David Wilk interviews Peter Costanzo of Associated Press

 

costanzo-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 wanted to talk with people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is so influenced by technology, within the larger context of a change across human civilization.

This series has expanded 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.

Back in 2011 I spoke with my friend Peter Costanzo, who even then was one of the most experienced and knowledgeable digital thinkers in the book industry. Five years later, as digital publishing has evolved and to some extent stabilized, I thought it would be useful to speak to him again to benefit from his perspective as an active participant in this aspect of our industry.

Peter is now the Digital & Archival Publishing Manager for The Associated Press. He is an award-winning book producer who also teaches the “New Media Technology: Formats and Devices” course at NYU.

Peter is also now known for being the person who taught Donald J. Trump (yes that guy) how to use Twitter! This story was widely reported earlier this year, gaining Peter considerable attention and perhaps, notoriety. Here is what the AP said in its story:

Costanzo crossed paths with Trump in 2009 when he was working as online marketing director for the publisher putting out the businessman’s book, “Think Like a Champion.” Twitter was still in its infancy at the time. But Costanzo saw the 140-character-per-message platform as a new tool that the real estate mogul could use to boost sales and reach a broader audience.

He was given seven minutes to make his pitch to Trump — “Not five minutes, not 10,” Constanzo said — in a boardroom at Trump Tower in Manhattan that appeared to be the same one used on Trump’s reality television show.

Trump liked what he heard.

“I said, ‘Let’s call you @RealDonaldTrump — you’re the real Donald Trump,'” Costanzo said. “He thought about it for a minute and said, ‘I like it. Let’s do it.'”

Our talk for this occasion focused on much more serious and meaningful matters, however.

You can follow Peter on Twitter @PeterCostanzo and Writerscast @writerscast.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Eugene Schwartz

Gene Schwartz PhotoIn 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.

Gene Schwartz has been an active participant in the publishing business for many years.  I first knew him as the ubiquitous representative of the magazine Foreword, covering every possible book and technology event for the benefit of independent publishers.  He still works as editor at large of Foreword Reviews.   He is an industry observer, an occasional blogger and columnist for Book Business magazine,  a member of its editorial advisory board and its Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board. He heads his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House, and is currently engaged in new business development projects for Waterside Productions, He is also notably co-founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., an innovative online private press and publication service for professionals , publishers and associations

In an earlier career, he was in the printing business, directed production at Random House and CRM Books/Psychology Today and was director of production and operations for Prentice-Hall/Goodyear. He is a former PMA (IBPA) board member and founder of the San Diego Publishers Group.

Schwartz has a civil engineering degree from CCNY and completed graduate course work in public administration at NYU, so like many of us in the publishing business, he came to this business from a very different background.

I thought it would be valuable to talk to Gene about publishing, past, present, and future, since he has been involved in so many different aspects of the business over such a long period of time.  He is consistently perceptive about the way technology and change can be harnessed by publishers and others in the book business, and has a terrifically tuned critical sensibility that he can bring to bear on any subject.  We had a great talk and covered a wide range of subjects in this interview.ws100_detail_cover

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Andrea Fleck-Nisbet

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.

I have met and talked to a wide range of people involved in publishing and books over the past few years and I’ve interviewed quite a few of them for this series of podcasts.  I noticed recently that I have not done very many interviews lately with people who are involved in creating digital reading experiences (also known as “ebooks”).  Andrea Fleck-Nisbet, the Director of Digital Publishing at Workman Publishing wrote a piece for American Libraries Magazine called “A Publisher’s Perspective on Ebooks” that caught my eye.   In this article, she wrote cogently about e-publishing as seen from the perspective of a leading trade publisher, so I thought that talking to Andrea for this series of Publishing Talks interviews would be fun and interesting.

Andrea has been at Workman for nine years and has worked on their digital initiatives since 2007.  Workman is well known in the book industry for its innovative books and deep commitment to marketing and understanding what readers want.

We had a great talk about where things are today in e-publishing, and how we can expect it to evolve over the next few years.  As Andrea’s American Libraries article was headlined: “the digital revolution has transformed every aspect of the publishing business.”  Many of us know this to be true in theory, but not everyone can speak to all the myriad elements of publishing that are involved in making over an entire business.  Andrea’s practical experience in digital publishing inform her perspective and make her well worth listening to.

