Wednesday, November 16, 2011

7 More Book Publishing Experts Speak Out

Interview With Tracey Menzies VP, Creative Operations Harper Collins

  1. How long have you been in book publishing? I have been working in publishing for 19 years. When I started my career, the retail side of the business was undergoing great change.  The independents were closing and losing market share to the chain stores. Now, it is the chain stores going out of business and losing market share to online retailers. It will be interesting to see what the future will bring.   I hope that books will be available everywhere including independent bookstores, chain bookstores, online retailers, wholesalers, mass merchants...anywhere that a consumer can discover the pleasure of reading a good book.

  1. Tracey, you’re involved in creating e-books. Tell us what you do? I work with creative teams to convert content to ebook formats.  It's so much more than that, though.  I work with publishers, editors, managing editors, production managers, designers and vendors, all to make these new products. Publishing is undergoing a transformation and there is a great  amount of experimentation going on within the books themselves as well as with the length and types of books being published.  In short, I help make that content available in digital format.  

  1. What do you love about being in book publishing? The people.  Publishing attracts intelligent, creative and passionate individuals who believe very deeply in what they do. Developing authors, bringing their works into the hands of readers, it is a mission as well as a job. 

  1. What is the future for e-books in terms of how they will look? Good book design is about presenting text, words, narrative in a clear and meaningful way to the reader.  That will not change. Books, digital or otherwise, will be well organized with easily searchable and navigable content. Already we see enhanced ebooks filled with additional content. The goal is to add to the experience, not distract the reader from the story.  

  1. What do you think the reading public likes/ dislikes about e-books? I know what I like. The portability of stories.  I can bring five books with me on vacation and not worry about stuffing them all into a suitcase. Many consumers continue to prefer the printed product. The smell of a book, feel of a page, lack of glare, the ownership of an object that can proudly be displayed on a shelf are lacking in an ebook.  

  1. How will e-books co-exist with printed ones – or will they replace them?  I believe that there is a place for both digital and print books in the future.  I think that consumers will have greater choices not only about which format they prefer, but also the amount of additional content they wish to purchase within the book. For example, the consumer may have an older device or prefer just to have narrative while another may want video demonstrations along with recipes.

Interview With Writer Thomas Robertson

1.                  How are you involved in the book publishing industry? At this point, I am afraid that I am only involved as a consumer. I have written a few manuscripts which I intend to give a thorough editing and submit to Kindle.

2.                  Where do you think it is heading? It seems to be growing. I asked someone in the industry why we see misprints now when we saw so few misprints before. I was told that the industry is now busier and therefore has less time for proofreading.

3.                  Why do you love books?  It runs in the family.  My father, mother, and sister all loved books. There are many topics in the world which I want to learn about. I spend a lot of time Netsurfing for the same reason. However, you can curl up in bed with a book, but you can't curl up in bed with a computer.

4.                  Are e-books going to save or destroy the industry? Hard to say. There was fear that video rentals were going to hurt movie theatres, but it resulted that they helped movie theatres.

Interview With Salvador SeBasco, Book Critic and Literary Director, Host of The Inside View Show

  1. As a book critic, what do you see your role to be? My role is to read books and write my opinion about the book. I write what caught my attention about the book, what need I feel the book fills, how I feel the book satisfies that need (if at all), and what about the book I feel reached through the pages at touched my life or psyche (if at all). Having had a reading comprehension disorder until I was thirteen, the way I read (and have read successfully since then) is different from the process used when most people read; at least I have been told. Part of that process is why I receive two review copies from publishers, publicists (and authors) who request I review a certain book. One of the copies stays clean (for other purposes related to the show) and the other I write in heavily with thoughts that come to mind as I am reading the book. After reading it once, I write the book review. Then, I read the same book again while reading my written thoughts throughout the book; after which, I revise the book review.
  2. What is THE INSIDE VIEW SHOW? THE INSIDE VIEW SHOW is a literary review show; a platform through which I interview authors whose books for which I’ve written reviews. Salvador, what do you love the most about the book publishing industry?  I love that, by books, a certain acceptable telepathy is happening between the author and the reader. Authors, whose inward to outward outreach and style lends to masses of readers being eased into this craft, get to be participles to meeting people’s needs to release their minds of expectations from everyday life in one way or another.

