Textbook Writing – The Dann and Dann Franchise

10 years, seven books, and a few hundred powerpoint supplemental files later, the Dann and Dann franchise has become one of the most recognised names in Australian text book marketing, sparking quips from some publishers that “If you don’t have a Dann and Dann book in the franchise, you’re not really publishing marketing”.

Beginning in 2000, Susan and Stephen have published a series of coauthored textbooks in the Australian and New Zealand markets.  In that time, they’ve written three original texts where they started with a good idea, and ended with a published book – Competitive Marketing Strategy (2007), Introduction to Marketing (2004) and Strategic Internet Marketing (2000).

Competitive Marketing Strategy is built around the AMA (2004) definition of marketing, and features an extensive integration of the existing body of strategy knowledge, models and theory into the framework of “creating, communicating and delivering value and for managing customer relationships for the benefit of the organisation and its stakeholders”.  The text also has a policy statement of “No model left behind” whereby any model mentioned at the start of the text is include, incorporate and interconnected with the rest of the works.  This approach also integrated the major revival of interest in stakeholder management sparked by the AMA (2004) definition’s recognition of stakeholder benefit.

Introduction to Marketing was an attempt to produce the definitive local text for the Australian market. It was a calculated risk to try to tackle the Kotler juggernaught from the opposite direction – instead of trying to slug it out against the US adaptation, with their million dollar a year website, the Dann and Dann franchise wrote an Australian focused text.  Examples, content and style were all based in the .AU and .NZ catchments, with few global examples thrown in where necessary.  Tragically for the book, we were heavily influenced by the AMA (1985) definition, only to launch at the start of 2004 when the AMA released the revised edition midyear.

Strategic Internet Marketing and SIM2.0 were the break through textbooks for the franchise.  The Danns have been involved in the internet for a long time, with Susan first teaching internet marketing in 1994, requiring her undergraduate students to get e-mail addresses, answer class exercises online, and generally force an actively hostile crowd of commerce students to take the medium seriously.  Stephen had been online in late 1993 through a dodgy 14.4k modem in the office of Semper Floreat, and could see that this thing had potential (and was totally addictive).  When the opportunity arose to take hardcore marketing science, and established marketing theory into the e-marketing field, the Dann proved that internet marketing didn’t require the baby and bathwater to be thrown out.  SIM1.0 was met with critical acclaim in peer reviews around the world for the mix of pragmatism, geekery, humour and sheer academic firepower (199 cited refereed journal articles, 400 cited websites).

The Challenge of Text Book Writing

Business to Business: As a business to business product, it’s a complex task to create a product that satisfies the needs of the gatekeepers (Academics who set the text) and wants of the end users (students who pay for the text).  The balance between the need of the academic and student is under researched in many aspects – for example, are photos and colour illustrations needed to break up the text and make it interesting, or are the texts just not being sufficiently interesting, and the demand for pictures is a symptom of a bigger problem?  Other problems exist with the lack of market data on what supplemental materials are used, useful and what supplements are problematic and adoption stoppers.  Since the text is chosen by the lecturer, targeting to the students also requires some finesse – writing a readable and enjoyable text can fall flat where the lecturer perceives the text as “too lightweight” to be credible simply because they believe texts should appear difficult.

 

You have to be in it for art, not the money: Selling 2500 copies at 10% royalty sounds great – until you calculate that out at $8 per book, over three years, split between authors, and then taxed as a payment beyond our salaries…  You don’t write textbooks to retire on the earnings unless you’re Kotler, and he hasn’t exactly retired now has he?

 

Is it teaching or research? The Dann and Dann franchise are firm believers in the power of academic research, and incorporate new content, original research and peer reviewed work into their texts.  With SIM1.0, original material developed in Stephen’s PhD thesis was first published into the textbook as a way of ensuring cutting edge material was included into the text book.  With the journal article production cycle nearing three years from submission to publication, the Danns have found it easier and faster to release new content into the textbooks – Competitive Marketing Strategy was commenced on in 2005, and on the shelves in 2007.  This was half the time it takes for a paper to make it through the review and revision processes for a journal article submitted to most of the Tier 2 publications.  Similarly, the majority of Dann and Dann texts have been subjected to a blind peer review process to ensure the content is contemporary, relevant and accurate, and still turned around inside a three year time frame. Yet the Australian Federal Government regards anything with a set of questions in the back of the book as non-research, despite the book following the same rigorous  guidelines for peer review as expected of conference papers and journal articles.

 

You’re not going to get the support of the Administration: Most of the time the Danns have written their textbooks are around their dayjob commitments, and periodically, despite of orders from senior management to cease production (Stephen was once commended on the achievement of receiving a glowing textbook review in the Times Higher Education Supplement and then cautioned to never do that again and ordered to stop writing books immediately. Said advice was ignored, and Stephen doesn’t work at that University anymore.)

 

Textbook writing is immensely rewarding for the depth of knowledge you gain in the area, and the reward of actually paving the way for others to teach, and for giving voice to new ideas and knowledge. It’s just something you have to want to do for reasons other than career or finances, since it doesn’t really help either these days

Operation #TrebuchetList now in order…