Over the past six weeks BookMarketingBuzzBlog has collected online interviews with a variety of individuals who make up our book publishing world, including a publisher, , authors, a literary agent, editors, marketers, and an online book reviewer. I do hope you enjoy their unedited, uncensored words of insight, advice and information.
Interview With President Kirsty Melville Andrews McMeel Publishing
1. As the publisher and president of Andrews McMeel Publishing, what do you do all day?
One of the things I enjoy most about this position is the opportunity it provides to be involved in so many areas within publishing and to cultivate relationships with such a great variety of people. And every day is different. I am immersed in projects involving authors, agents, editors, designers, production, printing, acquisitions, sales, marketing, publicity, budgeting, and more – for e-books, print books, apps – almost anything that has to do with books and the enjoyment they provide.
2. How is your company adjusting to the landscape of the new marketplace?
This is a fascinating and extremely creative time to be involved in publishing. Perhaps most important for us is our approach to the landscape – we embrace it. We continue to advance our integrated publishing initiatives – our recent addition of Andrea Colvin as vice president, content/executive producer to spearhead this effort illustrates our commitment and vision for the future. AMP has an established reputation as a cutting-edge, nimble publisher – we will continue to anticipate changes and navigate the landscape by remaining true to that foundation.
3. Where do you see the industry heading?
I think the industry has absolutely unlimited potential in the digital area – just one of the reasons it is such an exciting time. However, I don’t know that we will abandon printed books altogether – one thing that interests me is the intersection between the digital, ephemeral world and the tactile, three-dimensional experience books provide. Developments in design, technology, applications, as well as the evolving habits of consumers make publishing opportunities boundless.
4. Do you believe publishers brand themselves enough with the consumer? A primary concern for AMP is content – exceptional, high quality content. That is a crucial element of our brand. We focus on key niche areas: comics and humor, cookbooks, puzzles and games, gift, home and crafts, trade, and children’s books to develop AMP as a brand consumers will turn to in these content areas. We build our brand through the strength of our content.
5. How can publishers work more closely with their authors to maximize sales? We work very closely with our authors, not only in the editorial, design and production of books, but increasingly in the marketing and publicity of them, particularly through increased use of social media. Publishers can work with authors to help them engage their audience with social media and other online tools to strengthen the marketplace for their books and as a result, increase sales. By listening closely to authors, we can capitalize on their relationship with their audience to increase sales as well.
Interview With Author Chris Travers
1. What do you do? I am an author, and have been looking at opening a small publishing house. I also do my own typesetting/book design.
2. Where do you think it is heading? The overall trend is likely to be one of increasing diversity as new technologies arise, and the publishing industry learns how best to use that technology to reach customers more effectively. There are a number of important technologies but they aren't all really there yet. Print on demand, for example, is very good for some kinds of books but don't work well where one may wish to add color plates or the like. E-books are another area, but current generations of e-book readers, combined with DRM issues makes this area of the market questionable, in my opinion, though it may work well for some areas of publishing. Direct to consumer marketing of course is getting better with both the rise of e-books, services like Google Books and Amazon Search Inside, and so this is obviously putting additional pressures (besides those normally associated with Amazon) on small independent bookshops, who now must do more than sell books to survive.
3. Why do you love books? I get to see other viewpoints and new perspectives, and perpetual
study is always a good thing.
4. Are e-books going to save or destroy the industry? Neither. They will remain a niche market I think. E-books pose a few challenges in many areas. The formats are rarely good for handling large tables or graphics. Additionally the economic models are complex and individuals end up purchasing less since the e-book typically cannot be resold the way a paper book can. For these reasons, I think that we are going to see e-books remain very much a niche product, not the primary way to read a book.
Interview with Business Author Don Maruska
Don Maruska is the author of Author of How Great Decisions Get Made and Wellsprings of Talent. I worked with don a number f years agoto promote his first book to the news media. for more info, please consult: http://www.DonMaruska.com
1. Don, I enjoyed working with you to promote your last book, How Great Decisions Get Made. Please share what you learned from the experience of becoming a published author and of what is needed to sell your book. I found selling books to be a job that required plans, organization, and consistent follow through just like many jobs. So, when the book first came out, I had a double work load. Since I felt so passionately about the book, I was pleased to do it. Key lesson: Be sure that you have a burning passion about your book to sustain the extraordinary efforts needed to market it.
2. What do you love most about being an author? It’s wonderful having a concrete product. I share the book with clients and in public workshops and enjoy guiding people in how they can use the resources in the book successfully. I also enjoy how a good book establishes me as an expert and yields much higher speaking and workshop fees.