  1. Where do you see it heading? Where is the book publishing industry heading? Hmmm. No one has a crystal ball. However, the short answer is, If I take my gut feeling to count for anything, the need for escapism (from one’s own expectations and the expectations imposed by other through typical day to day living) by reading a holdable book with holdable pages to turn, is perpetual. What does, however, bring me angst is that less people who have much to show through the written word, do not because of their situational time restraints due to the design of society and the minimal time the working class get after a day’s work. A mass of creativity is stunned (by little time left in their day after work), and I suppose by design each Government has less otherwise unruly people to govern when more people are at work. Governments would have more people to else wise control the actions of if society had no necessity for a workday—because by the work occupation, people are pre-occupied. Mankind or humanity is still in its infancy. My answer would not be complete if I were not to include how what period I’ve lived through will impact beyond my lifetime. Where is the book publishing industry heading?

The long answer is: To (the pertinence of) each next word written (being) as what we rely on as the future advancement of mankind from infant mankind to a mature mankind who don’t spank it’s people into the necessity to work and, instead, harness the minds as they were designed to be in liberty. Perhaps, as is, the only true freedom of a person happens at death and until then, we are but in the liberty to expound on our liberty of expression under our innate human rights afforded by our presence of existence. The self-Governing is each person’s occupation and for that reason the operative question is ‘Where do I see the ability of the advancement of mankind through what we learn through books that come from the publishing industry?

The answer is, until occupations are done away with, there is a symbiotic relationship between infant mankind and those who have time to write, edit, and publish and all that it takes to get the word out. When we each fully understand that each next letter in each word we write is as a child to the writer, who is the parent, the fractality (or part that choice plays) on books in an industry as a whole influence will be no more than a popularity contest. What’s more, the continuum or reliance upon the book industry is not in question as much as the pace of its constancy on the ebb of a double dip recession. The book industry will continue to proliferate from a shear chance of happenstance doing with the timing of when a particular book came out and what the prevalent need of the masses (world-wide) is to be at that time in history.

The growing pains the book industry has now is on the basis of the pains of what technological illiteracy to overcome; while at the same time not turning its backs on those with illitaracy to do with lacking ability to read.

  1. What can we each do to increase the level of literacy in America? Delve into the difference between knowledge and understanding, and then —and only then —teach about comprehension from reading. Illiteracy, as a word, spans across an array of never-ending spectrums from technological illiteracy (use of new devices, products, and applications) to illiteracy as in a person being unable to read or lacking reading skills. Nevertheless the aforementioned statement about not aiming for comprehension by percent first, is as much a gapping hole in application to the masses as a failing writer who only writes to plots instead of situations from which circumstances develop into plots the more the each next word written reveals the direction it wants the writer to take.
The literary review show site is

Interview With Gisela Ramos Subsidiary Rights Manager | St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan

  1. Gisela, what do you love about being in book publishing? I love reading, period. So being able to read as part of my job is a luxury and a huge perk. I also love the fact that no day is ever the same with my job. The books we work on, the authors we meet, the deals we make-that changes daily.

  1. What do you think are the challenges and opportunities confronting book publishing today? The answer is the same on this one: adapting to technology and e-book publishing efficiently is both a challenge yet a huge opportunity that is opening new doors for our industry and for new authors.

  1. How has the process of selling subsidiary rights changed over the years? The process has been streamlined, thankfully, making the submission process more efficient and personalized!  We now have databases to keep track of deals and track submissions domestically and worldwide.

  1. Which countries tend to buy up American books? Which genres work best overseas? We are fortunate enough to sell our titles/authors worldwide. However Europe in particular loves American books. St. Martin’s sells both fiction and non-fiction titles and we sell both categories strongly, however fiction is a little more in-demand. It really depends on what genre has become popular at the moment, and that tends to change in waves.  Right now in the genre I sell, YA fiction is in hot demand, but a strong women’s fiction book will always be popular.

