipline in how you do it, and this discipline is good for the publishing process as a whole. One example: XML workflows often require the use of paragraph and character styles for formatting. Adopting the XML workflow requires that we do a better job of styling our publications.

One thing that is clear, though, is that you don’t have to adopt an “XML workflow” in order to discipline your publishing process in this way. Any publishing team can, right now, start using paragraph and character styles in a more disciplined way in the publishing process. How you do this very much depends on your publishing context. For many presses, it means adopting a consistent set of paragraph and character styles that are used in both editorial (Microsoft Word, usually) and typesetting (InDesign, usually). The editors can add keyboard shortcuts to their editorial template to assist in applying the house styles. The designers and typesetters can set up a design template that uses these styles and significantly speeds the production process.

The discipline in this system can come, for instance, by creating a script in Word or InDesign that “audits” a manuscript to list the styles that are used, and any non-style hard-coded formatting that needs to be addressed. I have created scripts like this for the publishers I have worked with, and they have found them to be very helpful to make sure that everything is the way it should be for publication. Such disciplined systems can be created apart from an XML workflow, or within one.

Providing an Archival, “Future-Proof” File

Publishers understand that XML is a “future-proof” file format. To put it technically, it is a textual file format that uses tags in text to represent formatting and semantic information about the content, and the file itself is usually encoded as ASCII or UTF-8 text. This stands in contrast to application files, which are often binary and unusable outside of the application. So, the thinking is, adopting an XML workflow will help us to ensure that our publication assets are available for whatever applications might be available now or in the future, whether or not the applications that created these files are still available.

There is truth in this, but what many publishers don’t seem to understand is that you don’t need to adopt an “XML workflow” in order to ensure that your files are future-proof. You just need to “Save As” file formats that are future-proof. Here are a few file formats that you can use that will almost certainly be readable in 100 years:

  • Word .docx — If you use Microsoft Word, you are probably using the .docx file format already. If so, that is good, because .docx is just a .zip file containing .xml files. Both .zip and .xml are as future-proof as any file format can be: Everyone uses them, the industry has standardized on them, so it is almost certain that software to process .zip and .xml will be available in 100 years.
    However, if you’re still using the old .doc file format, please switch to .docx. The .doc file format is an obsolete binary format, and it is not at all certain it will be supported 5 years from now. (I had the experience, about 5 years ago, of trying to open an old Word 6 .doc file, but the current version of Word had removed support for that file format, so I had to go hunting for a converter. A word to the wise: Use .docx.)
  • InDesign .idml — With InDesign, the situation is a little more difficult, because the default file format is .indd, which is Adobe’s own binary file format, which is not future proof. However you can “Save As” .idml, which is a .zip file containing .xml files — just like Word .docx (and many others). My recommendation is to go ahead and do your typesetting with .indd, but before you put the project to bed, “Save As” .idml and archive that file. Now you are future-proof: That file will be usable in 100 years.
  • Adobe .pdf (unencrypted) for vector art — Even though .pdf is usually a binary file, the specification for it has been published, and there are lots of tools that can work with it. If you are using Adobe Illustrator to create artwork, use .pdf as your file format rather than Illustrator’s file format. It is almost certain that .pdf files will be usable in 100 years.
  • Adobe .dng for raw photographs — Many camera manufacturers have created their own proprietary raw file format. Raw files are much better than .jpgs for storing photographs, but you don’t want to use the manufacturers’ proprietary formats. Instead, Adobe has created the .dng format (“digital negative”) to address this need, and has provided a free converter to enable photographers and publishers to convert raw files from proprietary to standard .dng.
  • .jpg, .png, or .tiff for other raster artwork — These images formats are well understood, with published specifications, and widely used. The .png and .tiff formats are lossless, which means that all of the image data is retained. By contrast, .jpg is lossy — the compression algorithm throws away some of the image data depending on the “quality” number that you use (usually 1–100). There is another advantage to .tiff and .jpg: They both enable image metadata to be embedded using EXIF, which is also a standard.

In summary, there are simple ways to ensure that all publication assets are stored in “archival, future-proof” formats. Again, implementing these changes to your workflow can be as simple as creating a procedure that you always follow, such as always saving the InDesign file as .idml when putting the project to bed. It also possible to implement automated processes that do these housekeeping tasks for you, so that you have less to keep track of.