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 John Sundman

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.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing John Sundman for only a brief period of time, but value my emerging friendship with him greatly.  He’s been a writer in a variety of forms, and a visionary thinker about many things I am interested in.  He’s been a self publisher for quite some time, and I thought his experience doing his own publishing would be a good starting point for a conversation about where publishing appears to be going.  Here’s his bio (from his Smashwords page):

John Sundman is a freelance technical writer, essayist, novelist, self-publisher, volunteer firefighter, food pantry co-director, former Peace Corps Volunteer, husband, father, and advocate for people with disabilities who resides on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, very near to Massachusetts, USA. He has spent more than 20 of the last 30 years somehow connected to the Silicon Valley/Boston high-tech/computer industry. He also has experience as a farmer, student of agricultural economics, and worker in rural African agricultural development. His books are more subtle than they appear.

John blogs with a number of other free thinking visionaries at Wetmachine (“we write about, mostly, the nexus of technology, science and social policy in the USA. We also write about software praxis, technoparanoia, the craft of writing, self-publishing, politics, and random bullshit. Sundman and Gray, in particular, are leaders in the “random bullshit” category.”)

John’s books are quite good and well worth reading (here’s a review of his first book, Acts of the Apostles, that more or less set him on a successful path of self-publishing, an early web story, which serves as precursor for so many other stories of discovery).  I could have interviewed him about one of his books, but I thought talking to him about publishing would give us a chance to talk more broadly.  Do take a look at his books (widely available in online retail stores).  And he’s finally doing a book with a publisher other than himself, an overhauled and rewritten Acts of the Apostles with the esteemed Underland Press.

John and I had a great talk.  I’ll be interested to hear from listeners what you think of some of his ideas.

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Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Miral Sattar about BiblioCrunch

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.

Miral Sattar is a young serial entrepreneur with roots in the publishing business.  She is the Founder of Divanee.com and Weddings.Divanee.com and has worked in the media industry for 10 years.   Ms. Sattar is a contributor for Time, teaches entrepreneurial journalism sessions at CUNY, and has contributed to Metro and Jane Magazine. She graduated from Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and recently earned an M.S. in Digital + Print Media.

In many ways Miral represents the future of the book business.  She’s had innovative and smart ideas for new products and new uses of digital technology to create new ways for readers and writers to interact.  Failing to gain any traction for her ideas within traditional publishing institutions, she set out on her own to build what she believes writers and readers want and need, a new and different publishing/reading platform called BiblioCrunch.   There’s alot to be interested in here if you are looking for ways that online publishing can be made simple.

From the BiblioCrunch.com website:

What is BiblioCrunch.com?
BiblioCrunch.com is a platform that empowers writers and publishers to create and market their own manuscripts, completed works, digital books and bookazines. Through our platform anyone – bloggers, authors, aspiring writers, students, writers, journalists, publishers – can share their stories.

•    You can create all your great books online through our easy interface in any format any eReader!
•    Once you’ve written all the chapters for your book you can either post it for FREE or start SELLING.
•    You can start SHARING your book via social media so others can download your book.
•    VOTE your book to the top by sharing it with all your friends.
•    Need to hire an EDITOR or DESIGNER? Why not connect with someone in the MEMBERS community to help edit your book and design an awesome cover.

Why use BiblioCrunch.com?
•    BiblioCrunch is the place for you to write, read, and distribute your favorite books in just a few steps.
•    Create virtual bookshelves, discover new books, connect with friends and learn more about your favorite books – all for free.
•    On BiblioCrunch.com you can connect with writers, publishers, readers, editors, copyeditors, and designers to create the best books.
•    We’re also cheaper than other services that take 30% of each book sold.

How can I share my books?
•    Each book has it’s own public download page that you can share on Twitter and Facebook.

Building tools that make it easy for people to publish their work and for readers to read it is really a publishing function.  As with many other sites, the idea here is that readers can decide for themselves what they want to read.  It will be interesting to see if, as some traditionally minded digerati have suggested, that the editorial or curatorial role will be needed, perhaps more than ever, but if so, my guess is that it will develop in different ways, based on the different understanding of the editorial function that today’s writers and readers have developed.

I wanted to talk to Miral about BiblioCrunch because I am always interested in new ideas and constructs, and also because I think the story she tells about the genesis and plans for this site will be instructive and valuable to others in the book universe.  And hopefully, her ideas might generate some additional thinking about how platforms, innovation and audiences for reading will develop in the near future. Creating a new publishing platform is no small feat, but the real challenge will be to attract readers and writers in significant numbers.  I’m hoping this site will succeed through innovation and creativity, as a healthy publishing ecosystem requires a wide variety of niches, large and small.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Peter Costanzo

In this ongoing 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 believe that 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 and broadly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.  These conversations 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 active participants in the book business.