3. Where do you see the book publishing industry heading? Are you working on another book?
I’m working on a new book about outstanding ways to develop talent within ourselves and our organizations. I waver about whether to go with a mainstream publisher as I did with my first book or to go direct with print on demand and e-books. I had a great experience with my publisher, but I see the publishing landscape changing.
4. What advice would you give to newly published authors? Enjoy sharing your book. Tap family, friends, and networks to help you access audiences for your book. Remember, people need 7 to 10 impressions before they buy something new. So, plan your marketing as a campaign to give your ideal customers multiple exposures to your book.
5. In dealing with the news media, how can authors position themselves to get more media coverage? You need two things: a strong (preferably novel) point of view plus a clear linkage with what people are talking about. Look for how your book connects with key issues or concerns. Show people how your book offers something valuable to that audience. And, be a tactful, but tireless, point of contact with the media. Unless you have a well-established public expertise or great endorsements, the media will need to get to know you before they will quote you.
Interview With Michael Rockliff , Director, Library Sales and Marketing , Workman Publishing Company
1. What does your job entail and how do navigate through the ever-changing publishing and media landscapes? Fundamentally, my job entails acting as Workman’s liaison with schools and libraries, as well as the wholesalers and media that service that sector of the book marketplace. As to navigating the changing landscape, my use of social media has been limited by time and resources. Being a one-person department, time does not allow me to do all that I would like to do. That said, all those new venues have opened up more opportunities, but have not changed the fact that it all comes down to what it has always come down to... people talking to people about books. The variety of means has increased exponentially, but it’s still analogous to sitting around the cracker barrel. Ultimately, it’s not about the venue. It’s about the conversations that happen within that venue.
2. What do you like most about being a part of the book publishing industry? My wife and I were discussing that, quite recently. As I approach 50 years in the business, it’s been much on my mind. I never made a great deal of money in the book business, but have been more than compensated by the wealth of fascinating people who have entered our lives, because of being in it. I can remember Dr. Seuss drawing a Cat In The Hat for our younger daughter, over breakfast, one morning. She, by the way, has grown up to become a published children’s book author, herself. We can look back on being served a fabulous Steak Diane, made by Julia Child’s own hand. A remarkable couple of days spent with Truman Capote looms large, as well. At heart, what I love about this business is the opportunity to be an advocate for, and have hand in launching, work I admire for authors I admire. I still remember driving down the San Diego Freeway, heading to one of my first sales calls for Random House in 1968, thinking “I’m sitting in my new company car, listening to Cannonball Adderley on the radio, and going to a store where I’ll spend a hunk of the day talking about books... and they’re actually paying me for this!
3. Where do you feel the industry is heading? That’s the $64,000 question! Anyone who claims to know is probably deluded. The ground is shifting under our feet, way too fast for that. Despite that, however, one thing remains constant. It’s what’s between the covers (literal or figurative covers) that matters. The packaging may change, but it boils down to the words. There will always be a value brought to the table by the publishing process. No one who has seen the transformation of a raw manuscript into a vastly better work by skilled editing can doubt it. Also, in all the rush of hysteria about e-books, people tend to overlook the fact that, historically, new technologies tend to live with the old for a very long time. Scrolls were still created for hundreds of years after the advent of codices. The hardcopy book is a technology which has changed relatively little over its lifespan, not due to laziness or lack of imagination, but because (for most reading purposes) it is a technology that is perfect for its function. It is unlikely to be superseded overnight.
Interview With Author David Nabhan
David Nabhan is the author of: Predicting the Next Great Quake (1996), Forecasting the Catastrophe (2010), and Pilots of Borealis (2011). For more info, check out his site: www.earthquakepredictors.com
1. As a science writer, what do you like to write about? I always make an attempt to weave a varied number of threads from diverse branches of science and mathematics—along with the history behind each concept—so as to give the reader a better view of the matter under discussion. The world is so complicated now that a single concept hardly exists that isn’t the result of an incredible profusion of inextricably interwoven and highly eclectic origins. So although I’m stuck mostly writing about seismology, I’ve managed to enliven what could be a fairly dry subject with snippets from ancient wonders, Greek mythology, and Mayan stelae and codices, to the diffuse Hawking Radiation emanating from the environs of black holes. If one digs deeply enough into anything, science and math will be found at the heart of everything. How could such a subject be anything but…interesting?
