Dean Hammond: Learning the Self-Publishing Ropes
After a long career in publishing, Hammond is focused on incorporating the latest technology into his family’s self-publishing efforts.In 1974, Dean Hammond stepped into the family business, atlas company Hammond Inc. He started in the sales department and was named president in 1985 when his father, Caleb Dean Jr., stepped back and became chairman emeritus. Among the functions Hammond oversaw in his more than 30 years at the company was the publisher’s digital innovation efforts, and now, 15 years after selling the company, he is focused on incorporating the latest technology into his family’s self-publishing efforts.
Founded in 1900 by Hammond’s great-grandfather, Hammond Inc. kept pace with the changes in map technology: it digitized the majority of its catalogue in the 1990s and, in 1991, spent $12 million to publish the first digitized world atlas, The Hammond Atlas of the World.
“I have always been interested in technology,” said Hammond, who now lives in New Jersey with his wife, Susan, in a home with “lots of gadgets.” After selling the company to German-based Langenscheidt KG in 1999, Hammond moved to Nantucket, Mass., but came out of retirement when he was offered a job by Norwood Publishing, which specializes in custom calendars. He worked for Norwood until 2012, and since then he has educated himself on the ever-changing landscape of digital publishing, to aid the self-publishing he and Susan are now pursuing.As Susan approached retirement from Neiman Marcus, she began to create hand-drawn characters to illustrate the stories she made up and told to her own children at bedtime. “It occurred to me that with the advent of the iPad and similar devices, she could not only save me lots of time building her bookshelves, but she could also begin to create her own art, electronically,” Hammond said. “I bought her an iPad, and immediately she learned to use the drawing and layering software, and the party was on.”
The couple started its self-publishing career with Four Brothers and a Dad, available free on iTunes. “It’s an homage to her family, but it gave us the experience of building an e-book,” Hammond noted.
Susan has now published three children’s series—the How About series, the Pinky & Dirty Series, and the Fairy Fantasy Series. The titles in each line, 20 in total, are also sold on iTunes, and more recently, on Amazon. The books have sold modestly on iTunes but are growing, and Hammond would like to see the books released in print. “This is more than a hobby,” he said of the publishing effort.
Hammond also self-published his own book, Grapes in My Shower, on iTunes and is rereleasing it on both iTunes and Amazon as Living Wisely, Simply, Happily.
To create the e-books for Apple, Hammond tutored himself in the entire suite of relevant media software, including Apple iBooks Author, in order to create the videos and sounds included in them. Then, when the pair set their sights on Amazon, Hammond tackled conversion techniques. “It seems like a complete college course in publishing, which was itself an interesting insight into how much publishing has changed since we sold the Hammond company,” Hammond said.
Hammond has also built websites and Facebook pages for the titles, and he is navigating his way through using social media to build a readership. “This too is a work in progress, but retirement is anything but ‘stopping working,’ ” Hammond said. “We learn new things every day—[it’s] a good habit.”