Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Brian O’Leary about The Opportunity in Abundance

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I talk to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us better understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing, books and reading culture, and how we can ourselves both understand and influence the future of books and reading.

Brian O’Leary’s Magellan Media provides research, benchmarking and business planning services that help smaller and medium-sized publishers manage and grow their top- and bottom-line results.  Magazine, book and association publishers often engage Magellan to improve their content workflows across platforms and uses.

Brian frequently is called on to make industry presentations and he blogs regularly about critical matters in publishing (both for books and magazines).  I follow his work closely.  One of the pieces he published in October, 2011, called the Opportunity in Abundance, spurred me to talk to him once again for Publishing Talks.  Today we live in an age of content abundance.  Most publishers realize this as it affects them on a daily basis.

Brian has laid out an analysis of content abundance that I think will enable publishers to make sense of this new reality, and how to work successfully within it.  His understanding of digital content should help publishers create their own contextual framework for thinking about how to do business in a radically new environment. It’s a great piece to read (as are his related essays), and this interview should help amplify and explain further some of his ideas.   Of course, we did not always stick to the subject at hand, but were able to cover a wide range of related ideas that I hope will be interesting and useful to anyone interested in the current state of the publishing business.

Here is the specific link to his essay The Opportunity in Abundance.   Brian is a terrific writer – he’s always able to be clear, insightful and understandable.   I recommend reading through the archives at Magellan Media.  And I also interviewed him in 2009, when we talked about piracy, another issue he has written about with great incisiveness.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Mike Shatzkin

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Mike Shatzkin, is the founder and operator of a well known book industry consulting business called The Idea Logical Company.  He’s also a blogger extraordinaire who writes incisively about issues in the book industry at The Shatzkin Files and who is never afraid to make public predictions about the future of books and the book business he knows so well, having essentially grown up in the business from an early age.  He is an organizer of conferences, and a frequent speaker at publishing industry gatherings large and small.

The description of Idea Logical on its website sums up Mike’s role pretty succinctly: “The Idea Logical Company consults to book publishers and their trading partners about the changes engendered by digital transformation to every component of the value chain.”  Mike has spent thirty years addressing all sorts of issues and problems for publishing and retailing clients of all sizes.  In recent years, his work has focused on the changes created for the publishing industry by a variety of new and emerging digital technologies.  He was an early advocate of digital publishing, and also established the concept of “verticality” or subject specific publishing as a way to organize publishing around digital technologies.

Beyond his interest and expertise in publishing, Mike is also a writer and an active entrepreneur.  In this interview, we did not discuss any of his baseball related writing, editing, publishing and website development – if we had, it’s likely we would have used up all our time talking about our mutually shared passion, a subject in which Mike has also had an entire career simultaneously with his consulting work and constant thinking and analysis about books, publishers, readers and the business that serves them.

In my opinion, Mike talks just as clearly and intelligently, if not more so, than he writes, which given his writing talents, is saying alot.  We certainly had a lot of fun in this conversation, which I think will be useful and interesting to anyone interested in the future of books and reading.  As Mike says in his latest blog post: “Sometimes, and it would seem quite often these days, the future comes faster than you expected it.”

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Deborah Emin

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses. How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

I learned about Deborah Emin from an article about Sullivan Street Press and her “throwback” program called the Itinerant Book Show.  Deborah and colleagues (they call themselves “bookies”) travel to towns in the midwest as far as Iowa bringing books they select to events in art galleries, bars, coffee shops and the like.  Because they are featuring only books they have read and liked, it’s pretty easy to understand how they are connecting successfully with audiences.  And as she points out on the Sullivan Street website,  the real key is what Deborah as a publisher and writer can learn about audiences.  Face to face, one to one.  It’s invaluable intelligence for anyone concerned with understanding how a literary community works.

All of this resonates for me.  Her story reminded me of work some of us were doing more than thirty years ago, bringing books by new authors and publishers to booksellers and audiences around the country.  In the late 1970’s what was then called the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines (still going strong and known as CLMP) sponsored a number of grassroots efforts to bring independently published poets and writers into bookstores, which involved personal visits to bookstores, libraries, schools and even bars to sell books.

