How to Respond to a Complaint, Once, Forever…


Yesterday (12/17/14) our blog was titled “How to Gracefully Accept and Pre-Answer a Complaint.” It and today’s follow-up blog are based on Jim Burgett’s The School Principal’s Toolbook. (The same process was shared in Jim’s recent The Art of School Boarding where the same “what do I do with this complaint?” dilemma faces School Board members.)

In yesterday’s blog Burgett suggested the complaint recipient follow an acronym CALM. Key to the first response was the need to go to the appropriate level of the chain of command. That is where this blog’s acronym, PASS, picks up the procedure.


Principals usually have two choices when they are given a complaint. They answer it because it is appropriate to do so, or they gently hand it back (throwing the complaint) with a sense of direction and assistance rather than compassion and understanding. If the complaint belongs somewhere else then that is where it must go, with some redirection from you.

If you need to “throw” the complaint, there are also four steps and a helpful word to remember: PASS. Pass infers to pass it off, and that is what you will do in many situations.

PASS means: P-Point; A-Avoid; S-Share; S-Summarize

Point: To “point” means to defer or refer. This is the tricky part. It is where you explain the chain of command to those who pretend not to know there is one. (Who doesn’t know about the relationship between the boss and an employee? It’s similar to the directions given on an airplane—does anyone really need to be told how to fasten their seat belt?) You point the person to where they should go with the question or complaint. Yes, this is where they should have gone first and where they need to go now. Even if they tell you they don’t want to go there, won’t go there, or want to talk directly to the “head honcho,” you gently indicate that policy requires that the person closest to the situation should be contacted first. Only if the problem can’t be resolved do you climb the chain. You also point out that in most cases problems are resolved quickly when the chain of command is followed. If they refuse to follow your guidance, pause for a moment. We will cover that later.

Avoid: Avoiding is very important. Avoid any promise of action. Avoid any assurance that you understand the issue. (In almost all cases, you can’t understand when you only hear half of the problem.) And avoid a repeat of this situation by making it clear that the chain is the proper approach. Again, if they adamantly refuse to follow the chain, hold on for a moment.

Share: “Share” means to briefly share your role, your position in the chain of command, and your reliance on the system to function as designed. I would always tell them that if they go through the chain and are still not satisfied then you will certainly be glad to talk to them about ways to handle their concern. In some cases you will send them to the assistant superintendent, or even the superintendent. When you go above your level, you always offer to help them make the contact. You become very helpful, but you do not solve the problems when they aren’t yours to solve. If you send them “down” the chain, and they refuse to go there, you offer to facilitate a meeting with all parties.

Summarize: The final S is for “summarize.” I like this part. If done well, it ends the conversation on a win-win. If you have thrown the complaint to someone in the chain of command, and explained the why appropriately, you have done your job well. If you need to discuss the complaint with the person, and you do it calmly and respectfully and with the intention of finding the facts before you offer potential solutions, you will have done your job well.

You aren’t quite done, though, when you have finished PASS. You need to email or call those involved. If you suggested the complainer contact a teacher, the superintendent, or another administrator, you need to report this conversation, even if you think it was resolved or was too minor to be reported.

Your upward chain of command is probably to the superintendent (or principal if you are on the building team) so if you feel they need to be aware of the situation, be sure to email them an FYI as well.

Remember, when dealing with criticism, have a plan. Remain CALM, know the PASS technique, when or where to use it, and always be fair and respectful. Golda Meir may have said it best, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”


This 8-point structure explained in the two blogs guides the outsider with questions or difficulties to their resolution. It is professional, positive, and it keeps the complainant and the system’s respondents “in the know” as the difficulties are met.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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How to gracefully accept and pre-answer a complaint


Whether you’re a school principal, publisher, engineer, or whatever, have you ever been swept off your feet by some windbag (sometimes well-meaning) bellowing one or many complaints at you? And then had to think up some positive (and intelligent) response, right on the spot, to at least level the one-person-shouting field so their problem could be sensibly resolved (or at least addressed)?

I found a much-needed pocket solution for almost any such assault when I edited Jim Burgett’s first-rate book, The School Principal’s Toolbook. (We published the book last month: Jim’s sixth.) And yes, we are kin: Jim is my famous brother—and he is tactfully very smart! (Until I was saved by this approach, my system had been to move right into their face and talk twice as loud.)

Here’s his method for accepting complaints.


