David Wilk talks with John O’Brien of Dalkey Archive Press

January 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

Dalkey4Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

The latest in this series of interviews with publishers and editors is my talk with another old friend, John O’Brien, founder of Dalkey Archive Press and the Review of Contemporary Fiction. The journal began in 1981 and the press was launched in 1984. It’s a remarkable and singular enterprise, committed to publishing internationally as almost no other American publisher. Today the press and journal are based in Victoria, Texas through the auspices of the University of Houston at Victoria, and in Dublin, Ireland, with offices at the Trinity University.

If you are interested in the history of the press as explained by John himself, there is an excellent descriptive piece about Dalkey on its own website here. John places the Review (RCF) and the press (Dalkey) as coming literally from his own interest in writers of substance who were and still are not often included in the mainstream of literary culture. In that way, John and his publishing have always been self identified as outsiders, but of course through his own critical and publishing efforts, and other circumstances, no small number of the writers that have either been covered in RCF or published by Dalkey (or both) have reached a meaningful level of recognition and significance over these many years of the his work.

It is no small thing to have been at this work for so long, and so well. The internationalist tendency here is a strong one, from Luisa Valenzuela to Wallace Markham, to Flann O’Brien and many others, John has helped introduce an incredible range of writers from all over the world to North American readers, and vastly expanded the literary landscape for many of us. His commitment to a range of American writers like Paul Metcalf, Gilbert Sorrentino, Doug Woolf and many others, has been nothing short of heroic.

Writing on the Press’ own website, this is what John says about his goals for Dalkey and RCF: “I wanted the Press to define the contemporary period, or at least what I saw as what was most important in the contemporary period. Further, I wanted these books permanently protected, which is why from the start the Press has kept all of its fiction in print, regardless of sales. And as with the Review, I wanted the books to represent what was happening around the world rather than more or less being confined to the United States. Like the Review, Dalkey Archive Press was and is a hopelessly quixotic venture.”

In 2011, Dalkey Archive received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle, and in 2015 John O’Brien was made a knight in the Orde des Arts et des Lettres for his contributions to publishing French literature abroad. Not bad for such a “hopelessly quixotic” operation.

John and I have many interests in common and count each others as friends and fellow travelers in literature and writing. Having this conversation about RCF and Dalkey, programs I believe have incalculable value to our literary culture, was a true pleasure for me, and one that I will always treasure.

Length alert: this is a longer conversation than most (68 minutes), but I hope will be well worth the time spent in listening. Thanks!647362dalkey logo

David Wilk talks with Bill Henderson of Pushcart Press

January 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

HendersonPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

It is my great pleasure and honor to have a conversation about publishing with extraordinary Bill Henderson, the founder and editor of Pushcart Press and the Pushcart prize.

Pushcart was founded in 1972, the same year Bill ended his gainful employment as an editor at Doubleday (which is now one of the many imprints of Penguin Random House). Bill’s first book was the very important Publish It Yourself Handbook, published in 1973 and distributed then more or less by hand, at least initially. This book is a collection of essays by such luminaries as Anais Nin, Stewart Brand, Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Over the years it has sold over 70,000 copies through four editions and has been a touchstone for independent publishing.

But it was really Henderson’s idea for a prize and anthology to recognize and celebrate the best work of the independent magazines and presses that were flowering in those days that has made Pushcart so meaningful and important. It was in 1976 that Bill and a group of Founding Editors he enlisted, including Paul Bowles, Ralph Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates and Reynolds Price, that began the Pushcart Prize anthology that is still published annually, now forty years on.

The original model is still in place. Publishers, magazines and Pushcart’s contributing editors nominate work they feel is their best, and Bill himself reads everything and selects what he feels is the best work from the hundreds of works submitted. It’s an incredible accomplishment that has helped launch and sustain the work of now thousands of writers and presses.

