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Tate Publishing: building an aftermarket.

Last October, Ashton-Tate gave its Tate Publishing division a new mission: to publish third-party software as well as books. As part of that reorganization, Ashton-Tate hired Rick Gibson, founder of a Lotus aftermarket group called the consortium, to help build a software publishing channel.

We recently talked with Gibson about his plans:

What kind of products really turn you on?

"Anything that makes the Ashton-Tate world a better place to be--any utility or application that makes dBase, MultiMate, or Framework easier or faster, or that adds a major feature." Tate Publishing's first two products--a dBase file recovery utility and a statistical package--are good examples of what he's looking for, Gibson notes. "we're also very anxious to find graphics products, and anything that supports new ways to use dBase data." How such tolerance for risk do you have in evaluating product ideas?

"Tate Publishing isn't meant to be the cutting-edge division of AshtonTate," says Gibson. "we have some money in our budget for high-risk, high-reward concepts, but basically we're looking for products that serve at least 10% to 20% of current dBase users." (However, if a third-party company invents a new technology that appeals to AshtonTate's own developers, Gibson says "the dream gets bigger" and it's likely that Tate will offer to buy or licensethe code.)

What type of deals does Tate usually cut with third-party developers?

"All our contracts are different, but we usually talk about an advance of at least $10,000 and royalties of 10%," says Gibson. "We'll do a first year forecast to see if these numbers let us show a reasonable profit. If someone has a blockbuster that's real important to us, we'd probably go higher."

Tate normally buys worldwide, exclusive rights, Gibson adds, but the company "very rarely" agrees to guarantee minimum levels of sales. "We make a big investment in marketing--$50-100,000--so we don't want to be put in the position of losing the product if it takes off slowly."

Besides deep pockets, what marketing resources do you have that independent developers can't buy on their own?

As part of most product rollouts, says Gibson, Tate Publishing buys "a fair amount' of magazine advertising. But the division's real marketing strength lies in its access to Ashton-Tate's mailing list of "hundreds of thousands" of dBase users and developers. "And we're also in a good position to do bundling deals with other products, and to tie into Ashton-Tate's worldwide marketing network. When I was an independent developer, these are facilities I would have killed for."
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Date:Jun 1, 1989
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