Accepting Complaints

I define “complaint” to include a wayward comment, a concern, a jab, a flat-out inflammatory outburst, or anything in between. It may come at a meeting, at the Dollar Store, at church. It may happen any time or any place. Seldom do you have prep time so you need to be prepared 24/7.

Because School Board members also attract complaints at the odd moments, in my book The Art of School Boarding: What Every School Board Member Needs to Know I outline how those members should accept (receive) a complaint, then how to respond to it (throw it back) [Read my blog tomorrow (12/18/14) about how to respond]. [The process is] equally applicable to principals and other leaders so let me share [it] here through an acronym that should help you remember the steps used to catch (receive) the complaint.

The acronym is CALM: C-Compliment; A-Ask; L-Listen; M-Mimic

Compliment: The first step is to compliment the complainer! No matter how irritated they may be, or you may get, remember to compliment them. “Thanks for your interest in the school.” “I appreciate your concern.” “You have been a long-time supporter of the district, and that is appreciated.” Get your compliment in to set the stage for what follows, always thinking of the word CALM. It will help you stay calm as you go through the steps. The compliment at the beginning may be the easiest step, and it is a way to focus your attitude, and theirs, in a positive direction. It may be very hard to do. You may only be able to say something like, “I understand it may be hard to share your concerns, but I am grateful that you are speaking directly to me.”

Ask: As they discuss their concern, you will probably need to stop them and ask some questions. Your first question may involve the chain-of-command issue. With the building leader this is often the first question as well. Let’s say the citizen is complaining about a discipline issue that they think was unjust. Let’s assume the disciplinary action was administered by a teacher, like having the child miss a recess for not turning in an assignment. After complimenting them, I would briefly listen to the initial complaint, then stop them and ask, “What did Nick’s teacher say to you when you asked her about this issue?”

Do you see the direction I am suggesting? I am assuming the parent knows the proper chain of command and assuming she went there first. This is a much better approach than a back- sided reprimand such as, “You did talk to Nick’s teacher about this, didn’t you?” My first statement is factual and should not provoke controversy. My second statement is a put-down, with the assumption she didn’t follow the chain of command. If the parent comes back with a sharp statement like, “No way am I going to talk to that teacher, we had her before when Sarah was in her class, and she was a pain then!”

Then you ask a follow-up chain-of-command question: “Okay, if you didn’t talk to the teacher, then what did the assistant principal (or athletic director) say when you shared this concern with him/her?” Again, you are not offering judgment, just asking, what did you do about this issue before coming to me? Obviously, if you are the next person in the chain of command, this question is inappropriate.

Listen: Even if you want to defend the school, the teacher, the administration, or the nature of the beast in general, don’t. Just listen with all the listening skills you can muster. Eye contact, no nodding because that might be construed as agreement, just maybe a comment if you need clarification. “Who is the person you just mentioned?” “When did you say this happened?” Questions should be asked only if you need more information when you indeed share this conversation, which you will, in most cases, even though the complainer will not expect that to happen.

Mimic: The last step in CALM is to mimic, or paraphrase. This is the final step before you begin to handle, or “throw,” the complaint. Paraphrase means to summarize the comments if they need it, and in most cases, even if they don’t. Here is an example: “Mary, let me see if I understand your concern clearly. Nick missed an assignment. You think it was his second or third missed assignment this term and Mrs. Hawken had Nick stay in during recess two days in a row to catch up with his missed assignment. You feel this is not an appropriate punishment. Do I understand your concern?” Expect the respondent to modify your summary, but keep to your plan. Stay CALM, don’t encourage or engage in further discussion, don’t agree, and unless you feel it is appropriate, don’t even say you understand her concern or frustration.

If you have successfully “caught” the complaint, here is what you have done: You (1) started the conversation on a positive note by sharing a compliment, (2) suggested that the chain of command needed to be followed, (3) patiently, without interruption, listened to the story, and (4) summarized what you heard with a short and concise paraphrase, with no agreement or editorial comment on your part. You have presented yourself professionally, positively, and with an attitude of concern. You also set up the next step by bringing the chain of command into the conversation. If you followed steps 1-4, calmly, you should be proud of yourself. It’s not always easy to do, and in many cases, it takes practice.


Tomorrow (12/18/14), let me share Jim Burgett’s four-step process of responding to a complaint. Both the means of acceptance and response work, sometimes with appropriate modifications to meet your topic or position. The best thing is that if you can remember them, you’re loaded and ready for the verbal mugging!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Find a new, streamlined website domain among 600 choices!


