Knopf & Sons Bindery has operated in Springfield for over 50 years. You'll find the unassuming shop off Florida Avenue - surrounded by a mix of commercial buildings and modest homes. When the wind is just right, the smell of bread and croutons wafts across the street from Duval Baked Goods. You wouldn't know it by driving by, but inside the walls of Knopf & Sons, employees, many of whom are either family members or come from the adjacent neighborhood, are printing materials for some of the biggest names in the global marketplace.
Knopf & Sons started as trade book binder, meaning a different business printed the books and they then assembled the pages and covers. Their clients consist of globally recognized brands, such as National Geographic and Rolls-Royce. As the marketplace changed the company saw a need to change with it. Their business model evolved into a full-service publisher, which led to the development of a new brand, OnLine Binding.
Still operating out of the same building, OnLine Binding is a full-service company, offering independent publishing, layout, digital printing, binding, and distribution. They even operate an online bookstore. The target audience for OnLine Binding is different than Knopf & Sons because instead of Business to Business, OnLine Binding markets their services to individuals interested in self-publishing their works.
The services of Knopf & Sons and OnLine Binding are not reserved for writers alone. Visual artists in Jacksonville, such as Kue King and Daniel Newman (in collaboration with Aaron Levi Garvey of Long Road Projects), have used OnLine Binding to create tangible portfolios and beautifully constructed artist books. Their services can also benefit arts organizations, non-profit organizations, and Jacksonville's small businesses because, in addition to books, the company also prints marketing materials such as door hangers and calendars.
Cheyenne Williams is the Marketing Manager at OnLine Binding. She is also the granddaughter of the founder of Knopf & Sons. In addition to her work as a service provider within the industry, Williams is also the President of the Florida Writers Association, an organization she has been involved with since 2010.
Williams is eager to share her knowledge of binding and publishing with Jacksonville's creative community. She is working with the Cultural Council and the Jacksonville Public Library in September to lead several interactive workshops related to the topics. Williams also makes herself available to individuals or organizations in Greater Jacksonville who are interested in touring their facility and learning more about the services they provide and the process by which materials are printed and bound.
10 Questions with Cheyenne Williams
What is the mission of your organization?
Our mission is to provide authors with a cost effective product to make a profit on their first printing of books. We have grown quite a bit since putting this statement together though, and we now also look to provide cost effective services to all designers, artists, and business owners.
When was your organization formed and how has it grown?
We officially have three organizations. Our trade book bindery is 53-years-old. It is the foundation of our operations. Our owners' knowledge of the craft of books stems from their father starting Knopf & Son’s Bindery, and later adding Atlantic East Coast Bindery, our hard binding division. Our publishing and printing company, OnLineBinding, has been around a little over a decade. We saw where the market was turning in regards to digital printing and felt that we could help consumers avoid pitfalls springing up in the industry.
Much of our growth is by word of mouth. We started as, and still are, a family owned and operated company. We have a passion for giving back to our community and felt it was better to look at supporting local book festivals and writers conferences over creating large advertising campaigns. The business growth is a little slower with this model but our hearts have grown tremendously as a result of the amazing people we’ve had the opportunity to work with through the years.
What does it mean to you to be a family owned and operated company in Springfield?
It means more than I have words to express. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family owned business. There were stresses, but my father worked one job my entire life. He drove to the same building in Springfield each day. Now I make that same drive.
As a child this meant nothing more than my mother got to stay home with us kids and my school projects were turned in as hardbound books. As an adult, nothing can compare. I have the opportunity to work with six family members a day, and employees that are as much family as those I'm related to by blood. My father sits across the hall from me and my mother is my biggest advocate. Who can fail with so much family support?
In addition to having my family close, it’s amazing to be in Springfield at this time. I’ve watched the neighborhood slowly start to revitalize. To see so much of the focus on the arts is also exciting. I feel artist should have the freedom to create and the space to showcase their talents. Having a business in an area that is starting to embrace the arts is wonderful. Not to mention, it puts us close to LaVilla School of the Arts, which we’ve worked closely with in their creative writing program and made each of their intermediate and advanced writers published this year through a project with their teacher, Cheryl Lemine and the Florida Writers Foundation.
What strategies are in place within your organization for you to engage your audiences?