There were programs in North Dakota (where a budding young writer named Louise Erdrich interned), Rochester, NY, Minneapolis-St. Paul (where I was) and other locales, all sharing a commitment to connecting innovative new writers to new audiences, sometimes, one person at a time. Many then young publishers still publishing today, were introduced to their audiences through those early efforts.

So is everything old new again?  I think the spirit of independent publishing continues.  Writers find their readers, and readers their books one at a time, after all.  The magic of literary discovery still requires the kind of personal effort that Deborah Emin and the Itinerant Book Show put forth.  Which is also the kind of personal connection forged by booksellers with their customers.  Whether the books are printed by hand on custom paper using handpresses, or created digitally using HTML or ePub, learning about a book you will love is ultimately about a deep connection between the writer, and the reader, with one or more intermediaries making the hand off.

Sullivan Street Press consists of Deborah Emin, an editor and writer, Ron Lebow, a computer technologist, a business development professional and also a writer.  It’s a pretty interesting and obviously fertile group of minds and talents.  The work they are doing is challenging and rewarding, and offers valuable lessons for publishers of any size and ambition.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews David Steinberger

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses. How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

David Steinberger is well known now as the CEO and President of The Perseus Books Group.  Perseus is in many ways, a creation of the unusual business conditions that have marked the book industry over the past dozen years.  The company began as a relatively small independent book publisher, growing over time via acquisitions of usually unwanted or under appreciated business units of other companies.  Today it is made up of about 10 seperate imprints. Its six main publishing divisions include PublicAffairs (non-fiction), Running Press (fiction and non-fiction titles), Basic Books (non-fiction), Da Capo (non-fiction), Vanguard (fiction and non-fiction), and Avalon Travel (travel guides). Perseus also publishes academic books, including college textbooks from Westview Press.

In addition to publishing, Perseus acquired Client Distribution Services (renamed Perseus Distribution), Consortium (specializing in mostly independent literary and political presses) and most of the assets of Publishers Group West (PGW) in daring and innovative bankruptcy purchase, so that today it is by far the largest distributor of client publishers in the North American market.   With Steinberger as CEO and Joe Mangan as COO (and aided by strong financing from its parent company), Perseus has crafted what appears to be a very successful strategy for navigating changeful times, including an early and deep commitment to digital publishing, a diverse set of publishing imprints, a decentralized management system based around a set of core services shared by internal resources as well as clients, and a willingness to experiment with new ideas (including Vanguard’s no-advance, high royalty publishing program as well as a variety of interesting digital initiatives).

In my conversation with David Steinberger, I wanted to learn more about how he sees Perseus today, as well as a sense of his vision for the future, not only of Perseus itself, but the publishing industry as a whole.  I think listeners interested in the future of publishing and book distribution will find this discussion useful and interesting on a number of levels.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Dan Halpern

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses. How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

In May, 2010, Dan Halpern was honored by the Poetry Society of America along with the Academy of American Poets and NYU’s Creative Writing Program on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Ecco Press (the publishing imprint of which he is the founder).  Aside from being well-known as a successful publisher of quality literature, Dan is himself a poet, writer and editor of a number of important anthologies.  Along with his mentor, Paul Bowles, he founded the literary magazine Antaeus (out of which Ecco originally was born).   He is currently the editorial director of Ecco Press, which is now an imprint of HarperCollins. He has received many grants and awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

While I do not know Dan well, we have some friends in common and shared experiences as editors of literary magazines and a deep interest in poetry.  I wanted to talk to him for the Publishing Talks series, as he has been able to maintain his deep commitment to publishing important literary work, continuing to write and edit himself, within a commercial context during a period of massive change in the publishing business.  I think his perspective on books and writing, past, present, and future, is a valuable one, and instructive for many of us in the book business whose expectations are being severely challenged by the state of the current book marketplace.  Dan’s commitment and dedication to writing, ideas, art and culture inform his outlook on the past, present and future of publishing and books.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Jason Allen Ashlock

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks, The Future

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses. How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

I first read about the new literary agency, Movable Type Literary Group established by Jason Ashlock and his partner Meredith Dawson a few months ago.  I’ve wondered for awhile now about the role of agents in the changing landscape of book publishing, and evidently so have Jason and Meredith.  Along with an NEA based graph on their home page “Books are not dead,” they have composed the following statement of purpose and occasion:

“We have arrived, as Harold Bloom might say, belatedly.