2. What are the challenges and rewards of being a published author? Without a doubt I have been immensely privileged, due to the fact that my books are certainly controversial, by being invited to offer my opinion in the public forum on over a hundred occasions (TV, radio, magazines, newspapers). The challenge though is the ever-present worry and concern in avoiding a misstep in the media, or in phrasing something in such a way as to create a problem rather than solve one. It can be difficult speaking on the air, off the cuff, live, with no way to call one’s words back the minute they leave the tongue!
3. Where do you see the book publishing industry heading? The industry will be unrecognizable in the very near future. Borders’ recent bankruptcy is a sign of things to come. The era of a small coterie of New York publishing houses holding sway over the cultural and intellectual reins of the nation—as they have for many decades now—is quickly nearing its end. The internet has opened up a worldwide audience (free of middlemen, handlers, agents, et al) to anyone with the talent and determination to showcase their lyrics, poetry, music, or philosophy for the billions. What that will mean will translate into nothing less than a great renaissance in literature, music, and ideas.
4. What do you enjoy most about the process of writing? I write science fiction too, and the most rewarding and enjoyable feeling is the flush of pride and accomplishment that comes from escaping from dead ends into which the writer has unfortunately stumbled. At one point while writing Pilots of Borealis I spent one solid week doing nothing but thinking nonstop about a quite formidable impasse that blocked my way. The thing is, though, there is nothing capable of standing up to the power of human acumen, and certainly not “impossible” literary traps. Hannibal said, when faced with the daunting task of taking on the incredible power that was Rome, that he “would either find a way, or make one.” Writers don’t need to cross the Alps with a train of war elephants, but they do need to have the same sort of élan—to some degree, at least.
5. How do you promote your books? Thank God for the media! This year alone I was invited as a guest on at least two dozen talk radio shows from Seattle to Pensacola and many places in between. Also, I write articles and guest columns having to do with issues I treat in my books for science journals and magazines. I attend two or three book fairs a year. Social media is a good tool, too. But, without a doubt, my website, www.earthquakepredictors.com , is a powerful piston churning out interest in my books, along with marshalling public opinion to convince the governor of California to act on the seismic safety plan I have proposed and outlined in my books.
Interview With Michaela Hamilton, Editor in Chief, Citadel Press
1. As the editor in chief of Citadel Press and executive editor at Kensington Publishing, how do you collaborate with authors to make their books better? I try to give my authors the kind of perspective they would have if they had the luxury of setting the manuscript aside for about six months and coming back to it. Since that kind of spare time never happens in the real world, writers need someone else to help them see their book with fresh eyes. I try to provide the kind of ideas that they themselves would have, if they could. Or as one of my mentors said: an editor’s job is to bridge the gap between the author’s intention and his actual writing.
2. What do you love most about being a part of the book publishing industry? I learn something new every day. Book publishing puts us at the creative center of popular culture. We are constantly exposed to new people, fresh ideas, breaking news, emerging trends, and hot happenings. I can’t imagine a more stimulating profession.
3. Where do you see it heading? The increasing popularity of e-books is driving print numbers down and causing us to rethink our traditional publishing models. Self-publishing offers opportunities to writers and forces publishers to be more creative in marketing and positioning key authors. Sometimes I feel I am living in the Wild West—the old “rules” no longer work, and there are countless new frontiers to explore. As long as people want to read, the publishing industry will find a way to satisfy them.
4. Will e-books be the industry’s savior or its apocalyptic pill? Personally, I love my e-reader. I’ve always been a big reader, but since I started using an e-reader, I read even more than I ever did (something I never thought possible!). The convenience and affordability of e-books are irresistible. In the short term, I think e-books will transform the publishing landscape in ways that are challenging to publishers. In the long run, I think they will win more readers, and that’s a good thing.
5. Which genres do you see having the most growth potential in the next year or two? Why? In nonfiction, celebrities rule, and I think that trend will continue to grow. Nonfiction books draw on the media presence of popular public figures for their success. In fiction, I think books offering escape and entertainment will continue to grow in popularity. Romance, thrillers, mysteries, paranormal novels, fantasy and science fiction give readers a lot of entertainment for relatively little money.
Interview With Venessa Williams, Marketing Associate, Education and Library, Simon & Schuster
1. What do you love about being a part of the book publishing industry? I've been a reader and writer all my life so to be able to contribute to that world is such a blessing. I feel like people who say they don't like to read just haven't found the right book yet. I love that my job is all about me getting the perfect book into the right hands.
2. What challenges/rewards do you see coming up for the industry? I am worried about the printed book, like a lot of others out there. I do not own a Kindle or any other electronic reading device, simply because the feel and smell that comes with reading an old book. It is all part of the experience for me. I'm worried about teachers and libraries. I travel about six times a year and get to speak with educators face to face and all I hear is that their districts are cutting funding, their colleagues are losing their jobs, their libraries don't have the means to stock up. It's very upsetting. There are very few things, in my opinion, that are more important than reading.