Pushcart is adamantly individualistic and essentially noncommercial. Its books are distributed by WW Norton, but otherwise, Bill is a one person operation. The press is now a nonprofit, but that means he has to raise money for it, and that takes time too.

As our conversation together will demonstrate, Bill shows no sign of slowing down and no sign of changing his opinion about what matters in writing and publishing. His commitment to the work is unwavering, and what he has done is truly magnificent. I am proud to have had an association with Pushcart from its inception, and am in awe of the work Bill and his operation has accomplished over these many years.

You can learn more about Pushcart here. Order the new anthology from your favorite independent bookstore, and if you are as impressed as I think you will be, make a donation to Pushcart here.

And there is even more to the Pushcart effort – Bill Henderson operates a bookstore on his property every summer in Maine, where he has also built a cathedral of local stone (profiled in the NY Times!)
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David Wilk talks with Nicolás Kanellos of Arte Publico Press

December 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

nicolaskanellos (1)Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

Over the past several years, I have had a number of conversations with the literary editors and publishers whose work in independent publishing has been influential during the past four, or sometimes even five decades. Independent literary publishing, both magazines and books, has been and continues to be at the forefront of cultural change, enabling independent and outsider writing to be available to readers. One of the most important of these presses is Arte Publico Press, founded by writer and scholar Nicolás Kanellos, housed at the University of Houston for many years now.

As Nicolás says about his founding of the press: “In the early 1970s, it became obvious that Hispanic writers were not being published by mainstream presses. Because there was no outlet for the creative efforts of these Latino writers, their work was condemned to be forgotten, lost or just delivered orally through performance.”

Starting, as so many publishers have done, with a literary magazine, Kanellos founded the Revista Chicana-Riqueña in Gary, Indiana, in 1972. Revisita was a quarterly magazine for Latino literature and cultural arts that subsequently evolved into the well respected Americas Review, which published its final issue, Volume 25, Numbers 1-4, in 1999.

Kanellos then founded Arte Público Press in 1979 to further expand the work of providing a n important forum for Hispanic literature. In 1980, Kanellos was offered a teaching position at the University of Houston, and brought Arte Publico with him, where it has now thrived for 35 years.

Arte Publico has published an incredible range of important Hispanic writers of many different backgrounds since its beginnings nearly four decades ago. And Kanellos and the press have expanded into a range of other important programs, including collecting and archiving lost Latino writings from the colonial era to today through the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project, and more recently a Latino children’s publishing program. The list of authors that Arte Publico has published is truly astonishing, and its impact on writers and readers alike is immeasurable.

It is my great pleasure to speak with my old friend Nicolás Kanellos for Writerscast about his work as editor, publisher and literary impressario. Publisher website here. NBC Latino profile of Kanellos and the press here.

Note to listeners, as with most of the Publishing Talks interviews, this is longer than most podcasts at 49 minutes, but hopefully well worth your time to listen and enjoy.Chicano-Manual-150x250ap-logo2 (1)

David Wilk talks with Jane Friedman

Jane-Friedman-e1447852553552Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

There are two Jane Friedmans in the book business, which has caused no end of confusion for all sorts of people and many occasions (even Google can’t figure this one out).

One Jane Friedman is the well known and iconic publishing executive who is the founder and CEO of Open Road Media, a leading digital book publisher. The “other” Jane Friedman, whose work I have been following for a number of years, is an expert in social media and digital marketing who advises and teaches writers in marketing their work and how to be writers in the current rapidly changing environment, as well as working with publishers and others on a wide variety of subjects and concerns. She continually impresses with her intelligence, acuity, passion for writing, and compassion for writers.

This Jane Friedman worked at Writer’s Digest, where she ultimately became publisher and editorial director, and recently she served as the digital editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she led a digital overhaul of the magazine. She is now teaching digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia and writes a column for Publishers Weekly (I frequently have recommended her smartly written columns). The Great Courses has released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book and she has a book of her own forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press called The Business of Being a Writer (2017).