The scene is established, the paradigms rigid, the machine stubborn and aging. Now more than half a millennium removed from the prima typographicae incunabula, “the first infancy of printing,” a chorus now announces the swift and coming death of the published word and the end of book history. But crisis and opportunity are concurrent, and the instability of one paradigm leads to the creation of another. We work in publishing at a moment of both belatedness and birth, when the trend of all future events is being determined. We aim, with many of our friends and colleagues, to confront the crisis of the moment and from the upheaval to design and shape a future.”

When I ran across Jason at a publishing event in Manhattan, we arranged to talk.  I wanted to hear in his own words what this new agency will be all about.  I think alot of what he says here will resonate for listeners of this podcast.  Certainly, it makes sense for the role of the agent to be transformed, and to help lead the transformation of relationships between author, publisher and audience that is emerging now.  It looks like Movable Type has an opportunity to create a new model for its own clients, and by example, for others as well.  Maybe because, like many others looking at an established industry with new eyes, Jason Ashlock has an opportunity to create a new paradigm.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Don Linn

March 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Ebooks and Digital Publishing, PublishingTalks

don_headshot_biggerIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals, each of whom has a different perspective about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.
Publishing has been a crucial part of human culture for as long as people have been writing and reading.

How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds. Publishing Talks interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk about ideas and concerns in a public forum that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.

I believe that these interviews give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts that are currently being discussed within the industry.

I’ve know Don Linn for a number of years, dating back to when he took over the then beleaguered Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, the very excellent but financially challenged distributor of independent literary publishers based in St. Paul, Minnesota.  At that point Don took on the very tough job of running a stand-alone book distribution business at a time of great flux in the book business, and did a very fine job of it, by all accounts, finally selling Consortium to the much larger Perseus Books, where it and its many outstanding publisher clients have found safe haven.  Don later went on to be publisher at Taunton Books in Newtown, Connecticut, and now has joined the ranks of the independent publishing professional.  He’s blogging too, his Mississippi roots showing, at Bait ‘n’ Beer which is both entertaining and edifying.

Here’s his current bio: “Don has a sordid past as an investment banker, cotton and catfish farmer, book distributor, publisher, entrepreneur and general ne’er-do-well. He’s a graduate of Harvard Business School and Vanderbilt University and is endlessly fascinated by books and publishing and their collision with technology. Among other things.”

Don’s intelligence and wit are on display in our talk.  His business background and love of books, publishing and the people in the business provide him with a really interesting perspective, and it’s clear he has been thinking hard about the book business and where it is going.  He wrote a terrific report on the recent O’Reilly Tools of Change that attracted my attention, and led to this conversation about where publishing is headed in the emerging digital distribution environment.  I think his views and opinions will be valuable to publishers of all sizes.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Morgan Entrekin

February 26, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks

entrekinIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I am talking to book industry professionals who have varying perspectives and thoughts about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.
Publishing has been a crucial part of human culture for as long as people have been writing and reading.
How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds. Publishing Talks interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk about ideas and concerns in a public forum that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.

I hope that Publishing Talks interviews will give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear about some of the thoughts, ideas and concepts that are currently being discussed by engaged individuals within the industry.

Morgan Entrekin is the iconic publisher of Grove Atlantic, one of the most prominent and successful midsized literary publishers of the past couple of decades.  He has all the chops of a “traditional” book publisher: a great commitment to authors and their texts, a belief in the enduring power of a great backlist. But he is also an astute marketer who understands readers and the necessity for publishers to pay attention to what readers want and need.

Entrekin grew up in Nashville, graduated from Stanford in 1977,  started in the business at Delacorte Press, working under the late, great Seymour Lawrence and editing the likes of Jayne Anne Phillips, Richard Brautigan, and Kurt Vonnegut. In 1982 he moved over to Simon & Schuster, where he made his name by championing, acquiring and editing Bret Easton Ellis’s breakout novel Less Than Zero.  In 1984 he created his own imprint within Atlantic Monthly Press, Morgan Entrekin Books and a few years later he bought Atlantic outright; two years after that, he purchased Grove Press, which featured one of the great backlists that included D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and Samuel Beckett.