Making Ebook Production Easier

A lot of the publishers’ discussion during the above-mentioned webinar had to do with making ebook production more sensible as a normalized part of their product development workflow. The theory is, if our publishing process produces an archival XML file, it will be a lot simpler to create ebooks from that file. It seems that this is also the promise that many solution providers have proposed. But the reality of achieving that result has been elusive and expensive for many publishers.

I have implemented several XML-based ebook production workflows for publishers. I have been doing this for almost 10 years. There is as yet no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue; I would love to provide it, but it’s a complex problem: Study Bibles, for instance, have very different requirements from academic books or Sunday School curriculum.

However, I have enough experience with the nuts and bolts of this area to make several definitive statements. These statements might help guide you in integrating ebook production into your print production workflow. Some of these statements will be bare, to be filled out in a future post.

  • InDesign is usually the best place to maintain the canonical, archival version of the publication. Unless your content has very complex requirements that do not fit within the context of print typesetting, InDesign is the best place to maintain the content in a single source. (Study Bibles are often too complex, so there is an unavoidable transition to maintaining two sources: the print typesetting, and the XML archive.) For the vast majority of fiction and non-fiction books, there is no need to maintain a separate “XML archive” of the files.
  • InDesign’s EPUB export is worthless. Don’t use it if you can avoid it. I will enumerate this in a later post.
  • InDesign is, however, capable of holding all of the structures that you want to appear in your ebooks, within the context of an InDesign publication. For example, paragraph and character styles can be mapped to the equivalent structures in ebooks.
  • InDesign .idml can be the source of an ebook production workflow. The .idml file format can be converted directly to .xhtml (web pages using XML syntax) and .css (stylesheets that control visual formatting). Creating this conversion is a technical challenge, but it is not intractable.
  • EPUBs are just .zip files that contain .xhtml and .css, along with a couple of ebook structure files. If you can create .xhtml + .css web pages from your .idml file, it is a small step from their to having a valid EPUB.
  • Kindle ebooks can be created from valid EPUB files. The tools to do this are available for free from Amazon.

The bottom line is that you can integrate ebook production into your InDesign-based print production workflow.The best approach to this uses XML throughout the process. It is somewhat complicated, and it requires some specific technical knowledge, but it is a tractable problem that can be solved. I plan to unpack this subject in more depth in the coming weeks.

Enabling the Creation of Specialized Outputs

The final advantage of an XML workflow that the publishers mentioned while participating in the webinar was that XML makes it possible to create specialized outputs for particular channels. For example, one publisher talked about wanting to create BITS XML for medical  publishing. Others talked about putting their content on HighWire, a system for scholarly publishing (the webinar participants were university presses). These systems have very specific requirements, so we cannot say anything in general terms about how to design a system that will meet those requirements. However, it is likely that an XML workflow is the best way for publishers to ensure that they can provide their content in a format that meets those requirements.

Because I believe that, for most purposes, the InDesign publication is the best form for the “archival, future-proof file,” I am interested in exploring how a system that provides content to online databases like HighWire could be designed around InDesign.

Another topic in this connection is semantic indexing and tagging. Digital content can have a variety of “entities” in the text itself tagged and indexed. For instance, in work with Bible and Bible reference publishers, we have found it to be valuable to tag Scripture references that occur in the text flow. Often, the tagged content is used in ebooks and Bible reading apps where Scripture references are expected to be links. How we store these tags, especially in the context of an InDesign-centric workflow, is an interesting and important question to solve in order to fully meet the needs of these publishers. Similar questions will arise in other content domains.

Conclusion

Of the four “advantages of an XML workflow” that we began with, only two of them are specifically related to the use of XML in content processing: Streamlining and normalizing ebook production; and enabling the creation of specialized outputs.

In both cases, XML is the medium through which content flows as it is transformed from one format (usually a typeset publication) to another (an ebook, or an online content database). In the case of ebooks, all of the content structures that are needed can be accomplished within an InDesign-centered workflow. On the other hand, structuring content for an online database depends entirely on the requirements of that particular database.

The other two stated “advantages” of XML are really not related to the use of an XML workflow at all, but can be achieved within a traditional publishing workflow. However, it is fair to say that an XML workflow, if adopted, will also play a role in achieving these advantages.

What are your experiences with each of these areas of the publication process?

