Each field has its own language. When I first entered the book business, I learned an intriguing piece of terminology: fulfillment. In this industry, it meant something very specific: the shipping of a book as “fulfillment of a requested order.”
But to my metaphor-mind, it meant so much more. It meant that as a writer, I had to fulfill what I promised my book would be. It meant my publisher would have to fulfill the expectation of creating a beautiful, appealing volume. It meant bookstores would have to fulfill the wishes of their customers by bring them wonderful new books.
Eventually I had the pleasure of meeting a real professional who makes her living by fulfilling book orders, and many other key elements of marketing books, music CDs, and art. Aptly, Sue Leonard’s company is named Cornerstone Fulfillment, which she founded in 1998. She began by helping well-known artist Richard Schmid. Though his art was lauded, art publishing houses ignored him. When he independently published his first book it sold in over twenty-seven countries and became the art-bible for representational painters. Helping Richard create his success, she was inspired to take on other clients. “I was at the right place at the right time, and got in on the ground floor of independent publishing,” Sue explained. As we spoke, I looked at her logo and listened to her passion for her work. And I came up with a new slogan for Sue, one that articulates her logo and her mission: Bringing my customers to the world. Bringing the world to my customers.
The next thing Sue noticed that indie publishers “knew nothing about marketing. So their orders would lag. There was a missing piece. I felt I needed to find a way to help clients to market their books and media products.” Part of learning the new media for her clients was expanding her own universe by creating her blog, All Things Fulfilling. As you can tell from her title, her topics go well beyond the scope of the mechanics of shipping orders. Sue and I share a respect and excitement for independent publishing, and this was what she interviewed me about on her blog today, “Speaking the Language of Books.” She was also kind enough to post a background the previous day, “Portrait of a Consummate Artist.”
Fulfillment used to mean something “out there” to be pursued, discovered, then grabbed. It was something I had to find, or wait for, to make my life work. Maybe it was like waiting for Santa. Now I think of fulfillment not as something to find, but as something to give. It means I get to work on something I truly care about, honing and polishing it until it gleams like a gem, something like my new novel What the Heart Knows. Then I get to wrap it. I did create a special wrapping for the Advance Reader Copies of my book: blue and aqua tissue paper to snap and crackle; blue satin ribbon to twirl and save; a miniature watercolor to frame; and a tiny heart for a keepsake. I got to send my special packages out into the world. It was like getting to be Santa. I got to imagine the experience for each person opening their package, the surprise and the delight, the invitation into the special world I have waiting for them in Milford-Haven. Now that’s fulfillment.
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