Entrekin’s gained well deserved fame and credit for publishing Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain in 1995. In the course of promoting the novel, Entrekin is credited with more or less creating the pre-publication tour, sending Frazier to meet book buyers in various cities before the book landed in stores. It paid off: Cold Mountain was a huge success, sold over 1.5 million copies, won the National Book Award, and was made into a big-budget Hollywood movie. Other notable Grove/Atlantic titles include Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down, Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City, as well as the works of Sherman Alexie and P.J. O’Rourke.

We had a terrific talk, covering a wide range of interesting topics, from the current state of the book business, to the kinds of things that Entrekin is doing at Grove/Atlantic to stay current.  Morgan is thoughtful, intelligent and incisive on every topic he discusses; he cares deeply about the books he publishes, backlist and frontlist titles alike, and is clearly still motivated and excited by the same beliefs and ideas that brought him into the book business in the first place.   Anyone interested in understanding how a publisher can navigate the changing landscape of the business will benefit from listening to what he has to say in this interview.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Susan Danziger of DailyLit

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks

danziger1In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I am talking to book industry professionals who have varying perspectives and thoughts about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  Publishing has been a crucial part of human culture for as long as people have been writing and reading.  How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds. Publishing Talks interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk about ideas and concerns in a public forum that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.  This series of talks will give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear about some of the thoughts, ideas and concepts that are currently being discussed by engaged individuals within the industry.

I was able to interview Susan Danziger, the dynamic founder of DailyLit whose slogan is “minutes a day of great reading in your inbox,” just a couple of days after she announced that DailyLit has gone from a combination of pay and free services to all free all the time.  So we had alot to talk about.  I have been a big fan of DailyLit since it began – a deceptively simple idea that as Susan and her team has proved is a platform for many cool services for readers and publishers.  Susan talked to me about DailyLit, what the future holds both for her company and the publishing business and much more.  She also talked about her latest project, the Publishing Point, another cool venture (The point where publishing meets the future…) that is attracting attention and members.  And as if she does not have enough to do, she blogs too at both DailyLit’s blog and also her personal writing at susandanziger.com, and twitters here.  Her bio includes six years at Random House, a BA from Cornell, and a JD from NYU.

Listen in to one of the emerging leaders in the publishing world…..

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Kassia Kroszer of Booksquare

November 26, 2009 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks

kassia_krozser-2In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I am talking to book industry professionals who have varying perspectives and thoughts about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  Publishing has been a crucial part of human culture for as long as people have been writing and reading.  How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds. Publishing Talks interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk about ideas and concerns in a public forum that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.  This series of talks will give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear about some of the thoughts, ideas and concepts that are currently being discussed by engaged individuals within the industry.

I have wanted to talk to Kassia Krozser for a long time.  I’ve read her insightful and opinionated blogging and posting for quite a while, and like her approach to the book business – hard questions borne from a love of books, writing and the publishing business itself.  Her primary vehicle is booksquare.com, which as she has told me “dissects this world with love and skepticism.”

Her “about” section on Booksquare is well worth a read – you will get to know Kassia and her approach very quickly.  Here’s a quick quote:
In addition to ensuring that you get your regular dose of BS, Kassia is a founding partner of Medialoper, where she applies her natural love and skepticism to the ever-changing world of entertainment media. The daughter of a librarian, she finds dissecting and discussing books is like breathing — her insightful reviews appear at Paperback Reader. She’s a member of the LitBlog Co-op and a columnist for Romancing the Blog. She’s also published in a variety of other venues, and has, shockingly, received awards and accolades for her work. But she rarely mentions this as it seems like bragging.

In this interview Kassia and I covered alot of ground.  She was just back from her first attendance at the major international book fair in Frankfurt, Germany.  We talked about technology, comparing how it applies in developing nations versus the West, issues of elitism and access, cultural definitions, and the future of the book business, as well as the impending Google Book Settlement and e-book pricing strategies in this lively interview.