Given that her thinking, writing and teaching has placed her in position to know a great deal about how things are for writers these days, I thought it would be good to talk to the “other” Jane Friedman for Publishing Talks. Our stimulating conversation follows. What Jane has to say will be valuable and important for writers and publishers alike.

You can follow Jane Friedman at her website, where she offers a myriad of insightful, practical and useful information, advice for free, and also online courses and consulting services at very reasonable rates.

Nice quote from Jane on her site: “The 3 things very important to me: compassion, service, and independence. I avoid environments (or people) lacking these qualities, especially organizations without a strong service component—a strong why—driving their work-play.”How-to-Publish-Your-Book-300x300

David Wilk talks with Carmen Giménez Smith of Noemi Press at Woodland Pattern

November 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks, The Future

Carmen Gimenez Smith visits NPR headquarters in Washington on MondayPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

I recently had the honor of interviewing editor, writer and teacher Carmen Giménez Smith at the renowned Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Carmen is the current editor of the now 50 year old literary magazine, Puerto del Sol, sponsored by New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. She is also the co-publisher and co-founder of the very fine literary publisher, Noemi Press.

Our conversation took place in on Friday, October 16, 2015 at Woodland Pattern in front of an active and interested audience. This live recording will enable listeners to learn a great deal about two dynamic literary organizations. Happy 50th birthday to Puerto del Sol, and congratulations to Carmen and her colleagues at Noemi for building a long lasting press that has been purposely constructed so that it will continue as a dynamic, living organization long into the future.

More about Carmen Giménez Smith here; she is an extraordinary poet, writer and teacher in addition to her work as editor and publisher. Her newest book is called Milk and Filth from the University of Arizona Press. She is a brilliant writer whose writing I have been grateful to discover. She is tough and politically engaged, her heart and soul showing through the words at every moment. I am sure she is a terrific teacher as well.

Length alert: this conversation is about 53 minutes. I hope you can find the time to hear it through to the end.

And special thanks to Chuck, Mike, Karl and Anne at Woodland Pattern for the opportunity to conduct this conversation in their space. It was really fun and I hope to be able to do this kind of thing again.

More about WP in this Writerscast interview with founders Anne Kingsbury and Karl Gartung from earlier this year.DeepCity_coverpuerto50cover-231x300WP Logo

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David Wilk talks with Anne Kingsbury and Karl Gartung about Woodland Pattern

May 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

Woodland Pattern exteriorPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how they believe publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing.  I’ve spoken with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in book publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of book publishing as it unfolds.  This new interview reflects my interest in the history of independent literary publishing, an area in which I have been active for a long time. And this particular conversation reflects some longstanding personal relationships as well.

Woodland Pattern is a nonprofit literary arts center founded by artist Anne Kingsbury and poet Karl Gartung in 1979. It has been an incredible resource for readers and writers during all that time, committed to community and the arts in a way that may be unique in America. I’ve known Anne and Karl since before they started Woodland Pattern, and we have long shared many interests in writers and writing that we admire and are inspired by.

Anne and Karl chose the name for the place from a passage in (the extraordinary) Paul Metcalf’s wonderful and neglected book, Apalache, that describes the woodland culture of native Americans living south of Lake Superior – they had “pottery but not agriculture.” Karl and Anne’s extreme dedication, hard work, and commitment to their founding vision is at the heart of the institution, but of course over nearly 40 years, its work has been furthered by dozens of volunteers and now paid staff, as well as hundreds of writers and artists and of course thousands of supporters in its community.

The center houses a bookstore with over 25,000 independently published literary and arts titles otherwise unavailable in Milwaukee – or anywhere else it would seem. Woodland Pattern has always made inventory decisions for noncommercial reasons. As they say about themselves: “as booksellers and as presenters of art and literature, we want people to know that there is more than what you see at your chain book store, more than you are taught in school, more than what is reviewed in the papers. We hope to act as a catalyst, putting readers together with small press literature.”