3. As a marketing associate for Simon & Schuster, how do you help market books? I attend conferences around the country for librarians and teachers, and this is the perfect way for us to introduce new books and authors. I feel like there's something to be said about talking with someone in person (rather than over email) and handing them the book I'm talking about, conveying my passion for an author or a story in a way I cannot over the internet. I also submit books for state and national awards, spread the word over Facebook & Twitter, send out e-newsletters calling out new reviews we have available for books or any assets available for educators to use in the classrooms or libraries. Like everything else in the world today, we rely heavily on online marketing. It's just the fastest way to reach the most amount of people. And I love that I'm not trying to sell you something that isn't good for you. I just want the consumer to fall in love with a good book.
4. What can authors do to help market or promote their books, especially to the education or library sector? I think an author needs to interact with their readers as much as possible over social networking sites, speaking engagements at school, bookstores, and libraries. I know that I am way more invested in an author after meeting them in person, holding a signed book in hand. It makes the experience of reading more personal and I think our society craves as much social interaction as possible.
5. As a blogger, how do you relate to your author’s struggles to be heard through social media? I am a blogger at Everything-Pretty.com. This site has nothing to do with my job or books. It's simply a creative outlet, something I have developed as more of a hobby. I can relate to author's struggles to be heard through social media because you are talking in a crowded room to maybe one person who is listening. It's really a full-time job to stay active, but if you can balance it with writing, you will reap the benefits. Start small. Get on Facebook and Twitter, and respond to your fans. It's essential in this day in age.
Interview With Author Stephanie Campbell
Stephanie Campbell had her first book, Until We Meet Again, published at the age of 17. Now, at 20, she is still whacking away at her computer, one day at a time. When she isn't reading or writing, she likes to dance, take karate lessons, and run. After all, you never know when you're about to be sucked into another world.
1. Stephanie, you made your debut as an author last month. What was that like? It was fantastic, but the fun is just beginning. November is going to be a pretty hot month for me with some new releases coming out. Also, I am more than aware that releasing a book is just a little of what being a real novelist is all about. You have to promote, even if you have been released by a traditional publishing company. That's the stage where I am at.
2. What is the book about? Poachers is about a boy who sees things that other people can’t. They’re shadowy, dark, scary things that hang over him and frighten him to no end. One day, his mother gets sick. He wants desperately to save her, and one of these shadows disguised as a human promises him that she will. She gives him a shriveled fruit that kills his mother. He becomes overcome with guilt and rage and becomes a "poacher." He must learn to forgive himself, and he must learn to forgive the creatures of the shadow world.
3. What are you doing to market and promote it? I am blogging and blogging and blogging. It is a writer’s most important resource. I write articles, send out papers, and do whatever I can to get the word out. One of the great things about having books in hard copy is that I’m able to do book signings and visit schools. I have a school presentation planned in November to talk about dreams and my book. I’m terrified but excited.
4. What advice do you have for struggling writers? Don’t you ever, ever give up! Every little step gets you closer to your goal. If you love something, then you won’t ever stop doing it. I’ve had enough rejection letters to paper my walls, but I kept on going because writing was the one thing that got me excited and made me happy. At first, people laughed at me, but remember that success always comes when you keep pushing. Secondly, build your network. I know it’s silly, but I met my first traditional publisher at blog. Don’t be afraid to stick your nose out there, either. Ask people for help. Yeah, some people may burn you, but some people won’t. Stick through the "No!" to get to the "Yes!"
5. Where do you see the book industry heading? I see many more e-books and independent publishers. (I am thinking about starting my own independent book company, which is why I am making this comment. :)) Actually, along my "travels" I have noticed that a lot more writers are turning toward e-book publishing. I am hoping that the print book, even if it isn't as enviromentally friendly, won't completely disapear. There is something about the smell of the book, no matter how much I love my dear Kindle.
Interview With Online Book Reviewer Amanda Richards
1. How are you involved in the book publishing industry? I'm at the part of the chain that buys, reads and reviews books, primarily on Amazon.com
2. Where do you think it is heading? More and more people are switching to e-books for convenience and instant delivery, so the industry will have to do some adjusting to the iY generation. There will always be people who like reading (I hope), and authors with a story to be told, but I guess the future is with e-books. I personally love the feel and smell of a new book, which can't be duplicated electronically, but especially with textbooks and self-help books, it's easier to lug them around on a Kindle or iPad. There's also the privacy factor, as nobody can tell what you're reading. There are no major book chains where I live, so I do most of my purchasing on-line. This gives e-books the edge, as I can be reading in seconds, instead of having to wait 2 weeks and paying shipping and handling costs to South America. However, when I'm abroad, I always find time to check out the nearest book store to enjoy the smells and feel the crisp new pages, and yes, I buy a lot of books during these visits.
