Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Interview with Yale Publishing Course Director Tina Weiner

1.      In what direction are you taking the Yale Publishing Course?  How is it evolving to meet the changing needs and challenges of writers? I am making it more and more interactive – expanding the time allotted for Q and A during the sessions and allowing more time for small group discussions and conversation with the speakers.  The curriculum is still focused on deep dives into crucial issues facing publishers today, finding new sources of revenues, using social media and analytics more effectively, improving the e book experience, understanding how to compete with disruptions caused by self-publishers and other new start-ups, and becoming a global publisher.  The underpinning of the program is centered on becoming a better manager and enabling the participants to lead their companies into a future in which print and digital co-exist more productively. A great deal of attention is paid to how publishers can adapt to the changing needs of their authors and work together draw attention to their books.  The competition for eyeballs in more acute than ever . Because of this and the fact that there are fewer bookstores, we spend time exploring non-traditional ways of selling books and finding new ways to promote discoverability.

2.      Who is the ideal candidate for the Yale Publishing Course? I have found over the past 5 years, that the people who attend the Course all share a passion for publishing and a desire to learn more about what goes on beyond their own particular silo and within their own organization.  Very often they have either just taken on, or are about to take on new responsibilities, or want to grow their company and/or their role within it.  The ideal candidate is looking to expand his/her knowledge of the industry as a whole and be exposed to points of view that they have experienced elsewhere. Participants from the U.S. are eager to hear how what is trending abroad and the many international attendees want to learn what they can from the American experience. Again and again, participants tell me they come to Yale to be sponges and absorb as much information as they can from both the speakers and from each other.

3.      How does your program differ from the offerings of other institute, workshops, conference, or courses? YPC is a highly interactive classroom  geared to a experience professionals who are looking to delve deeper into issues than they would at other industry events. Our speakers are distinguished members of the Yale School of Management and industry experts with proven innovative achievements and a commitment to sharing their knowledge more candidly than they might in a more public forum.   We limit the number of attendees to foster a close relationship between the students and the faculty as well as peer to peer. The curriculum is not made up of panels but is rather of a combination of overviews and deep dives into specific topics.  There is ample time set outside for one-on-one counseling sessions and small group discussions at meals, breaks, and receptions. By the end of the five days, the students have bonded,  having shared a unique educational experience and having formed enduring friendships with peers from all over the world.

4.      You recently announced the first recipients of the Innovative Leader Scholarship to the Yale Publishing Course.  What is important about this?  Every year we receive many, many requests for financial aid from people from all over the world who are really eager to come to YPC but cannot afford the tuition.  The scholarships fund one person from the U.S. and one from abroad to attend the week devoted to book publishing or the week from magazine media professionals. The applications make me aware of how many truly talented, innovative, and intelligent individuals there are in our industry. Their reasons for wanting to attend help shape and focus the curriculum.  I wish there were a way to fund more of them.

5.      Where do you see book publishing heading?  I think the industry will continue to be disrupted and the competition for readers will continue to be a factor as potential readers spend more and more time distracted by social media, gaming, and all variety of content on their smartphones.  As more books are published, both traditionally and through self-publishing,  there will be a greater need to find ways to help readers discover quality content.  I believe the industry will rise to that occasion.  Although readers will continue to read digitally, I think print is far from dead and, at least in the immediate future, print and digital will co-exist.  It is up to publishers to help readers find the format they want for particular content.  We talk a lot about the future at YPC, but rather than making predictions,  we stress being prepared – i.e. being flexible, nimble, and open to change. Publishers can best deal with the next disruption by staying on top of the advances in technology, being more effective leaders, using social media and analytics to understand what their readers want, and concentrating more on strategic planning. There is plenty of room for innovation in the industry, and it increasingly important to step back and look at the industry and its possibilities in a broader perspective.  This is what we aim to do at YPC.

6.      What do you see as the greatest challenges and rewards for writers today?  Although because of the Internet and the rise in self-publishing, it is easier to “publish” today, it is harder than ever to compete with the plethora of books available. Individual writers need to consider what is the best way for them to find their niche and comfort zone either by self-publishing or through a legacy or start-up publisher . On the flip side, publishers need to recognize and understand the challenges facing writers and to find ways to serve their authors more effectively and/or to offer specific services to those who choose to self-publish. The greatest reward for both writers and publishers is finding readers and keeping them for subsequent works.   

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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. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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