Their space now also includes an art gallery where they present a wide range of exhibitions, artist talks, readings, experimental films, concerts and writing workshops for adults and children.

Anne Kingsbury is also an incredible artist whose work can be found in museums, galleries and private collections. She too is an American original. Karl Gartung is a poet who has worked full time as a truck driver (and union leader) for more than 35 years. His commitment to poetry lived in daily life is inspiring.

Woodland Pattern has also been a leader in promoting writers from Wisconsin, most notably, Lorine Niedecker, a Wisconsin native from nearby Fort Atkinson whose work, rooted and grown in that place through years of hard work, is finally being recognized as among the finest poetry of our era.

I am in awe of the work that has been accomplished over the past 35 years by Anne, Karl and everyone else at Woodland Pattern. They have made the acts of curation and presentation of art and literature in many forms into a lifelong effort.  They engender and foster great art and connect living artists to communities of individuals, not as consumers, but as active participants in the work itself. This is brilliant, and should be celebrated for the depth and breadth of the work the organization has supported for so many years.

It was my great pleasure to speak with Anne and Karl about Woodland Pattern and their work and lives while they were visiting New York in spring 2015. As you can tell when you listen, this was a conversation among old friends with much shared history and common interests that I hope will inspire many of you to visit Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee (or at least their website here until you cam get there in person).

Woodland Pattern Book Center is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization.

Here is their inspiring mission statement: “Our goals are to promote a lifetime practice of reading and writing, to provide a forum and resource center for writers/artists in our region, and to increase and diversify the audience for contemporary literature through innovative approaches to multi-arts programming.”

Note on length: 46 minutes!Woodland Pattern interior

LorineGartungAnne Kingsbury

David Wilk talks with editor/writer Richard Marek

April 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

Marek photoPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how they believe publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the ebb and flow of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds. This new interview reflects my interest in the history of independent literary publishing, an area in which I have been active for a long time. And this particular conversation reflects some longstanding personal relationships as well.

Richard Marek’s career in publishing began as an acquiring editor at Macmillan; he went on to World Publishing in 1967, and became Editor-in-Chief at The Dial Press in 1972. He acquired the manuscript of a first novel called The Scarlatti Inheritance by the then unknown author named Robert Ludlum, worked on it with him for over two years, and of course it later became a national bestseller. Marek edited Ludlum’s next eight books, including The Bourne Inheritance. He acquired and edited books by more than 100 writers, including James Baldwin, Mira Rothenberg, John Yount and David Morrell. In 1978, he was given his own imprint (“Richard Marek Publishers”) at G.P. Putnam’s, and moved it to St. Martin’s Press (“St. Martin’s/Marek”) where, among many other books, he acquired Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs and Robert Greysmith’s Zodiac. In 1989, Marek became President and Publisher of E.P. Dutton, where he edited a number of bestselling books.

After Dutton became a subsidiary of Viking/Penguin, Marek moved to Crown as Editor-at-Large and thereafter became an independent editor, evaluating manuscripts, editing and ghostwriting, which he calls “a glorious and rewarding career.”

In the past 10 years, he has edited some 120 books, working for publishers, agents, and unrepresented writers. And he has also become an in-demand ghostwriter. He reports that he enjoys writing mornings and editing during afternoons.

Richard is now the ghostwriter of fourteen books, fiction and nonfiction, among them Trisha Meili‘s I Am the Central Park Jogger (a national bestseller), James Patterson’s Hide and Seek (a national bestseller), Brian Weiss’ Same Soul, Many Bodies, Ilanna Rubenfeld’s The Listening Hand, David Grand’s Emotional Healing at Warp Speed, and David Hackworth’s Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts.

And I am happy to say that I have had the opportunity to publish a lovely novel authored by Richard and his wife, the writer Dalma Heyn. It’s a love story for grown ups called A Godsend.