Trying to find a grabber website domain ending in “.com” that contains less than an arm’s length of letters is a near-fruitless treasure hunt. You probably can’t use “.org” and will anybody come if it ends in “.net”?

The hunt is over. Last February, the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), an international non-profit charged with overseeing the Internet’s infrastructure, modestly opened the namegates for website owners. Its 600-some new web domains are dramatically changing the face of the Internet by providing more tailored domains beyond examples like “.com” and “.net”.

I’ll give some examples below. According to Ray King, CEO of Top Level Design, in, publishers (or anybody) can capitalize on the domain expansion to make their websites and products more accessible to readers (by adapting) secure, short, and succinct web URLs that are specific to their work or aims.

These new gTLDs are not limited to publishers. Any person or firm can get one of these new URLs.

Instead of best, a mouthful, I might try bestorthopedicbusinesspractices.dentistry—which, as I read it, is about as bad. Here are much better examples. Children Slay might be or ChildrenSlayMonsters.fiction.
Or perhaps or

You can check out the 600 new gTLDs at Go Daddy, enom, and Network Soultions. I used where you can also see a long list of choices, with annual costs. It’s first-come, first-served. Registrars will also “hold” a name for a yet-to-released extension so it’s yours when that happens.

Is anybody “big” doing this? Google itself applied to manage 101 new gTLDs.

Do annual fees vary? Of course. In my niche: costs $50 is $13 is $5.

Service might vary too. At least you want to use ICAAN-accredited domain registrars. According to Ray King in his recent blog “Publishers Can Boost Discoverability with Newly Released Web Domains,” you can also use other non-Latin script, like Arabic and Chinese.

Here are a few extensions already available that might interest self- or giant publishers: guide, report, institute, consulting, education, reviews, training, university, services, and book.

Will this distinguish your firm or improve your online outreach? Can you target your title better? Or can you reassure your clientele that you are almost kin in their niche? Check the list and play around with new combinations. A more streamlined, simpler name might be the key to the new you!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Where self-publishing and ebooks stand in late 2014


(1) “Ebooks have grown exponentially and reached a healthy balance by 11/14,” says Mark Coker, head of Smashwords in a no-nonsense delivery at BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn) on Nov. 8. Here is a much-abbreviated summary of Mark’s very enjoyable 10-point presentation. When Mark began Smashwords, about it 8 years ago, ebooks accounted for .5% of the books published. Today they are 35% of the U.S. total. But in the last year that growth has held steady at about 35%. That may represent a rough new balance between bound books and ebooks in the future.

(2) “The stigma of self-publishing is disappearing,” Mark feels. It’s no longer a sign of failure, a last resort, or a desperate “inch from evil.” The growth was led by romance writers, with Amanda Hawkins the pivotal figure, who first cracked the million-copy ebook threshold. “It’s best for all publishers if there’s a healthy selection of traditional and self-published books available for choice.” But Coker assured the audience that the indies have the flexibility to outsell, outcompete, and underprice the big traditional producers.

(3) Writers earn a much healthier bite of the royalties by indie publishing, 60-80% of the list price, versus about 25% net royalties (12-17% of the price) of the traditional houses.

(4) “The big (traditional houses) just don’t understand self-publishing.” They couldn’t make money from writers, so they had to fleece them. They turned to vanity press, like Author Solutions (bought by Penguin), and then give bad, over-priced service to those they otherwise wouldn’t let publish at the top level. “They should just abandon the vanity approach,” say Coker.

(5) The democratization of the publishing tools is what freed the indies from having to use the overpriced, underpaid, and tortugian-produced big-press book process. Indies today have full access to presses, have much freer and faster promotion venues, can change prices in minutes, and can play with pre-ordering, free copies, two-for-one, and many more means to put their printed products in others’ hands.

(6) “Keep your eye on the ebook subscription services,” Mark advised, “like Oyster and Scribd where anybody can pay $10 or so to read any book in their catalog—and those book publishers with the catalog products are paid as if the whole book was sold if a small percentage is actually read. Amazon also has a form of this through Kindle Unlimited but the model isn’t very friendly because you must give them exclusivity of use and Kindle pays a much smaller percentage from a pool, which seems to be about $1.50 a read.

