Friday, March 15, 2019

chapter 11

I learned in the past few days, when I got a royalty statement from F&W publication, and no check came in the following days that the company had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the state of Delaware. When I started my first books, F&W Publications was a family owned enterprise. F stood for farm and W stood for writers, and the initial thrust of the business was to cater to those two areas of need: Publishing in support of small farms and writers. That was about a hundred years ago. The founding family members happily sold out to investors and the new CEO announced at a staff meeting that the business would be a perfect fit for him. He could run the business (after selling off assets) from his beach house in the Bahamas.

According to the bankruptcy narrative presented to the court, the company had made a few fatal mistakes. Over a period of years they'd made relentless efforts to get much bigger fast. Then the killer was to get deeply involved in e-commerce for which they were ill-prepared. Since they were one of the major publishers of niche craft related books, they thought they could expand their market by selling craft related products, taking the customer trust they had earned and leverage that into competition with other online retailers. That involved building an unreliable internet system that greatly disappointed customers, and renting warehouses to hold all the stuff they couldn't sell through an unworkable platform.

When the first non-family owners had severely botched business, the second round was Citi Bank, and then a descending spiral of big idea banker type folks all with the small minded idea of selling off non-essential assets so they could do more stuff unrelated to the founder's intent.

Of course, part of F&W's problems have been related to the rise of free unedited materials offered through the internet and youtube in particular. Why should anyone have to pay for anything other than their connection fee to Verizon or AT&T? I assert that there is still a place in the world for well-edited good books. It's easy to make cheap content, and to fill the internet with crap. It's more of a challenge to make good books. And there is a value to the latter. The shame in F&W's case is that they could have continued to make good books. Perhaps Chapter 11 Bankruptcy will allow them to return to the mission that gave them their start. There's a lesson here. When businesses wander far from their founder's intent, things have a way of "getting out of hand."

F&W gave me the chance to write my first three books. So they have a dear place in my heart and I wish them success. My first three books are now out of print but we did a more recent compilation of projects from my first two books. It is "25 Beautiful Boxes." You can find it on Amazon or can contact me directly for a signed copy.

Make, fix, create, and hope for the sake of human culture that all learn to learn likewise.

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