Demos Medical Publishing is
coming of age—and it’s turning 21 with yet another change in its focus. Today
the Manhattan-based publisher and its staff of 10 are returning to the
company’s original emphasis.
Founded in 1985 when Diana M.
Schneider left another medical publisher, Raven Press, Demos started out with
professional medical titles and a few books on patient education. As people with
chronic diseases and long-term disorders created demand for patient-education
materials, that segment of the business grew larger than expected.
“It became so profitable and
interesting that our focus changed,” explained Schneider, now senior consulting
editor and a member of the board of directors.
By 2004, Demos had nearly 100
titles in print—and a purchase offer from Mannheim Holdings LLC, a subsidiary
of the Mannheim Trust and formerly part of the top international pharmaceutical
company in Germany, which had begun acquiring medical-publishing firms. Now,
with the funding available through Mannheim, Demos is making two changes in its
product line: it’s returning to its original focus on titles for medical
professionals, and it’s expanding by adding books on spine medicine and
oncology to its neurology and rehabilitation medicine titles.
The books for professionals—titles
such as Handbook of
Neurologic Rating Scales and <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Comprehensive Nursing Care in Multiple Sclerosis—are
more expensive to develop and produce and have shorter press runs. But, as
Schneider notes, they “have more predictable sales and higher margins.”
That means the return on
investment is consistently higher. A title such as <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Handbook of Neurologic Rating Scales
retails for $145, for example, while such patient-education titles as <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Parkinson’s Disease: 300
Tips for Making Life Easier and <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Ketogenic Diet: A Treatment for Epilepsy
retail for $16.95 and $24.95, respectively. The number of these consumer titles
Demos issues each year is expected to remain stable at 15 or 16, with
professional books increasing to as many as 30 annually.
This will change the work of both
the acquisitions and the marketing staffs. Most of the medical books—up to 90
percent, in fact—are written because the Demos staff has determined that they
are needed and has found outstanding medical professionals to create them.
Although the company’s submission
guidelines are very specific, editors find it necessary to send many
manuscripts back for reworking. Hoping to minimize the need for revisions at
the manuscript stage, Schneider and the new Demos CEO, Phyllis Gold, have
decided to have the editorial board review and critique draft material—the
outline, sample chapters, sample illustrations.
While Demos executives often
approach medical experts about writing professional books, authors of
patient-education titles come to the company via many different paths.
“There’s lots of networking,
attending conferences, and contacting centers in the field, such as the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society,” explains Gold. In some cases, contacts
established through associations have led to cooperative marketing: one
consumer series from Demos is co-sponsored by the American Academy of
“Often the two product lines are
synergistic,” Gold notes. “An author of a professional book writes a patient
book—or vice versa.”
The company’s most popular
patient-education authors include both physicians and patients. Irwin M.
Siegel, who currently has four books in print at Demos (one on bone, one on
joints, one on muscle, and one on muscular dystrophy in children), teaches at
Rush–Presbyterian–St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago and maintains a private
practice on the orthopedic management of neuromuscular disease. He is a
national vice president and medical consultant for the Muscular Dystrophy
Association of America. Shelley Peterman Schwarz, who has written several books
for Demos and currently has two in its catalog, has had multiple sclerosis
since 1979. Today, despite being described as severely disabled (she has no use
of her legs and dominant right arm and hand and only minimal use of her left
hand), she writes for periodicals, Web sites, and newspapers and does
motivational speeches, and her newest Demos book is just out.
Demos’s professional titles can
take a year or two from concept to finished book; publication is usually timed
for the major clinical meetings held each fall. Patient-education materials are
ordinarily produced in less than a year, even though, as Gold points out, books
by people who are not professional writers or medical specialists often demand
extensive rewriting. In both segments, author royalties are based on
publisher’s net; advances are rare and modest when they are offered, but Demos
does cover the up-front costs of artwork for major texts. Most titles stay in
print through several revisions.
Ways to Contact Customers
All the company’s titles are
available through its Web site, and its Internet sales have grown significantly
in importance in the past three years. Until recently, customers received a 15
percent discount on Web orders; in the spring, when a new site launched, the
Web site bonus was changed to free shipping.
Demos markets its professional
references via conference exhibits, direct mail, email solicitations, medical
wholesalers, and medical bookstores, and to professional libraries at medical
societies and medical schools.
Trade titles are distributed
through Publishers’ Group West and promoted with press releases and support
from associations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Patient-care
authors are encouraged to speak at conferences, and Demos hopes to expand this
component of its publicity programs, both with more presentations and with more
tie-in book sales. Selling through catalogs, either those of other publishers
or of assistive-device retailers, is another channel the company wants to
Demos’s free email newsletters
constitute an extremely valuable and inexpensive marketing resource for all
Demos titles. Started about three years ago, the e-zines now have a total of
1,500 subscribers in 34 medical and patient categories, from ALS, Alzheimer’s,
epilepsy, and movement disorders, to MS, muscular dystrophy, pain, stroke, sleep
disorders, and neurology. The company also has e-zines on titles it publishes
in Spanish and e-zines especially for book reviewers.
Used to announce forthcoming books
and special discounts and to offer sample chapters, the e-zines go out four or
five times a month. To avoid overwhelming subscribers, no list is used more
than twice a month, Schneider says.
Demos sends all its titles to its
book manufacturers as PDFs. Press runs for professional titles, which are
almost always hardcovers, are 1,500 to 3,000. For patient-education titles,
which are usually trade paperbacks, printings are generally 2,000 to 5,000,
although the figures rise to 7,500 and even 10,000 for some titles. Looking
ahead, Demos may move printing abroad. Although the company has worked with
North American printers so far, the staff is now exploring printing in India.
Gold notes that India is beginning to offer high-quality, cost-effective
four-color printing and that many larger Indian companies have opened U.S. offices
to coordinate the jobs and improve communication between printer and U.S.