(7) Mark discussed the new court decision between Amazon and Hachette. The decision revolves around the agency model. Let me pass on this because the decision is so new that the dust hasn’t cleared sufficiently to see who won, who lost, and how it will affect indies (like us). See future blogs here and elsewhere for emerging clarifications.

(8) Ebooks are going mobile. Lots of selling abroad. Apple iBooks sell 45% of their eproducts overseas.

(9) Mark got a laugh when he said that he had read that “self-publishing creates a tsunami of dreck.” He agreed that lots of self-publishing books are mediocre in appearance but he felt, overall, there is “more high quality content in books than ever before.”

(10) Yet selling books is getting harder. Now there’s a glut of high quality print and it is harder to reach readers. Add to that that the growth in books is outstripping the readership, and folks read less in part because of the many other was to learn and be entertained. There are fewer major publishers, fewer agents, and lower advances in the traditional arena. “But don’t despair: ebooks are immortal, they sit there waiting to be found forever. And right now there has never been a better time to publish, when there are more world readers than ever before.”


I must remind blog readers about an overlooked element of self-publishing that largely circumvents the usual paths but uses all the now-available presses—and can be pre-tested for title, author, theme, price, and format before a word is written or a page published. That is the niche field, which is always begging for more tightly-focused books and where the selling price is largely determined by how well the book answers one critical question or defines a new process (or an old process done in a new way). As many of you know, this is my area of specialization so let me send you to a list of related products that might help you explore this indie and traditional field.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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The new Nook Press isn’t an “open” publisher


Nook Press just announced its new paperback and hardback print service. Its features look similar to those of “open” publishers, like Create Space, Kindle, Smashwords, and others (including Nook ebooks). But here you simply build your book, prep the files, and upload the print-ready PDFs for the interior and cover. They print the book and can have it in your hands in a week. (Maximum order is 125 copies, but you can get many orders simultaneously.) A 200-page paperback (black/white interior, 6×9, on white paper) will cost $4 apiece, plus tax and shipping. But that’s it. They don’t sell it to others. What you do with the printed book is up to you. (Nor is there a discount for larger orders. “We hope to offer it in the future.”)

Just don’t confuse this with the “open” publishing full services where the book is produced, then sold by the publisher and/or through other distributors, as Nook itself does for ebooks. This new Nook Press service ends with the printing, period. According to Amanda at NOOK Press, “The NOOK Press print platform creates print books for personal use. The eBook platform creates digital books to put on sale through NOOK and The NOOK Press print platform program is for you to print books for your personal use, and does not include selling those books through Barnes & Noble stores or You may sell the books you print on your own, however.”

If interested, check the details. Looks straightforward enough. I’m eager to see the end product.

But I am also a bit bewildered why I would have my book just printed if I could get it printed by the “open” publishers at (about) the same cost and put on the market for sale, and then they would send me royalties (even if they are modest and arrive slowly). Maybe the print-only folks don’t want others to see or have their book. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, though it seems a hard way to share your genius or be rewarded for the sharing.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I explain the “open” publishing process, mostly the prep and submission procedures, in How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days.

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14 key ebook publishing tips


Mark Coker started Smashwords when a quarter of 1% of U.S. books sold were ebooks. Now it’s 35% of the total, and he’s a top spokesman in the field. Last year Smashwords authors sold ebooks worth $30-million at retail.

Last Saturday (11/8/14) Coker spoke to BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publisher Association) in Novato, CA (near and north of San Francisco). It was the third time I’ve heard Mark. He’s honest, straightforward, and current—and, blessedly, a good speaker. So let me summarize the 14 steps he shared with the large gathering. Incidentally, I too distribute ebooks through Smashwords (plus Kindle, Nook, Book Baby, and others).

Mark also mentioned a free book that gives greater details about these tips and ebook marketing in general, so I read it this morning. Excellent. Go to Smashwords and look for Mark’s free books in the opening dashboard page, left column where it says Publish Secrets Ebook… Download The Secrets to Ebook Success, with the 30 best practices–then ignore it at peril!

Here’s the summary:

1. WOW your readers with super awesome books. Become evangelists of your subject; make your writing unlimited excellence.

2. Write more books, better each time.

3. For incremental advantage, use “best practices.” Do 100 things right, including professional editing, professional cover design (“the highest impact you can get for the lowest cost”), and pre-orders. (See the free book above.)

4. Connect with community partners.

5. Whether you publish traditionally, are a hybrid, or self-publish, be the best person you can: nice (respect and integrity), honest (trustworthy), ethical, humble, in charge of your own future.

