Interview with Daniel Bullard-Bates of Scout Books

Daniel Bullard-Bates graduated as a religious studies major from Guilford College. He worked for a time in Washington, DC, and currently works for the Portland-based Scout Books. Check out his recently-published short story in volume IV of The Masters Review.

How did you go from religious studies to publishing, and how has it affected your career path?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I figured I would study literature on my own and didn’t want to focus on that in school. I majored in religious studies because I find religion fascinating. My first job out of college was as a receptionist at a law firm; from there, I found out about a job opening as an administrative assistant in the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, DC, where I worked for five years. Also, I’m not really in publishing now—Scout Books is a print shop that does custom projects. Sometimes those are books, and sometimes it’s just cute little pocket notebooks.

So what got you into printing?

I started doing editing for theNewerYork (now tNY Press), an experimental publisher. My work with that job and my position at the ACLU gave me a lot of customer and internal relations experience. It was through them, and through networking at Wordstock, that I heard about Scout Books, where I now work; theNewerYork printed a book in the Scout Books format while I was working there. Though my duties primarily deal with customer service, I also assist with language advice—my writing and editing skills make me useful for marketing materials and website edits.

What do you do at Scout Books?

I’m the head of the sales and support department and I manage orders. I work with customers to explain the process and help them turn their ideas into Scout Books. I make sure that once the customer has signed off on a design, that project is completed in a timely fashion and arrives looking great. We have a lot of different projects going on at the same time, so often that means juggling things that are in a lot of different stages.

What exactly does Scout Books produce?

We make custom books for clients and companies around the country and around the world. We use recycled chipboard and paper sourced in the USA. The average job is a one- to two-color cover with a notebook interior, but we get a lot more elaborate. We have colored staples, multiple color interiors, one job with seven to eight colors on the cover, and we’ve started to experiment with foil stamping. There’s a line of retail products that are available through our website, both notebooks designed by local artists and do-it-yourself notebooks that you can customize yourself at home. There are some short stories paired with work from local artists. We’ve also printed books by different publishers—besides theNewerYork, Future Tense Books has done a few books in our format. We’ve done some work for self-published authors doing print runs, but not too many. I’m a bit surprised by that. We’re a good and affordable option for small books, and we have a short turnaround time of ten to fourteen business days.

What’s your favorite thing about working for Scout Books?

I really appreciate the friendly company atmosphere. There’s an emphasis on community; when it’s close to someone’s birthday, we try to surprise them with snacks and the birthday song. I also really like that we take fun company trips. We went to see where our chipboard is recycled and where our inks are mixed, and we learned about the ways in which our inks are different from each other, like why one ink dries more slowly than another. Laura and Austin, the owners, work hard to create a space where people care about what is going on and are happy to come to work. We have a keg of beer in the break room, and people sometimes clock out to sit and have a beer together at the end of the day.

Do you have any advice for people trying to get a job in printing?

I went into my interview at Scout Books having done my homework. I brought all the books of theirs that I already owned and talked about what I liked about them. From the start, they could tell that I knew what I was talking about and was genuinely interested in what Scout Books does.

What’s next for you?

I really want to focus more energy on my writing. I haven’t had as much time as I’d like lately to work on it, but I want to get back to it. I was really excited to have my short story published in The Masters Review recently; it was my first piece of fiction to be published!

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