Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interview With Debra Englander, Editorial Director, John Wiley & Sons

Debra W. Englander has more than 30 years experience in the publishing business, including stints at Money Magazine and Fortune Book Club. She has been at John Wiley & Sons for the past 15 years.

  1. As the editorial director of Wiley Books what do you find most challenging about your job? I publish books in the business category, but focus mostly on personal finance and investing. This area has received increasing coverage in all media over the past few years so it is harder to find unique topics and authors. It’s no longer enough to publish a book on retirement since information on retirement is widely available. A retirement book needs to be timely,  written by an author who is actively speaking and preferably come with a website or other content that will be providing added value to the readers.

  1. How about the most rewarding? The most rewarding is working with an author who has the germ of an idea and following it through to publication, particularly when sales are greater than expected. Taking a chance on someone with a sound concept but has never written a book is also satisfying. For example, I recently published Paper Money Collapse: The Folly of Elastic Money And the Coming Monetary Breakdown by Detlev Schlichter. This author contacted me late last year and send me part of his manuscript. This is a complex topic and the author had nearly completed his manuscript; from submission to publication took about nine months. The book has received some nice media attention both here and overseas.

  1. Where do you feel the book publishing industry is heading? The industry has changed and I think people will increasingly look to e books, as more people use a variety of devices. Just as many people have gotten accustomed to the convenience of streaming video/movies rather than DVDs, they will be choosing the most convenient form of delivery. The challenge will be to provide books in all formats and continue to look for authors who have an established reputation or readership.

  1. How do you believe technology can enhance or detract from the editorial process and how books will look and be consumed by readers? For investing titles, having color charts and graphs can be an asset. This material can be on websites or on some e readers. Some business books are appropriate candidates for enhanced e books, as well, particularly if the books feature interviews with experts who are engaging speakers.

  1. How can publishers work more closely to shepherd an author through the process of getting published and marketed? At Wiley, marketing and editorial work closely from the time a book is acquired, in terms of finalizing titles and design of the jacket. I work with a development editor who has day to day contact with the authors, providing feedback on their manuscripts, and coordinating schedule so that books can be published in a timely fashion.  It’s really a partnership. Authors tends to focus solely on completing their manuscript. That obviously is essential but the authors need to communicate regularly with their editors, marketers, publicists, for example, letting us know if they’re got a speaking engagement right around publication. Maybe we can publish early to have books there in time or if books won’t be available, we can create a flyer. Authors assume that everything is done but everyone is busy. For example, if an author sees that a website such as Amazon or B&N has the wrong jacket or the book description isn’t accurate, he or she needs to tell me. We may have submitted a correction but we can follow up. If an author is booking his or her own media, I want to know about appearances before the show airs so I can alert my sales reps. Some authors think they can tell us after but I’d rather have an author send me regular emails or updates and then I can follow up.
In the News

Yahoo! is up for sale.  Newspapers, magazines, book stores, book publishers and other information and entertainment outlets are all struggling to make a buck, in part because of the rotting economy and in part due to technology.  So it’s hard to imagine that a tech titan has fallen.  AOL fell a few years ago.  All of this should serve to remind us that no company or industry is immune from bad times.   Look at Netflix.  Their stock is only worth a third of what it was in June mainly because they expanded overseas in a costly fashion and they alienated their subscriber base by jacking up rates by 60%.  All brands run the risk of being dumped by consumers, so the moral here is that companies need to weigh every business decision against many factors and take all people into consideration – and not just look for a profit grab at any cost because in the end, it may just cause their company to go under.

The NBA is still in lockout-strike mode, forcing the cancelation of games past Thanksgiving Day.  As a Knicks fan, basketball is a distant third to baseball and football for me but nevertheless, to see a 60-year-old professional sports league that grossed billions of dollars last year suddenly fold up because millionaire players and billionaire owners can’t agree on how to divide up the pot of gold while the loyal, paying fan gets screwed is simply intolerable.  I hope the league shoots itself in the foot. Greed is not good and it’s time all of pro sports learns a lesson. But what I’d really like to see is an Occupy Wall Street-type protest executed by sports fans. We are taken for granted. The skyrocketing costs of the sports leagues are always passed on to the consumer: overpriced tickets, overpriced food concessions; overpriced memorabilia; overpriced parking. But that’s not all.  Corporations that buy crazy-priced box seats, stadium billboard ads and TV commercials pass the costs onto consumers.  Is this really the best we can do? 

Coldplay is out with a new album today.  I can’t wait to buy Mylo Xyloto.  They are 70% as good as U2, which makes them one of the best bands of today.

7 Billion:  That’s what the world’s population will be by month’s end, according to the UN.  40% of the world lives in just two countries -- China and India.  Imagine if the US can pierce that marketplace – we’d end the recession tomorrow.

9-9-9:  GOP presidential candidate Herm Cain proposes a new, simplified tax structure where corporations pay 9% tax on net income, consumers pay a federal sales tax of 9%, and income on individuals is taxed at a rate of 9%.  Economists and political strategists will debate the merits of the proposal and no doubt new winners and losers will arise.  However, what hasn’t been discussed is the overall tax cost to businesses and consumers when factoring local and state taxes and fees.  You can’t fix one without the other.  Like any budget, one must look at total income and total expense, regardless of its source. The taxpayer cares not whether it’s Uncle Sam, Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg or the DMV that charges money for something. 

