David Wilk interviews Lee Klancher of Octane Press

September 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

leeklanchersmallPublishing 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. I’ve talked with publishing industry leaders about how publishing has and will continue to evolve and now include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve had conversations with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and present. This series of talks continues to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing.

For the past several years, I’ve been talking to editors and publishers of independent presses about their work. Many of them have been literary publishers. But there are a number of really excellent independent presses that have achieved success in other subject areas. It usually requires being specialized and knowledgeable about a specialized field, and being integral to a specific community of enthusiasts and readers, to find and sustain success.

Octane Press is one such endeavor. This fine publisher focuses on cars, farm machines, motorsports and motorcycles. This may seem a relatively narrow niche of readers, but it is one that works well for this publisher. Founded by photographer, writer and editor Lee Klancher, Octane Press is an excellent example of how to successfully build a print-based publishing business in the modern era. The company has won an array of awards, and has grown steadily since it began. I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to talk to Lee about his work and the story of Octane Press, and I think listeners interested in contemporary publishing will find his story compelling and his experience valuable.

Lee Klancher has been publishing great stories for more than twenty years. As an editor and publisher, he has worked on some of the most-respected and best-selling books in transportation publishing. He is a prolific author and an excellent photographer, and has contributed content to more than 30 books, as well as dozens of national magazines including Men’s Journal, Draft, and Motorcyclist.

Lee has taught writing and photography at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is best-known for his photography of collectible farm tractors that appears in his books and calendars. Lee lives in Austin, Texas, where Octane Press is located. 9781937747152-X2CX6A0645

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

Put Me in the Story site460_345_resize Sourcebooks image

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Glenn Nano

glenn nanoIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been having conversations with both book industry professionals and others with interesting perspectives 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, around and to the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing and culture as our interesting present unfolds into the future.

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.

Glenn Nano is a truly amazing guy I ran across first when he founded Code Meet Print, a “community at the intersection of texts + technology that will contemplate, define, and help build better interfaces for engagement, more relevant curators for discovery, and more useful marketplaces for dissemination of great writing and content to eager readers.”  And at Tools of Change this year in New York, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel called “Beyond Devices: Is The Real Value of eBooks Social Engagement?” on which Glenn appeared, and impressed me with his incisive and original thinking.

Evidently, Glenn is a serial entrepreneur who brings great ideas into being, or spurs them forward.  Aside from CodeMeetPrint, he also created Dictator Goods (you have to visit this site), was a principal at Centurion Venture Partners, and most recently engineered a very interesting start up called AnswerQi (“tech answers from real experts in real-time”, which I think is taking up most of his abundant energy for the moment.

As Glenn wrote in the introduction to Code Meet Print: “Words are finding new modalities, and innovators across disciplines have begun to experiment with how technology might improve their creation, curation, and consumption.”  This sums up very nicely what so many people involved in writing, publishing and reading are trying to understand right now.

I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to talk with Glenn about his views of the current state of publishing, storytelling and writing, and his views about where we are headed.  I think you will find this conversation to be among the most interesting on these now well-worn subjects that you will hear or read.  Glenn thinks about the digital present in a way that I think alot of people whose roots are in traditional publishing simply do not natively understand.  So there is always something for us to learn from what he has to say.

Alert to listeners, we were having alot of fun talking, so this interview runs longer than usual at 46 minutes.                                                                                        global_22005223