On February 24, 2016, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) hosted a webinar entitled “The Future of XML” (the link is the archived webinar itself — 1 hr. 33 min.). In the webinar, several leaders at university presses like UChicago, Duke, and Princeton discussed what kinds of workflows they are using, how they make use of XML, why they use (or don’t use) XML, how it is going for them, and what they would like to do in the future.

I watched the webinar with great interest, because it was a group of publishers addressing the things that I have made the focus of my career: creating automated and integrated publishing workflows. (Often, the most interesting presentations having to do with the technologies of publishing are when publishers are talking to each other.) The webinar highlighted for me three things:

  1. University Presses, like other publishers, understand their own business very well and don’t need vendors to tell them what they need to do. These people had all spent months if not years exploring options for improving their workflows. Some of them have adopted XML workflows and are producing ebooks in-house. Others have decided — quite rightly, based on their own reasoning — not to adopt an XML workflow at this time. They just don’t see any practical use for it.
  2. For many publishers, an XML workflow remains an elusive ideal with uncertain benefits. XML workflows promise to streamline the book production process and automate the production of ebooks, but often the XML workflow does not streamline the process sufficiently. Several of the university presses mentioned that they would like to implement an XML workflow, but either they don’t know how, or the existing solution providers are too expensive, or the results are ineffective. For many of these presses, even though they would like to attain the “single archival, future-proof content source,” it has been out of reach for them, as they continue to get their ebooks created from pre-press PDFs, and their publications remain in non-archival formats like InDesign’s .INDD file format.
  3. Publishers need practical solutions that they can implement in their own systems, without completely changing what they’re doing, and that give them what they really want: An future-proof archival file, and integrated ebook outputs. It really isn’t that difficult to provide these things, so why don’t more vendors help publishers do so?

The fact is, practical solutions to all of these issues are straightforward.

  • An XML-first workflow is completely within reach for every publisher.
  • Archival XML is available to them without additional costs.
  • EPUB creation is not rocket science, but it does require some specialized tools and/or know-how.
  • Digital production can be integrated very well with print production, and it doesn’t require using InDesign’s terrible EPUB export.
  • Setting up a versioned content archiving to keep everything in a secure, future-proof way can be as painless and cost-free as you want.
  • You don’t need to invest in some vendor’s expensive XML workflow in order to get the job done.

In my work as a publisher and for publishers during the past 19 years, I have implemented solutions to all of these issues, at the levels of complexity required for large-scale academic and reference publishing. An XML workflow shouldn’t be as unattainable as it might seem to be. So over the coming weeks, I’m going to be blogging about all of these questions (I already have drafts for them lined up in my queue). My goal will be to help publishers, like these university presses and others, to realize the benefits of XML in their workflow simply, practically, and affordably.

What about you? Are these issues that you have struggled with in your own publishing endeavors? How have you solved them?

I had the privilege of presenting two training workshops at the PCPA (Protestant Church-Owned Publishers’ Association) Spring Conference on Friday, April 1. The PCPA audience was engaged, thoughtful, and intelligent. It was a great pleasure to present this material to them.

Archive-Based Publishing

Many publishers would like to integrate print and digital product development into a single product development workflow, but have struggled to do so. In this session we will discuss how publishers can enhance their current systems with a central content archive, using technologies and practices that reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Download Slides: Archive-Based-Publishing (801 KB PDF)

Dynamic Content Excerpts

We have developed a system for creating dynamic excerpts of the book’s content, submitting them to search engines, and enabling online and sharing. These excerpts can drive search and social traffic to a publisher’s website and accelerate a publisher’s online selling efforts. This session will demonstrate how this system functions.

Download Slides: Dynamic-Content-Marketing (839 KB PDF)

I started Black Earth Group in 2014 to help publishers and authors with publishing technology. Since going full time in early 2015, I have focused on making tools and systems, and on providing consulting services to publishers and enterprising authors. I’ve also done a little conference speaking (for example, I just got back from giving two training sessions at the PCPA spring conference).

One thing I haven’t done (which you might have noticed if you were paying attention, although there’s no reason you would have been): I haven’t been publishing about what I know. No blogging, no webinars, no podcasts. Nothing. Just quiet me going about my business helping my customers with their projects.

