[I asked Ben Nussbaum of USA TODAY to give his view of his job.]
So what exactly makes a book a USA TODAY book? How do you translate the personality of a newspaper (what we call our “brand equities”) into a book? Answering that question was a big part of my job when I first started working at USA TODAY several years ago.
I was fortunate to have worked with many strong brands in book publishing before I took the job as book editor at USA TODAY. One thing most of these brands had in common was a well-documented (some would say obsessively documented) guide to what the brand meant and how to create a product that fit the brand.
For example: my first job in publishing was working on a branded book series, and that job involved several weeks of brand training before ever touching a live book. Everything about the brand was documented in a thick binder that you got on your first day on the job. Later I worked with some of the better-known brands in children’s books, and I was very impressed with their brand guidelines—well-produced, clear documentation that made it a pleasure to work on books for those brands.
(I think that most editors and designers like to have a clear set of parameters to work within. It’s liberating to know what the rules are.)
When I started at USA TODAY, we didn’t have documentation. Instead, we had people: old hands who had spent decades working to give USA TODAY a consistent identity, a recognizable personality. Part of figuring out what a USA TODAY book should be was picking the brains of these veterans, some of whom had helped to create USA TODAY back in 1982, when the newspaper first launched.
So, what should a USA TODAY book be? It should be friendly, accessible, easy to use, relevant, helpful, colorful. The design should be impactful but never showy. I could go on. We’ve made great strides in terms of conceptualizing what the brand should be outside of the newspaper and, yes, we even have some documentation.
Of course, having a partner that can understand the brand and interpret it for the particular audience is still the key. Lerner has done a great job with that, as you can see in the Lifeline Biographies or Debate series.