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Building on Experience; Capitalizing on luck

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Praxis International, Inc. is a technical training, consulting, and publishing company that was founded in 1988 by my husband, Greg Gore, and me. We had both begun our publishing careers in the mid-60s with Prentice-Hall. I held various management, marketing, and sales positions with the PH Business and Professional Division and Greg held similar positions with the PH College Division.

In 1978, Greg joined the Association of American Publishers as the first director of the Education for Publishing Program, where among other responsibilities, he offered AAP book publishing seminars to the book publishing community. Following his AAP experience, he joined a public seminar company in Pennsylvania and managed their program. In the meantime, I continued my career with Prentice-Hall.

When we decided to launch our own technical training company, we began by offering graduate level public and in-house seminars and consulting services for government and defense industry personnel in the areas of electromagnetic interference control, electromagnetic pulse, and high-power microwaves. This proved to be a hugely successful strategy because the seminars were high-priced and we could also earn a handsome profit on the seminar notes, which we offered separately.

At each step in our careers, we leveraged the skills and experiences we had gained in previous positions. But luck also played a big part in determining how our company developed.

 

In Need of a New Strategy

With the end of the Cold War in the early 90s, the defense industry began to suffer hard times. Major defense contractors were either downsizing or going out of business. We had to areas rethink our strategy and what we decided to do was offer seminars in technical writing, effective presentations, creativity, and quality control.

During an interview I conducted with a potential quality-control instructor, the subject of book publishing arose and the prospective instructor mentioned a manuscript a business acquaintance had sent to him. Because of this chance meeting, Praxis published Col. Ed Hubbard’s acclaimed book, Escape from the Box, which describes his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and how that experience helped him succeed in his personal and professional life following his release from prison. The book came out in January 1994 and is now in its eighth printing.

We were not worried about going outside the areas of our professional and college publishing expertise to publish a trade book because Our our previous publishing experiences taught us the importance of the author’s marketing efforts in the success of a book. The manuscript for Escape from the Box had been developed from talks given by Col. Hubbard, who had built a successful career as a speaker after his retirement from the Air Force. We looked at the number of talks he was giving and the sizes of his audiences, and we knew the book would be successful based on this marketing segment alone. Sales have continued to escalate for nine [?]years now, through word of mouth and our own marketing efforts, which include Internet sales. As a result of the increasing demand for Escape from the Box, we have increased the size of our print runs from 3,000 to 5,000 copies.

 

Online Initiatives

We look for synergy in every project we consider. Recently, we launched a new program for inexpensive books to be sold over the Internet at our website. Also, Greg writes a newspaper column about computers and the Internet that is available online at www.greggore.com. Because his columns span many topics indexed by the major search engines, many visitors come to his site, which, of course, has links on it to our other sites. Synergy in action.

Most rCurrently,ecently, Praxis is developinglaunched an e-book publishing program and we are now developing a program whereby small publishers and other small retailers can engage in e-commerce without the high setup fees and monthly fees charged by many e-commerce packages.

As we enter our 15th year in business, we continue to be encouraged and excited about book publishing. We are particularly enthusiastic about the opportunities for small publishers to survive and thrive.

 

Susanne R. Gore is CEO of Praxis International, Inc. (www.praxisontheweb.com) in West Chester, PA. She and her husband, Greg, Vice President of Praxis, each have 35 years of experience with firms in the book publishing and technical training industries ranging in size from start-up to the Fortune 500.

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