Further, just as important as what we’re asked to pay is how our government spends what it is given. Incompetence, corruption and questionable accounting lead to debts and deficits – regardless of who is in office. We need a plan that is not only economically sound but built to withstand human nature.  I’m not sure that this is possible.  Lastly, we’d need to virtually eliminate cash if we’re to get serious on tax reform.  Too often deals done in cash lead to lower tax revenue.  Further cash is used by criminals.  If dope dealers had to use credit cards to sell their stuff they’d be out of business (unless we legalize and tax it but that’s another story).  One other thing; there is duplication government at the city-county-state-federal levels; too many overlapping or repetitive agencies. We need to streamline more – and save the tax payer some money.

1986 World Series Miracle:  Today is the 25th anniversary of my second most favorite day as a sports fan. The first happened two days later, but only as a result of what took place on October 25, 1986. The New York Mets were down to their last out in the last inning of what could have been the last game of that year’s championship. They came from behind in the most unlikeliest fashion. It was already in extra innings. The Mets, down 5-3, rallied on the strength of three straight two-out hits, then a passed ball by the catcher and then a rare error by perennial Gold Glove first baseman, Bill Buckner. He missed a dribbler right between his legs. No fan, of either team, has ever forgotten what happened. The Mets went on to win Game 7 on October 27th. I was at Game 7 and I can’t tell you what it feels like not only to see a team win a championship, but to witness a loser franchise win in an amazing way. It remains significant, given the Mets have never won anything since then.

Tips For Conducting Radio Interviews

Nothing helps books sell like publicity. For example, doing a series of local radio interviews is a very cost-effective and targeted way to promote your book. Once you get an interview scheduled, the harder part is to conduct a good interview that leads to people wanting to buy your book. The goal of the interview is to create interest -- not to tell the whole story so that they don't have to buy the book. Consider the interview as a tease.

One advantage of radio is you can do it by phone. You don't have to travel. Further, you don't have to worry about what you are wearing -- you can wear nothing at all if it makes you feel relaxed! You don't have to look like a super model. You don't have to go into a studio for most interviews. You can do them from the comfort of your own bed!

Not all radio is equal. You want radio that gives you the targeted demographics of listeners that are likely to buy your book. Oldies station listeners won't buy a book on rap music; Bible Belt stations don't like to discuss sexual topics; morning zoo show listeners don't want to hear about scholarly books.

Listen to radio. Know the difference between a morning AM news/talk show and an FM Howard Stern-type show. Realize that late-night or afternoon shows, though they have longer interviews and call-ins, offer smaller audiences and don't buy books as often as morning drive time show listeners. Further, National Public Radio affiliates are good for certain types of books, but it's a very competitive arena.

Always offer value in your interviews. We know you want to sell books but listeners want to hear information, ideas, stories, or something of interest. Use your energy and wit to come across as sincere and as someone who has something to offer them. The book will get mentioned in the process – and hopefully sells.

Interview With Author Walt Trizna

1.      What did you find to be the rewards and challenges of being a published author? At this point in my career, the reward is the feedback from those whom have read my stories and novel. It is a comforting thought to know that people are reading my words. The challenges to being published, along with the process, are an education I try to share with other writers on my blog (walttriznastories.wordpress.com). I feel the key to getting published, whether it be short stories or a novel, is persistence. Your ego must be strong enough to know your work has value, yet at the same time be able to take criticism. You will have to endure a great deal of criticism.

2.      What do you love about the book publishing industry? Nothing. It took me three and one half years to publish a novel that took nine months to write. Once it was published, I received a great deal of positive feedback. One of my problems is that I followed the rules. When an agent or publisher said no simultaneous submissions, I adhered to that policy and then quite a few never responded. I know that self-publishing is a major current trend, but it does not allow a filter to what is being published. Granted many of these books may have value, but many do not. Saying that you have published a book is an ego trip to many; however, for those whom have taken the time to find a publisher, the trip is diminished. I can only speak for myself, but any brief joy is soon consumed by the coming effort, you know you will experience, with getting your next effort published.

3.      Where do you think it is heading? The direction of the book publishing industry is obvious, eBooks. Boarders recently folded due to poor management, but also because they never developed an eBook platform such as Barnes & Noble developed with the Nook. Also, The New York Times, a few months ago, began listing the most popular eBooks on their list of best sellers list.  The second obvious direction is self-publishing. This was once the domain of a few publishers known as vanity presses. Now in the age of computers, literally anyone can publish a book, and they are. I feel this dilutes the quality of published work. The gatekeeper is gone and the floodgates are open. I personally want a publisher, no matter how small, to publish my work. The fact that they will publish my efforts means that someone connected with the industry sees value in it. This is my own set of values and the principles under which I publish.

4.      What advice do you have for writers to get published or become famous? The answer to this question has been answered above, for the most part. In essence, you must believe in your work and be able to accept criticism. You must also perceiver and be patient. If your work is good, somehow and somewhere, it will be published. Now for the second part of your question – fame. This is not a cross I have yet to bear. However, at my advanced age (64) I am still somewhat naive. I feel that if your work is good it will find its way to a publisher. I also think that to seek fame is not a valued reason to write. You will not find fame; fame will find you.

5.      As a former scientist, how did your career and real life experiences influence your writing? My background plays a significant part in my writing, especially science fiction. I like to include a certain amount of science fact to make the premise of my story believable. At the same time, I realize that with too much science you will lose the average reader. For instance, in my published novel, New Moon Rising, I did a great deal of research and included facts about the birth of our moon and the Ring of Fire. In the novel I am now trying to publish, The Beast Awaits which initially is concerned with stem cell research, many of the techniques are the same as I used during many years of research in tissue culture. In another novel waiting to be edited, Sweet Depression which is a combination of the works of Robin Cook and James Patterson, the idea for the novel came from an experience in the lab. We were testing a compound that had the exact opposite effect as intended.

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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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