6. Time is all you have—spend more of it writing and imagining. Focus on what’s unique about you. And get helpers for non-strategic actions.

7. Take lots of little risks, experiment, fail often (using each failure as a teaching moment).

8. Be delusional, think too grand, be out of touch.

9. Embrace those who doubt you and have no idea what you do. They are simply clueless.

10. Help others and celebrate other authors’ success.

11. Past success doesn’t equate future success. Bank your profits.

12. Never quit.

13. Dream big. Aim high. You must believe in yourself.

14. Know that your writing is important. It’s your contribution to humanity.

Good stuff. No puffery. (I’ll summarize the rest of Coker’s presentation in another blog here later this week.)

I also explain the submission process at Smashwords (and at other open publishers) in How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Sold Worldwide in Days.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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An extraordinary school principal? Follow these 20 steps…


Administrative Priorities: Be Visible

If I were to list the things that make the biggest difference between an adequate administrator and an excellent one, visibility would be near the top of the list. But it must be positive and meaningful visibility. The principal or administrator that works behind a desk, hides from human contact, and runs the ship from the bridge, seldom to be seen by the sailors, is far less supported or appreciated than the captain who knows the names of the crew members and knows how hard they work… because their captain is with them.

Want to be appreciated? Then appreciate. Want people to work for you? Then work for them. When they see your car in the lot when they get to work and they see you in the halls greeting, meeting, steering, advising, and helping, you become someone to admire and appreciate. Not everyone’s job description allows them to do the things that I am suggesting but if you can relate to any of the following, then consider implementing them, if you don’t already.

1.   Speak to everyone on your staff at least three times a week—more if you can.

2.  Walk through classrooms as frequently as possible. Try for every other day. Greet and speak to staff and students but try not to be disruptive.

3.  Eat with staff members or students. If this isn’t possible, visit them during lunch for a minute or two.

4.  Keep a book with a separate page for every employee. Keep it updated with data such as family members, events in their lives, home addresses, and notes from your last visit. This keeps you up-to-the-minute with things you should remember, plus things they will appreciate.

5.  When a tragedy happens to employees (the loss of a spouse, a house fire, the death of close relative, an accident, or the like), write it in your book and put it on your calendar one year from the time it happened. Put a card on their desk before school starts on the anniversary that simply states you are thinking about them.

6.  Greet visitors personally. Ask the office to buzz you when a new parent arrives or a new citizen comes for a visit. A personal greeting means a lot. Follow it up with a thank-you note.

7.  Be at a door at special events to welcome folks, but never “post” yourself at the same door for the same length of time. Why? Because people will expect you to be there and if you aren’t they will think you are absent.

8.  Send lots of notes, emails, or texts to staff members for a job well done. An example would be to the cook for great lasagna at lunch, or to the coach after a tough loss at a well-played game with good sportsmanship, or to a teacher when you saw kids engaged and learning. Short notes, not evaluations, make a difference.

9.  If you see someone who needs correction, do it, but if it requires a discussion, make it personal and private.

10. Congratulate whomever deserves it whenever you can.

11.  Carry a digital camera in your pocket and take pictures, then share them.

12.  Smile a lot. Be positive.

13.  Discipline when needed.

14.  Carry a clipboard or something visible like a cell phone, to take notes when people ask you questions or want an answer.

15.  Follow up on questions. Provide answers ASAP. Keep a record.

16.  Go to see someone rather than sending an email, text, or message.

17.  Pick up trash, wipe off marks, be a visible owner and protector of the property.

18.  Pat kids on the back; staff too. Shake hands. Be friendly.

19.  Have fun. Be fun. Make school fun.

20.  Love your job and show everyone how much.

From The School Principal’s Workbook by Jim Burgett. See Chapter 2, “Setting Priorities.”

Details at

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Top Ten Strategies for Developing an A+ Board of Education


The Art of School Boarding

A Board of Education that works well together, supports the mission of the district, respects and communicates positively with the superintendent, and comes to the table with no agenda other than to do what is best for kids in a reasonable and intelligent way is a Board to behold! Is it possible to find seven people who can do this? Of course, but it takes savvy and leadership from the top. Here are ten strategies that may help develop that A+ Board of Education. (Jim Burgett, author and speaker.)