  1. What are some of the bigger books you’ve worked on? How many books are you negotiating the sale of rights at any one time? I hesitate to answer this question as I consider all the books.  I work on special. I put so much effort and hard work into getting deals for our authors, that they’re all equal in my book. But some examples of the Bestsellers I’ve worked on have been P.C. Cast, Lora Leigh, and Robert Jordan. We have multiple deals going on at any given time.

  1. You are also involved in manuscript acquisition. What do you look for in a book or author that convinces you to risk your company’s name and capital? My involvement is limited to a voice and an opinion, editorial and the higher-ups decide on what gets acquired.  But readability, sell-ability, and reader feedback all influence the acquisition.

  1. You earned a degree in psychology. Does it help to get into people’s minds when dealing with them? No, the only way my background helps me is that it allows me to be more open-minded and helps me empathize more with a client or author.  Being honest, straightforward, affable, ambitious, and knowing your product—that is what makes you successful in publishing.

Interview With Amazon Book Reviewer Will Riddle 
1.      How are you involved in the book publishing industry? I am a self published author and top Amazon book reviewer.

2.      Where do you think it is heading? Self-published authors are entering the market at a record pace and democratizing the book market in a bigger way than in the past.  

3.      Why do you love books? Books are the way ideas are spread.  It's the way to learn new things from others as well as get your own ideas beyond your immediate circle of friends.

4.      Are e-books going to save or destroy the industry? Digital publishing is going to change the book industry a lot in the next 5 years but until better standards emerge, printed books will still be king.  Publishers need to embrace the model before the authors make an end run around them. 

Interview With Christopher Coleman, Ass. Editor, Paths of Glory Publishing

  1. As the assistant editor at Paths of Glory Publishing, how do you collaborate with authors to make their books better? In regards to Paths of Glory Publishers, bear in mind it is a start up publisher and like anything in this economy it is still having teething issues.  The editing process is the least of our worries.  Our first book should be due out the end of this year or beginning of next.  Until its official launch I can't really discuss much about the editing process per se, but I can share with you its strategy in the evolving industry, which may give authors an insight into the problems many publishers have had.
POG aims to take advantage of new technologies that enable publishers to put books in print with minimal initial capital expense. 
Previously, one had to do a large run of a title, then warehouse it and hope it made back its initial cost-and then make a profit.  On top of that, small publishers also had to deal with the custom of giving retailers six months right to return unsold copies.  With the small independent bookstores and gift shops that was not an issue, but big box retailers-like say Borders for example-have been playing accounting games in the last few years where they return a large quantity of books, then use the return credit to order the same books all over again and don't pay a penny!  If your company exists on a razor thin profit margin you can imagine what that does to your cash flow.
Now, with digitization of text and the new print on demand technology available, and also with in-store book publishing machines coming on the market, publishers will be able to get new titles and backlist titles to the customer without the overhead that has sunk many independent publishers in recent years.

2.  What do you love most about being a part of the book publishing industry? I am a self-confessed book nerd, so I really love all facets of the publishing industry.  I love to write books, read books, as well as collect them. I have worked in sales and marketing, media and communications, as well as editing and writing, so any aspect of the publishing process suites me fine.  My tastes are somewhat eclectic.

3.  Where do you see it heading?
I don't think anyone truly knows where the industry is headed, although I am sure many think they do.  Obviously e-books are going to be a big part of it, especially with the big boys pushing it so hard.  Call me a Luddite, but I don't think the printed book will go away.