We work with social media and our community to stay engaged. W are working with the Jacksonville Public Library and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville to put on a series of workshops this September in the Jax Makerspace. Our first workshop will be held on September 6th during Art Walk. The work shop will provide children with the opportunity to put together a plastic coil book and learn about the basics of book construction. Then on September 13th is a workshop where attendees will learn to understand the differences in Offset Printing and Digital Printing. Those who attend will have the opportunity to interact with different examples of binding types. We will also discuss the difference in CMYK and RGB color. We then have a workshop scheduled on September 27th about independent Publishing.
What do you think differentiates your organization from competing organizations within your industry?
1. Knowledge of the industry- Between our four owners, we have over 140 years experience in understanding how books are put together from the interior and cover layout to the final production of the book.
2. Customer Service- While we are an internet based company, we provide excellent customer service to our clients via phone and email. We do not have contracts nor do we charge to access your print ready files. This is because we’ve always felt it is our job to keep our clients happy and wanting to do business with us, not holding them hostage with large fees to change printers.
3. We Care- Many companies in the indie publishing arena charge large up-front fees to their customers, assuming they may not sell their books and that this is the only time they will have a to turn a profit. Instead, we help educate our clients on how to promote and sell their books. I’ve written a workshop on out-of-the-box marketing tips and a small book on how to write a business plan for authors. These are both free to authors on our imprint. Most authors and artists do not have a marketing background. We feel that educating them in regards to marketing and strategy behooves everyone in the process.
What are some suggestions that you would make to a person interested in publishing a project but who may have budgetary constraints?
They need to have a plan. I would highly recommend talking to a printer or publisher prior to deciding how you want your completed project to look. It’s heartbreaking when a client comes in with a vision and I have to tell them we can do what they want, but it’s 5x more expensive than the budget they have available. I find clients are happiest when they come in, with a budget in mind, and we walk through what’s available versus telling them what they need to cut to reach their budget.
The production of the book isn’t always that largest cost. The biggest cost can be in editing and layout. I recommend doing what you can, if you are a professional with one of these items. If you’re not a professional, you’re a few web videos away from being one. YouTube can be your best friend in Indie Publishing. If you still don’t feel comfortable with doing these services on your own, you can work with a local writers group to find a cost effective editor. And of course, you can always give OnLineBinding a call for interior layout and cover design.
What is the Florida Writers Association and how can writers in Northeast Florida benefit from membership?
The Florida Writers Association is Florida’s largest state writers association. Our motto is "Writers Helping Writers." I’ve never seen a motto more true. Our 1,500 member organization pulls together authors from all walks of life and in all stages of writing.
NE Florida writers have some really amazing tools at their disposal. FWA has nine writers groups in NE FL. Each group is based on either being a critique group to help with your writing or a speaker meeting. In speaker meetings, the Writers Group leader brings you a monthly program with a speaker from within the industry. We also offer a four-day conference each October in Orlando. This year is our 16th annual conference, which will bring Dave Morrell as our National Guest of Honor, and Steve Berry as our Florida Writer of the Year. It’s four days of amazing networking and learning.
What is the Florida Writers Association Youth and how can interested students get involved?
FWAY is the youth arm of the FWA. We offer meetings for young writers and, for those who are unable to travel or possibly not near a youth meeting, we have a virtual meeting through our private network. Our youth also have the opportunity to attend a one-day conference in October.
I also want to make a quick note about how amazing LaVilla School of the Arts have been with their Creative Writing Program. Cheryl Lemine, the teacher heading the program through 2017, offered all her students the chance to join FWAY and have it paid for. This was a great benefit to her students and I’m not sure our community knows the amazing things our teachers do to go above and beyond for our children.
What strategies or action items do you recommend to effectively market a project once it has been published and do you feel a person should have a strategic plan in place prior to publishing?
I absolutely believe they need to have a plan in place before they begin the project. Writers and visual artists alike should understand that a book has a two-year marketing cycle. You should not expect to put six months of work in and then be done. Your business plan should be a timeline that covers two years of marketing. What will you do, where will you travel, what is your budget for marketing, etc. Writers and visual artists should always have books available at events or functions where they will be.
What would you like to see in Jacksonville as an effort to support the creative community?
Open Minds. Whether or not you directly see beauty in a specific piece of art, someone does. Do not judge someone else for what they like. Instead, try to understand what it is they see in a piece of art. It would make our world a much more fun and diverse place to live.
Questions? Comments? Submit something for consideration?
Please email Jihan@CulturalCouncil.org