1. Start the process before new Board members are elected. When a citizen takes out a petition, or indicates they are thinking about running for the Board, go to work! Do some invaluable pre-service prepping before they invest their time and money. Give them a free copy of The Art of School Boarding, a book that clearly and honestly outlines the job responsibilities and mindset they need before they get involved getting elected. Encourage them to read the book, and offer to answer any questions. Make sure they are aware of the necessary time commitments.

2. Continue the training as soon as they are chosen. Without delay invite the new members in for a session with you and possibly your cabinet. Give them a general review of the funding process, the budget outline, the procedures for developing board packets, and other communications they will need.

3. Introduce new Board members to the central office staff so they know who does what in the office. Offer to take them to school buildings. Answer all the questions they ask, and more. Be open and thoughtful.

4. Meet them for a one-on-one lunch (or early breakfast) and talk about families, past history, their relationship with the district, etc.

5. Train (or remind) all Board members about the importance of the chain of command. Review who reports to whom, what the organizational structure is, and how the entire system works. Include facilities, transportation, and food services. You can’t expect them to follow the chain if they don’t know it. You might even engage in some faux case studies so they see how the Board members know the staff and the chain.

6. Handling complaints will be one of the toughest tasks a Board member must do. Teach them the art of receiving a complaint and then handling it. (In The Art of School Boarding that’s called “catching” and “throwing” a complaint.) It is a process that shows every Board Member how to properly and effectively handle any random or planned complaint from phone calls at home to unexpected visits in the store. Sticking to the outlined process is a win-win-win for the complainer, the Board Member, and the school.

7. Remind the Board who does what whenever possible or when it may seem unclear. This helps keep everyone’s roles and responsibilities neat and clean. “That task falls to the building principal according to the policies you have established,” is a sample reminder of who does what.

8. Periodically, with all Board members, review the steps of routine processes. Examples of these processes might be how to change or write Board policy, set a tax levy, who and how staff are recommended for hire or dismissal, or how disciplinary hearings are held. Some of these events happen infrequently, some annually, some often, but an A+ Board must be aware of the specifics each time. A warm-up lesson before the tax levy meeting, or a handout listing the steps in a disciplinary hearing (before the event happens), for example, makes everyone a better participant. It also helps to guide those who will be experiencing the process for the first time. Even a private tutoring session for new members might be helpful.

9. Distribute the School Board Association’s Code of Ethics every month and read/review one item from the list. This is often done at the beginning of every meeting, to emphasize the importance of the Code and to help all follow it. It doesn’t hurt to read and review the District Mission Statement frequently too.

10. Don’t get so caught up with budgets, basketball, beans, and buses that talking about people is forgotten! Reminding the Board that they are really in session for kids might help, as might a reminder that most of the staff works very hard and a thank you to them for their personal service is always much appreciated.


Information about The Art of School Boarding: What Every School Board Member Needs to Know

by Jim Burgett

Jim Burgett’s new book, The Art of School Boarding, explains what a school board really is, what functions it must perform, how it does that best, what its members can (and can’t) legally do, and how every school boarder can be extraordinary every day they serve. (But some won’t be because they don’t know how—until now.) This book is written in plain (sometimes unconsciously humorous), jargon-free prose for school board rookies, veterans, superintendents, other administrators, and you. It should be mandatory reading for candidates seeking board election—read before they run and again before they serve.

But why accept what Jim Burgett says about boardsmanship, or the other 20 experts whose case studies the book includes? Because during his 40 years as an educator he has written five books for school leaders, provided hundreds of training sessions for aspiring and active school board members, and trained and/or consulted with dozens of school boards concerning internal issues, governance, and strategic planning. Jim was selected “Illinois Administrator of the Year” by the American Association of School Administrators and the Illinois Association of Educational Office Professionals. He is also in persistent demand to speak about K-12 education nationwide.

Being a school board member is not a political position, nor one of royalty. It’s held in modest esteem. Board members deal with families, law, curricula, finances, mandates, athletics, the fine arts—the list goes on. No pay, tough issues, lots of controversy, much reading… Oh yes, the future of the community it serves is in its hands.

“School Boarding” is indeed an art. Boards have their own purpose, means, personality, process, and protocol. These pages help them define their mission, their governance, and the role of the board, its members, and the administration. Explained are ethical expectations and Codes of Conduct, and how the board handles community concerns and builds vital relationships. The Art of School Boarding’s straightforward common sense simply explains what present or future school board members have to know.