4.  Will e-books be the industry's savior or its apocalyptic pill? Why? Apropos of e-books: yes to both alternatives.  E-book technology is the hot new thing, with manufacturers and big-box retailers pushing it very hard and there is a large segment of the consumer public that always rushes to the latest fad, so I do see it dominating the market for the next few years.  On the other hand, I see e-books as similar to the internet: they are essentially a "hot" medium, (to borrow Marshall McLuhan's phrase) versus the printed medium which is "cool."  Typically, online articles tend to be short in length (unlike this interview) and peppered with pictorial content.  That's fine, and when one reads a series of short pieces on a kindle or online there's no problem; but are you really going to read War and Peace on what is essentially a small computer screen?   Some will, but I suspect that after the novelty wears off, most avid readers will find paper books more comfortable to cuddle up with on a cold winter's night.
Then too, there is the issue of digital piracy.  Publishers are rushing to the digital format without thinking of the potentially disastrous consequences of hackers.  If someone reproduces a print book illegally, they can be prosecuted with little argument.  Somehow, if that same book is file-shared without paying for it, many people have a sense of entitlement.  Look what has happened to the record industry thanks to digital file sharing of music.  Record companies, musicians and song writers have literally lost millions of dollars of revenue as a result of digital piracy.  Publishing is more than a decade behind the music industry in this regard; let's hope it doesn't go the same route.

5.  Which genres do you see having the most growth potential in the next year or two? As to genres, again it's anybody's guess.  Who knew that vampire teenage romances novels would grow to fill whole rows of aisles in a bookstore?    I do think the on-demand technology will allow smaller publishers to be able to successfully capture niche markets that hitherto were of only marginal profitability.  An illustrated quilt history book, for example, will never make the Times bestseller list, but it can make a profit if production costs are kept in control; there are any number of very specific interest groups that can be marketed to-if a publisher can make a profit doing so.  Hopefully the new technology will be a plus and not a minus in that regard.
Interview With Nesta Aharoni, Character Building Counts Book Awards

1.      What inspired you to launch these awards? Personal experience taught me the value of award contests as marketing tools to increase sales. My first book (My Goodness: My Kids, Cultivating Decency in a Dangerous World, 2008) won three awards. Those honors helped me market my work and increase my earnings. First, they enabled me to identify myself as an award-winning author. Second, they gifted me attractive seals to affix to my front covers. Third, they opened doors to multiple marketing opportunities via social media, press releases, and more. Fourth, they increased my visibility and my invitations to radio and TV shows as well as to print media and seminar presentations. I created Character Building Counts Book Awards to extend valuable marketing opportunities to multiple authors and help them increase their presence and profits.

2.      What are you looking for in an applicant? Character Building Counts Book Awards is looking for books in all genres that deliver a character-building message. A parenting book that cultivates decency in a dangerous world is an obvious choice for CBC enrollment. But a vampire story that highlights a character who protects the good against evil is also a viable candidate for our competition. Our goal is to shine a light on character, values, and ethics and to encourage readers to become honorable and responsible citizens. We understand there are a variety of ways to accomplish our objectives. We accept books in the following categories: children’s, young adult fiction and nonfiction, and adult fiction and nonfiction. You can view a complete list at

3.      As an author, what do you find challenging about the publishing experience? Marketing, marketing, and marketing. Writing a book has an end point. So does design and production. But marketing never ceases. As one successful author put it, “It took me five years to become an overnight success.” Discipline and persistence are key when marketing a book. That means hours spent writing blog entries, sending press releases, and posting content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Daily effort is required. Consistent posts and multiple connections can lead to successful radio, TV, and print invitations, as well as to lectures and signings. Regular application of multiple marketing techniques results in increased sales. Book awards are a wonderful way to announce your presence to the world. CBC Book Awards likes to help its enrollees conquer the marketing challenge. We use our enrollees’ names, titles, topics, and videos in our own promotional campaigns.

4.      What do you love most about book publishing? Writing is a joy; it is peaceful and productive. Editing is even better. I love to spend time discovering the perfect word to place in the perfect spot. But the people I have met (virtually and in person) are by far the greatest reward. During the production stage of my book and my clients’ books, I met artists (designers) whose talent spoke volumes about the importance of working with specialists. I met supportive people in the printing and fulfillment stages, and became acquainted with experienced publishers and writers through listserves, discussion groups, and online networking sites. Many of these professionals were ready, eager, and willing to help me. But above all else, my publishing clients have rewarded me the most—with their talent, enthusiasm, gratitude, and friendship. I adore each and every one of them.

5.      Where do you think the industry is heading? E-downloads. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing every day. Readers want their books, magazines, newspapers, et cetera, delivered with the utmost convenience—directly to their individual reading devices. Expediency and low cost will be key.

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 He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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