Thursday, July 5, 2007

If'n Books

Deb Dormody of If’n Books creates beautiful journals and albums, which she promises to “guarantee miracles in every bite.” There is something special about her products, which are lovingly handmade and created using vintage and contemporary bookbinding techniques and equipment.

Her continuous search for unique book coverings also led her to commission artists to create exclusive designs for If’n Books. This collaboration helps strengthen the network of independent artists and provides an opportunity for artists to showcase their work.

Beginning of Bookbinding
“I first started bookbinding in high school when my public high school art teacher introduced us to a simple Japanese stab binding. It just clicked with me immediately and inspired me to go home and disassemble a few atlases and dictionaries so I could examine how they were made. I made some pretty horrific books back then. But now I make awesome ones and sell my journals and albums to about 200 stores nationwide and a smattering of stores around the world.”

Typical Customer
“My typical customer is someone who perhaps wore Garanimals or Underoos, has definitely sipped a Capri-Sun at some point, appreciates minute details and fine craftsmanship (and is maybe even snotty about it), and prefers to keep their secrets written down rather than blathering them out to everyone in the whole entire world.”

Background in Business
“I went full-time with the business just as 1999 was turning into 2000. I quit my job as Marketing Director of a craft gallery and said “No thank you” to such frivolities as a 40 hour work week, dining out regularly, and health insurance. Instead, I said an emphatic “Yes!” to 80 hour weeks, hand-numbing work and poverty-level income. I super love it. And thankfully the extremes have mellowed a bit in the ensuing years.”

“Having worked on the store-end before selling to stores really helped me understand what’s helpful to a buyer and how to package things. And seeing sales reps in action made it clear what their needs are too.”

On Hiring Employees
“[M]y first employee’s very first day was September 11, 2001. And because she has a brother who was a pilot who frequently flew out of Boston, it was extra-tumultuous. He was fine, but it made for a bit of a rocky beginning.”

“Everyone that I’ve hired or who has been my intern has come to me through a personal connection. While working with friends or acquaintances can be tough for some entrepreneurs, it’s definitely been important to me. Since this business is so much my baby, I don’t want just any babysitting joker to be a part of it. I want to work with someone who gets the whole picture.”

“I contract out for the text blocks (sewn pages) for my Corace Journals . I developed that product because I wanted to have an item at a lower price point in my line to balance out the finer – and pricier handbound work. This way I can still offer a product that is primarily handmade since it is hand-printed and hand-numbered in an edition."

Meeting and Overcoming Challenges
“Nobody ever warned me ahead of time that it makes the whole entrepreneurial process totally easier if you are already rich. Not sure why that didn’t occur to me. The challenge never really goes away either when you are creating products for which you have to buy supplies in order to make the items you are selling. I have seen that lesson played out in larger hand binderies as well. It’s just that the bigger you get the more zeroes there are behind the positive and negative numbers.”

“I have certainly made adjustments over time though. Particularly by reducing the amount of labor-intensive books there are in my line and streamlining efficient work methods. That absolutely made a difference – and my aching shoulders thanked me for the change too.”

Dealing with Wholesale Accounts
“Mostly I get wholesale requests through my site. I have a form that buyers can fill out. I used to have a fancy package that I would put together and mail out to those requesting wholesale info. But I found that became a low priority for me because it was so time-intensive and I would only send them out once every few months. How terribly ineffective! So I streamlined it all and now when they submit their info, I check it out and send them an email with my terms and a link to a downloadable pdf that has my line sheet and an order form. So easy! And much faster turnaround for sales.”

Shopping/Gift Shows
“I’ve done the NY Gift Show with my rep. I have since stopped working with her (as part of my labor decreasing systems) but maintain the accounts I got through those shows.”

“I generally develop and introduce new wholesale products twice a year. When I do, I send out press releases via email to magazines, blogs and newspapers; and online via PR Web and I mail a handful of press kits. I could definitely improve the frequency and breadth of these campaigns. It’s on the To Do list. Right next to “Give those gigantic boxes of scrap paper you’ve been hoarding to the teacher resource center immediately.”

Low-Cost Advertising
“I’ve been involved with co-op advertising groups which I think are a brilliant example of the great community we’re in. I also have a Flickr page in lieu of a blog so that people can see the sparkling personality behind the scenes of my work. There are always deals to be had for making promos like business cards and pins and then distributing those to other crafty types. It’s one big family really…I also help organize a craft show called Craftland that assists in the bigger picture.”

Motivated by…
“I really love going to work almost everyday and doing what I do. So the idea of the alternative to that keeps me going. Also pressing deadlines for orders keep me on task.”

Inspired by…
“Libraries, snacks, DIY aesthetics/ethics, Lynda Barry’s dialogue, good music, worrying, the productivity of my fancy friends, Joseph Cornell’s collages, lying down and thinking for long periods of time…”

“There are plenty of people who I [also] find inspirational: Jen Corace and Alec Thibodeau (who doubles as my honey) are the tops. Unrelated to my business are some all-around swell gals: Sarah from The Small Object Faythe from Flying Fish (and Paper Boat Boutique, and the Indie Craft Documentary ), and Ileana from India Romeo. And Providence itself is a community filthy with nice people doing amazing and inspirational things, like!”

Words of Advice-Combine Uniqueness and Efficiency
“Find a way to make things unique to you. And then figure out how to make them in an efficient way. And be particular and concise when asking for advice. Don’t forget to take deep breaths frequently too.”



Deb Dormody
If'n Books

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