Survival Guide: Jeffrey Krames, McGraw-Hill's trade business books division

Jeffrey Krames

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Jeffrey Krames knows books. As vice president and publisher of McGraw-Hill's trade business books division, Krames said he sees thousands of manuscripts every year; and about 250 of them make it to book form. He also is a best-selling author.

His most recent book, "The Rumsfeld Way," examines the management style of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Krames sat down with Managing Editor Evamarie Socha to discuss what business books teach us.  

WT: What can we learn from Donald Rumsfeld's management methods?

Krames: I wrote "The Rumsfeld Way" in the months following Sept. 11. He once was CEO of [pharmaceutical company] GD Searle and presided over the creation of NutraSweet, so I knew he was a great executive.

He came out Sept. 12 very calmly and with great dignity, and said that this is the new face of war. I was very impressed with his statesmanship.

When I did some research into Rumsfeld and studied his record, I found a man who had been successful in both the public and private sectors.

Someone like that, who has amassed a fortune in excess of $200 million, has something to teach other people who run organizations.

WT: What are some of his methods?

Krames: Lead with your outbox. Too many people sift through a pile high in their inboxes and let someone else set their agendas. People must master their agendas.

Business is chess, not checkers. You have to think two, three, four, five steps ahead. Master an agenda, and you'll always stay one step ahead of the competition.

He really knows how to marshal resources and build a coalition. This is a no-nonsense leader who has this great mind and succeeded in everything he did.

When he became CEO of Searle in the late 1970s, he hadn't ever done anything in the business world, and here he came in as CEO of a billion-dollar company.

WT: Do you see Rumsfeld's management traits in his current role?

Krames: Absolutely. He is often a lightning rod to controversy. He says that sometime leaders have to take positions that they really believe in regardless of what other people think.

I see all the same skills ? mastering the agenda, creating a more agile armed forces, the matrix for the new types of threats and pressures ... Rumsfeld really is more of this great troubleshooter. He knows how to get things done, he's very pragmatic and direct, and he always knows how to answer the right questions.

WT: How many manuscripts do you see a year, and how many do you publish?

Krames: If you count everything that comes to us over the transom or in

e-mail, I get several queries a day.

The business books division gets several thousand manuscripts and letters every year. In this division, we publish about 250 books a year. Often the best books we publish are the ones in which we come up with the idea.

WT: What makes a good book of this nature?

Krames:One of the keys to any book in any genre is to have an author who has great passion for the topic. There is simply no substitute for that. Someone has got to have fire-in-the-belly enthusiasm.

The best authors have the best motives. They are not looking for a paycheck. They believe there is a real need for this type of information in the marketplace, it hasn't been written, and I'm gonna write it, no matter what.

You do need authors who have a unique idea, a unique selling proposition. The books we look for are ones that really tell people how to do things: Make better decisions on the job, invest better, read and manage better, how to do a performance review, how to motivate higher.

There are books that are narratives, more storylike books, but those are a real exception for us. We do best with that really pragmatic, how-to, practitioner market.

WT: What books do you read?

Krames: When I'm on vacation, I read biographies. I just finished "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 ­ 1963" by Robert Dallek . I have an affinity for Dick Francis, the British steeplechase author, as well as others like Robert Ludlum.

WT: What shopping tips do you have for finding a quality book?

Krames: You can always walk into your local bookstore and give the book a thumb test. Look at the jacket copy, the table of contents, read a couple of pages. That option is now available online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

WT: Our readership is full of colorful characters and stories. If one has an idea for a book, how should they approach you?

Krames: Send me an e-mail: jeffrey_krames@mcgraw-hill.com.

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