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VOL. 125 | NO. 113 | Friday, June 11, 2010

Building a Brand

National company goes local

MARIA BURNHAM | Special to The Daily News

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Chris Bradley is working on a problem that a lot companies have: name recognition.

But his problem isn’t national brand recognition — Collierville-based Fundcraft Publishing already owns some of the most successful brands in the custom printing business.

His problem is making local organizations and businesses aware of what they do.

In fact, as the company promotes itself this week in the exhibit hall at the National PTA Convention, going on through Sunday at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, its brands — Cookbooks.com, InstantPublisher.com and Fundcraft.com, among others — are much more likely to be recognized by parent teacher association members from Minneapolis than those from Memphis.

“A lot of people locally don’t even know we’re around,” said Bradley, Fundcraft president.

The company was founded more than 100 years ago, by his grandfather, Marsh Bradley, in a small Kansas town.

When Fundcraft started its focus was on cookbooks of the type school groups, churches and nonprofits have used for generations to raise funds.

In 1985, the company moved to a 200,000-square-foot facility in Collierville, and it began expanding into other areas of custom publishing, including school planners, school and family memory photo books, yearbooks and self publishing.

Fundcraft does all of its printing, publishing and sales in house, which Bradley said enables them to keep costs down. Those savings are passed along to their customers.

The company has about 100 employees, some of which have been there since the Collierville plant opened.

“It’s a family-run business and everyone is sort of treated that way,” Bradley said. “We have people who basically came out of high school in Collierville and have been there ever since. It’s definitely different.”

The company is looking to continue its brand expansion with its newest target, corporate printing.

Fundcraft has already started doing some such work, publishing instruction manuals, software guides and employee handbooks for companies across the U.S. But, as with the company’s existing publishing areas, Bradley would like to see local companies using his services.

While the company has the capacity to do large print runs, it specializes in small orders, Bradley said.

Along with cookbooks, self-published authors make up the biggest part of Fundcraft’s business.

“That has gone really well, because there are a lot of people out of there who can’t get published,” Bradley said.

Some of their authors have been picked up by publishers after a successful self-publishing run, he said. Others have a niche market and continue to self-publish.

InstantPublisher.com is probably the most emotional and personal to the people involved, Bradley said. He had one woman who came into his office and started crying because she was so happy. She compared seeing her book in print to giving birth.

“The key is, keeping people happy,” Bradley said. “A lot of our business is word of mouth. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t get a call that someone says, ‘I want to publish a book and so-and-so told me to call you.’ Not a day.”

Despite the decline in sales of the printed word, Fundcraft is in a very lucrative business. In 2009, 764,448 titles were produced by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers (companies, which typically release about five titles a year), according to recently released statistics by R.R. Bowker, the U.S. ISBN and SAN Agency.

It was the first year in which alternative publishing actually exceeded traditional publishing, said April Hamilton, a Los Angeles-based director on the board of the Association of Independent Authors.

There are a number of factors that contributed to those statics. It’s now much easier for authors to self-publish. Companies like InstantPublisher.com will run small batches of books (as few as 25 at the Fundcraft subsidiary), which means an affordable up-front cost for would-be authors.

Amazon has opened the door to distribution, giving authors the same presentation and placement as those publishing through the large publishing houses.

And the Internet has made it supremely easy for authors to self-promote themselves, Hamilton said.

“Self-publishing has led to more variety for the reader,” Hamilton said. “There is so much risk aversion in main stream publishing because it’s very expensive to bring a book to press in the traditional chain —no one wants to be the person that said yes to a book that fails.

“Without self-publishing what we’d see is an increasing homogenization of books.”

At Fundcraft, this week, the focus remains on school products, however. During the PTA convention, Fundcraft will be promoting its yearbooks, student and teacher planners, and fundraiser cookbooks.

Holy Name of Jesus School’s Parent Teacher Club in New Orleans has used Fundcraft to publish its “Gator Goodies” cookbooks and has been pleased with the entire process.

“Our cookbook sales have been successful,” said Laura Anderson, who coordinates the cookbooks for the group.

The club is on its third cookbook, all published through Fundcraft. Anderson said the club received a mailing about the company and after she researched it online, they decided to give a try.

“It’s a very easy process,” she said. “I typed everything and sent it in and Fundcraft published the book. It was quick and easy.”

That’s one of the things the company prides itself on, ease of use, said Kim Lain, Fundcraft marketing writer and strategist.

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