3. Why do you love books? As I mentioned above, I love the smell of a new book - it's right up there with the smell of a new car on my olfactory top 10 list. Books in general, I love because they provide simple entertainment, really come in handy during long waiting times at doctors, airports or in-flight, and are a necessity just before bed to take away the stress of the day.
4. Are e-books going to save or destroy the industry? A toss-up. Unfortunately, printed books may become a part of history sooner than later, but there will always be authors, and people who want to read what they write, so there must be an acceptable format to facilitate both. e-books may cause the death of the printed page, but open up a whole new e-page for future generations.
Interview With Literary Agent Mike Nappa
1. What challenges or advantages does the new media landscape pose to authors? Obviously, when it comes to new media (e-books and POD publishing specifically) the best advantage for authors is in the accessibility of a platform for mass distribution. A few clicks of the computer mouse and your book is found in Amazon’s Kindle store, Apple’s iBooks store, and more. Write a check and your words are slapped prettily between the covers of a printed book, ready for the world to applaud. The real challenge for authors, however, is that most of us who write are abysmal judges of whether or not our work is actually deserving of publication. I mean, it’s a pretty egotistical person (myself included) who insists that someone must pay cash up front simply for the privilege of glancing at his or her words. That kind of person can sometimes (OK, often) overlook his or her manuscript shortcomings, especially as they relate to all the emotional baggage associated with writing and publishing a book. And besides, if anybody can publish, then everybody publishes, and because so many of us are blinded egoists, the result is a mountain of published crap. Sure, there may be a few gems buried in that mountain, but how many of readers are actually going to dig through the excrement in order to find the jewels? Since your book is one of the jewels (of course), the lower barrier to entry for all the crap writers else makes it enormously harder for your superb writing to stand out. As the system for culling bad books is dismantled (i.e., traditional book publishing), your chances for publication increase, but your chances for success as a professional author decrease under a mountain of over-published, under-deserving competition.
2. What do you love most about being a part of the book publishing industry? It’s gratifying when I can uncover a truly exception work of art and then be the guy who gets that book published and into the hands of readers who also recognize its art.
3. Where do you feel it is headed? Publishing is still about words. There’s a lot of noise about the digital revolution, the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores, the squeeze on traditional publishing house and so on. And yes, those things are important. And yes, we’re going to have to figure out what the right balance is between e-books and print books, between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Those are market forces that will largely determine themselves (with nudges from a few good innovators in the industry). But when you boil everything down, we’re still just talking about what form ideas take, not about whether ideas have inherent worth. So I always tell authors to stop worrying about the new directions and changes in publishing and start focusing on what’s most important: the words you write that express your valuable ideas. Seriously, people will read a napkin if the content is compelling. So make sure that whatever you write will be compelling, regardless of where those words are printed.
4. How do you go about making an author’s work better? I used to spend a lot of time teaching newer writers how to write, basics of story structure or idea management or paragraph pacing and so on. I don’t do that much anymore, because some writers just aren’t good enough to grow enough, no matter how much time you spend to help them. What I do now is look for writers who are already artists with words, people who come to me already knowing how to write instead of hoping for me to teach them how to write. Then I show them how to target their writing to fit into the competitive marketplace of publishing. It’s not enough to be a good writer; you must be a writer that people also want to read. So I spend a lot of time helping my authors learn how to get into the mind of a reader (whether that be an editor, a publisher, a marketer, or a rank-and-file reader), to adapt their talent into works that people want to read.
5. What can publishers do to work more closely with their authors at the editing stage? My experience may be unique, but the publishers I’ve worked with have all been very proactive about working with authors at the editing stage. Sometimes it’s actually annoying how involved a publisher wants to be at that stage! But, in almost every case, the collaboration between author and editor results in a better book. And realistically, by the time an author’s manuscript goes through my agency, through the book approval process, and through to the line editing phase, it really should be near-publish ready anyway. If it’s not, it’s usually because the author is merely a celebrity (or a self-publisher looking for a shortcut to success), and in those cases the editors deserve the crap they find in the manuscript. So generally speaking, I’d say publishers are already doing a good job of working with authors during the editing stage of a book—at least in my experience.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.