ISBN-13: 978-0989653046 (bound); 978-0989653053 (digital)
Category: Education/School Board
Price: $24.95 (bound), $20 (digital)
Formats: Bound (paperback) and digital
Trim: 6 x 9
Page Count: 168

Further information at (800) 563-1454 or at

To Order: single copies at; in quantity: 8+ for discount and better mailing, email to The bound book is also available through Create Space. Ebook versions can be bought through Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

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Niche books are very profitable. How are their authors chosen?


I publish to niche markets, in my case to K-12 school administrators. All of those who write books for my firm must have a specific field of expertise of interest (and meet needs of) K-12 school administrators. Two examples, our two latest books, are The Art of School Boarding: What Every School Board Member Needs to Know and The School Principal’s Toolbook. Our book titles tell the kind of knowledge (and expertise) the author is sharing.

Before we ask an author to publish with us we know that they are the best expert we can find about their topic. The author tells us what of their expertise our niche members will pay to read about; that is, what buyers’ needs their book will help the buyer meet. Together, we write a title that tells in one short line what their book is about, and from it we create a book description that explains more fully what the book will cover and what benefits they will receive from buying (and applying) the book’s message and processes. Finally, we develop a tentative table of contents so that everything important is covered in a sensible order.

The writer then writes their book, we edit it (in collaboration with them), they rewrite what needs redoing, we have it proofed, we edit a last time, and out comes the book.

I mention the process because we have a second and equally important selection criterion for the writer: that they have experience speaking to the niche, are an association member, and expect to regularly offer major presentations built around the book and their expertise to the niche. A logical extension is that their listeners will want to buy their book after hearing their presentations. (We also encourage them to write articles based on their book for association newsletters, journals, or related venues.)

We want to help our authors build their own expertise “empires,” and we hope that the book that we jointly create is the foundation of that growth.

The reason for this blog? How do we select or reject authors is a frequent question asked when I speak about niche publishing, so I hope the information above shares some insight into our firm’s procedure.

We also pre-test our niche books so we know, before the books are written and printed, an approximate number of bound books we will sell, the price (or range) that buyers will pay, and if the title is acceptable. How that’s done requires much more detail and examples. The best source is my Niche Publishing: Publishing Profitably Every Time. Other related material can be found here.

Best wishes,

Gordon BurgettThe Art of School Boarding

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Sample newspaper releases for a public seminar (#12 of 12)


Here are two typical newspaper releases I sent simultaneously to every newspaper within about 50 miles of the location, usually addressed to the city editor. They were sent about 2 1/2 weeks before the program. (I have altered some of the numbers.)

Item 1:


Communication Unlimited
P.O. Box XXX, Novato, CA 94947
Web site
(800) XXX-1454

Release date: by Sept. 7

“How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” will be given at the Sheraton Santa Barbara next Tuesday evening, Sept. 8, from 6-10 p.m. by Gordon Burgett, who presents 100+ seminars a year throughout California.

Gordon focuses on the key requirements for seminar success, marketing, pricing, scheduling, promotion, content, and follow-up. Program participants also receive a step-by-step, 26-page workbook. For specific registration information, call (800) XXX-1454.

“There’s still plenty of room for the beginner in the field,” says Burgett, a Novato writer and former university dean with 1,700+ articles and 43 books in print, “particularly if they can clearly present ‘how-to’ information that others need and want. In fact, it may be the only multibillion-dollar industry where the average man and woman can still get a firm, profitable toehold. Most just need to know how to get started.” Gordon has given 2,100+ paid public presentations.

– 30 –

I also included in the same envelope a short one-paragraph insertion for use in the daily or weekly activities section. Very often if Item 1 wasn’t used, Item 2 was—and many times both appeared.

Item 2: to use in the “Calendar of Coming Events” section:


“How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar,” by Gordon Burgett, Sheraton Santa Barbara, Sept. 8, 6-10 p.m. For specific registration information, call (800) XXX-1454.

Why did I use the name Harold Smith in the return address? A newspaper editor, and friend, told me early on if I sent the press releases in my name about my own programs they wouldn’t be used! So I invented a press agent, Harold Smith. The very rare times that someone from a publication called to speak to Harold Smith I just said, “Thank you…” and answered the questions. I guess Harold and I sound alike.


This 12-unit blog program is excerpted from “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar,” an audio CD four-tape program with a digital workbook and an audio text summary. More details are here.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett (or is it Harold Smith?)

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