Dick is an active member of the Independent Editors Group – more about him and that organization here.

For this Publishing Talks series, I thought it would be fun and valuable to talk to Dick about the past, present and future of publishing from his unique perspective. His long and successful experience in commercial and literary publishing as editor, publisher, and now writer, provides him with an amazing depth of knowledge and an unending well of anecdotes and stoies. What he has to say during our conversation in his home will not disappoint. He is a great conversationalist with important things to say about book publishing.

Silence of Lambs

scarlatti inheritance

David Wilk talks with Doug Messerli of Green Integer

Messerli-Douglas_Ch-Bernstein_12-10-06_NYC_72dpi Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these Publishing Talks can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

Douglas Messerli is an old friend in poetry and publishing – I’ve known him since sometime in the late 1970’s. He’s one of the most prolific writers and publishers I know of, with an encyclopedic mind and a scope of interests that is virtually unmatched (and how much he writes and how well…it is hard for me to fathom how he does so much and is so consistently intelligent and perceptive on so many subjects!)

Although his writing is inevitably interwoven with his publishing work, this conversation is mainly focused on Doug’s efforts over the years as an editor and publisher. So we talked about his first publishing projects, Sun & Moon (magazine and books), La-Bas (magazine) and then his more recent work with the highly prolific Green Integer. It’s a wide ranging conversation reflecting Doug’s broad interests in writing, art, and publishing, and his always deeply engaged intellect.

Doug, his partner Howard Fox, and Green Integer are strongly identified with Los Angeles and the literary and art scene there. But the influence of his work extends worldwide. The level and intensity of engagement with readers, writers and artists reflects an intentional process on Messerli’s part – he invites the reader to participate in every aspect of his creative process, both in writing and in presenting the work of innovative writers and artists across a wide range of aesthetics and backgrounds, generations and geography. That’s why, for a long period of time, Messerli ran a public gallery and salon in Los Angeles to reach beyond publishing, and why Green Integer is so thoroughly digital in its publishing model.

His is a decidedly modern, globally engaged effort that is unmatched in contemporary publishing.

Length alert: this interview is almost exactly an hour long. It went by really fast for me, and I hope you find listening to Doug Messerli as interesting as I did.

The Green Integer website is exceptional. Go there now for an incredible array of interesting, complicated and challenging writing with a deeply international and avant garde focus.

A nice bit of Sun & Moon history here at SUNY Buffalo’s archive.

And a wonderful collection of free PDFs of La-Bas here at the incredibly rich Jacket2 website.

I love Doug’s essay on Bob Brown (a poet I first heard of through Jerry Rothenberg) on a website I recommend visiting right away –Hyperallergenic.

And to extend the conversation further, here is an exceptionally interesting interview published on Harriet, the blog of the Poetry Foundation (which recursively enough is entitled: Republished Douglas Messerli Interview on Green Integer Blog).gi_86

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David Wilk talks with Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks

dominique-e1343235975545-150x150Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

Dominique Raccah is the founder and CEO of independent publisher Sourcebooks, based in Naperville, Illinois, which she began in 1987 after an earlier career in advertising. Reflecting Raccah’s background and interests, Sourcebooks has always been strongly oriented toward marketing and promotion, devoting countless hours and dedicating significant resources to research, intelligence and outreach, and to understanding what customers want. This significantly differentiates Sourcebooks from most other independent publishers, so many of whom are more focused on developing content as opposed to what the customer needs or wants.

But Raccah is more than a smart marketer. She is a highly capable business person, an active entrepreneur, and somewhat of a visionary in terms of technology, business structure. She has been  and continues to be willing and able to pivot on her business models and plans much more quickly and readily than most of her peers.

At this stage, after more than a quarter century of successful innovation, she has become a thought leader in the book industry and her presentations about publishing and business structure and opportunities are often models of clarity and deep perception, that are valued by colleagues and competitors alike. In November 2013 she was named FutureBook’s Most Inspiring Digital Publishing Person of 2013.