What I find, every time I go to a publishing industry event, is that a lot of publishers are struggling to do things that I provide solutions for — I am solving problems that many publishers have and don’t know how to solve on their own. My customers benefit from it all the time; but for everyone else, “how can they hear unless someone tells them?” (Rom. 10:14, paraphrase).

Now it’s time to up my game.

I’m not going to make any silly promises about how often I’m going to blog or anything like that. But I will state my intention: To blog about what I know so that publishers and enterprising authors can do things they don’t yet know how to do.

My focus is on publishing & technology. I plan to write in-depth articles that describe the lay of the land, explain how to do hard things, and ultimately how to succeed using the (new) tools of the publishing trade. That should keep me busy for a long time.

Are you interested in publishing, or technology, or reading, or any combination of those? What questions have you had or issues have you experienced? Let me know what’s on your mind in this space — I would love to hear from you.

Sean Harrison

Here are the slides and notes from my talk, at BibleTech 2015. The audience was fantastic, and the discussions that ensued were stimulating. Thanks to all who were present.

Paper or Pixels? Bible Publishing in the Print and Digital Age
We are now several years into the ebook–smartphone–app revolution, and digital Bibles and Bible apps are becoming more and more mature. Yet print Bible sales are healthy and actually growing. Wasn’t print supposed to be dead by now? What is going on? How can those of us who live at the intersection of the Bible, technology, and publishing make the most of the current environment? Digging into the strengths of both the print and digital mediums, we will explore some of the ways they can work together to provide enhanced encounters with God’s Word.

Slides: PaperOrPixels-SeanHarrison-2015-BibleTech-Slides (2.4 MB PDF)

Notes: PaperOrPixels-SeanHarrison-2015-BibleTech-Notes (150 KB PDF)

Jumping OffI have very exciting news: After 18 years with Tyndale House Publishers, I am jumping off to do Black Earth Group full time!

The mission of Black Earth Group is to make publishing easier for publishers, authors, and others by helping simplify and accelerate the publishing process. We can help with all kinds of publishing projects, but our “sweet spot” is helping non-fiction, Bible, and reference publishers — because those are the areas where we have the most experience, and where other solutions have weaknesses and limitations.

This step is the culmination and natural next stage in my career. Although my job title has officially been some form of “Bible Editor” since 1997, from the beginning of that role I have also been working on digital publishing technologies and software to make the publishing workflow more efficient. During the past couple of years, I have begun to help other publishers improve their publishing processes and do a better job of integrating print and digital into a coherent, comprehensive publishing program.

Tyndale House has been wonderful to me, a good place to work with great colleagues (in fact, they threw a couple of very nice going away parties and said all kinds of nice things about me). I am going to miss the great day-by-day collaboration there, but I’m looking forward to greater collaboration with a wider group of my colleagues in publishing. Feel free to begin a conversation with me.

About the Photo

Early last summer (about eight months ago), I was talking with my brother-in-law, who took a similar step in his career about eight years ago. He said, “You’ve been standing at the end of that dock looking off for a long time. Maybe you just need to jump off.”

Standing on the DockThat statement stuck with me, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I had just begun working on a major revision to the NLT Study Bible, and I was committed to finishing it. About two months ago, I was thinking about going ahead and jumping at the end of February, which is when I was scheduled to turn in my last major piece of editing on that project. To be honest, I was scared of taking such a big step. Then I ran into the following passages of Scripture.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans. Prov. 16:3

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him. Ps. 37:4-7a

I am not claiming any divine sanction for my decision, but I do believe God is taking care of me and my family, that he has good plans, and that I can trust him. So, off we go!

Today we finished the design process for our first professionally printed business card and submitted the order with the printer.

Along the way, I realized that most people I’ve interacted with, when they receive a business card, turn it over to see if there’s anything on the back. Often there is not, or what is there is very poorly designed — both of which are a missed opportunity for a positive message.

I decided to include a short mission statement on the back, along with the full web address of the company website (which I didn’t include on the front). This, of course, forced me to think carefully: What exactly are we trying to do?

A few weeks ago, when I was presenting at ECPA PUBu, I landed on this as the basic promise: We make publishing easier. Hire us, because we will help you make your publishing process easier. So I decided to expand on this, giving a little taste of how we do that: by helping you simplify and accelerate the publishing process.

So, without further ado, here is the first-generation Black Earth Group business card and mission statement.

BusinessCard-Sean-01 BusinessCard-Sean-02