Indicative of the ways Raccah has embraced technology to drive her business forward, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year she said that digital technology “has been transformative because it allows you to tackle new kinds of problems and create new ways of connecting books and readers.”

In our conversation, which took place in New York City in January, 2015, we covered a wide range of topics, from the history of Sourcebooks, through the present business and publishing landscape that interests and motivates Dominique as she continues to moves her company forward in a highly challenging environment. Much of our conversation focuses on Raccah’s industry leading efforts to work directly with readers to make Sourcebooks’ publishing brands meaningful to readers, and to learn directly what consumers want in their reading experiences. After a concerted effort over the past few years, Sourcebooks is now one of the leaders in the book industry in selling books directly to readers. It was a pleasure speaking with Dominique – who gives a great interview – and I hope this is a conversation that will be both useful and valuable to anyone interested in contemporary publishing.

Sourcebooks features a long list of innovative and successful publishing programs and projects, including Poetry Speaks, The Shakesperience, an interactive iBook that combines audio, video and a glossary to aid understanding of Shakespeare’s plays, and Put Me In The Story, which customizes children’s picture books with the reader’s own name and photos to get kids excited about reading.

Raccah has a master’s degree in quantitative psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle and worked at Leo Burnett’s quantitative research department before starting Sourcebooks in her home in 1987.

Sourcebooks now has 120 employees, eight imprints and publishes more than 350 titles annually, several of which have been national best-sellers in recent years.

Some worthwhile links:

Dominique’s TedX slideshare The Book in Transformation: A Publisher Vision for the Future

Chicago Tribune interview with Dominique Raccah

Mercy Pilkington article Sourcebooks Dominique Raccah Speaks on Driving Innovation

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David Wilk talks with Malcolm Margolin of Heyday Books

January 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

 

Malcolm MargolinI think of Malcolm Margolin and Heyday Books as one of the iconic independent publishers of the modern era. Founded in 1974 in Berkeley, then and now a hotbed of independent publishing, Heyday began because Malcolm had written a book about walking in the East Bay called East Bay Out and wanted to publish and sell it himself as a locally based book. Its somewhat unexpected success led to his work on a book called The Ohlone Way, about native Americans of California, and by then Heyday was on its way to becoming an important cultural node that over its forty years has produced more than 350 titles.

 

The history of Heyday is documented in its newly published The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher. The book, compiled by Heyday editor Kim Bancroft, is a wonderful collection of oral histories told by Margolin, his family, authors, friends, current and former staffers and some of the many Californians that have been involved with the press and its cultural work for so many years.

 

This book is a must read for anyone interested in the history of independent publishing and especially the inspiring Bay Area publishing movement of the last half century. Malcolm is truly one of the great story tellers of our time. Unassuming and irreverent, he is now experienced enough to have become an elder statesman, much loved by all who have worked with him.

 

Heyday is now a well-run and highly respected nonprofit organization. It has produced a significant body of work, and as an ongoing operation, it reflects the values and beliefs of its founder. Heyday, like Malcolm, is committed to the voices of authors, the beauty and power of California as place, and valuing culture as lived by individuals, more important than institutions. And the quality of the work has always been paramount. Every book produced by Heyday displays a high level of care and attention, learned and practiced over many years.

 

Heyday board member and former staffer Patricia Wakida describes the quintessential image of Margolin getting into his 1997 Volvo to drive to California’s high country to hear yet another story around the campfire. “That’s what it’s all about,” she says. “Forty years of listening.”

 

I’m proud to offer this conversation with Malcolm, which gives you the singular opportunity to hear his wonderful voice and persona, to get a sense of why Malcolm and Heyday are so important and meaningful to so many – and what an impact a truly independent publisher can have.

Running time: 47 minutes. Enjoy!
The Heyday of Malcolm MargolinHeyday No Cal

 

Ohlone Way Malcolm Margolin 2

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