I’ve known Peter Costanzo for a number of years (and have worked with him on a few projects) – I have always been impressed with his intelligence and his insightful understanding of online media and digital publishing.  Peter is now the Director of Digital Content for F+W Media where he is in charge of a diverse and creative set of digital initiatives.  Since he is now directing content and production for a publisher that has made a deep commitment to digital publishing, I wanted to talk to him in depth about ebooks, apps and online marketing, from his perspective as a producer as well as a consumer and keen observer of the digital publishing scene.

Peter has been involved in online bookselling for longer than most people in our industry.  He began selling autographed books online in 1996.  By 1998 he became the Online Retail Marketing Manager for HarperCollins.  He then worked at Random House as Online Marketing Manager for the Audiobooks division, and in 2001 became Director of Online Merchandising for Steve Brill’s Contentville, one of the first online retailers to sell e-books. After that he became the Director of Online Marketing for Perseus Books for several years, before moving to F + W Media.   He also teaches the “Introduction to Interactive Media” course at NYU.  You can follow Peter on Twitter @PeterCostanzo and read his personal blog BookCurrents.

Peter has a lot of important things to say in this discussion that anyone interested in digital publishing will find useful and compelling.

Slowing Down for the Summer

July 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Pipeline

I have been posting two podcasts a week for the better part of the last year, which has been great fun.  But with the summer in full swing, weather wonderful and plenty of work in the hopper, it looks like I may be posting slightly less frequently for the next couple of months.  I’m not reading fewer books, but scheduling interviews seems to be more difficult in the summer too.  And publishers and technologists take vacations!   I do have some really good interviews coming along soon: Anna Lappe, Nick Mamatas, Dean Bakopoulos among other writers, and Kate Wilson of the great new kids publisher Nosy Crow for Publishing Talks.  And there will be more.

I’ve also started a new website I hope you will visit – it’s called New Book Media (newbookmedia.com) featuring a long list of digital book events around the world, and a steady stream of news and information about the wildly expanding world of digital publishing.  Livewriters.com now has more than 2500 book and author related videos, and is still the only website focused exclusively on video about books, along with an entertaining and original literary blog called LiveWires.

If you’ve read a great book lately I want to know about it.  Direct message your recommendations to @writerscast.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Frank Rose

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.

Frank Rose is a journalist and author, most recently of a book called The Art of Immersion, How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories.  I could easily have interviewed him about that book, which is interesting enough in its own right (and later this year I plan to talk to him about it for WritersCast).

But for this conversation, I wanted to talk to Frank about how writers are adapting to the changes wrought in publishing by the advent of digital books.

Frank has recently reprinted another one of his books, one that has been out of print for a number of years; it fits the profile of a fine book from the recent past that cannot be published or re-published commercially anymore.  That book is called West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer.  It’s about the power struggle at Apple that ended up with Steve Jobs being pushed out of the company he had helped found. West of Eden was originally published in 1989 at which time it was a national best-seller and was rated as one of the ten best business books of the year by BusinessWeek.

In 2009, Frank published an updated version of the book himself for Amazon’s Kindle, as well as a digitally printed paperback edition under his own press name (Stuyvesant Street Press) and the book has been doing quite decently.  One assumes that there are a fairly large number of people today who are interested in and knowledgeable about the history of modern computing and the computer industry.  Enough for an author, if not for a commercial publisher to make a reasonable profit from publishing this book digitally.

Currently Frank writes for Wired, where he has been a contributing editor for almost ten years.  Before this assignment, he was a contributing writer at Fortune, writing about Hollywood and global media conglomerates, he’s also been at Esquire, Premiere and Travel + Leisure, and has written for the New York Times Magazine among many other magazines.  And he began his writing career at the Village Voice covering the emerging punk scene in Lower Manhattan in the ’70s.

Chances are good that Frank Rose’s experience as an author turned publisher will be reflective of a myriad of similar authors in the next few years.  And perhaps will indicate some interesting opportunities for other segments within the publishing ecosystem. I think this conversation will be interesting to many in the book business who are thinking about how roles are changing in publishing, especially as digital publishing creates so many new opportunities for easy distribution to readers.

More on Frank Rose here.  More on West of Eden at Amazon.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Matt Bell

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.

Dzanc Books is an amazing collaboration of a number of relatively young writers, editors and literary activists.  Founded only a few years ago (2006), it has now brought under its very broad umbrella, a large number of really interesting literary groups and activities, taking advantage of its nonprofit status to raise money for its work.  Here’s a brief description of all the projects they are involved with now (taken from the Dzanc website):

•    Publishes innovative and award-winning literary fiction, including short story collections and novels.
•    Supports several editorially-independent imprints and literary journals, including Black Lawrence Press, OV Books, Keyhole Press, Starcherone, Monkeybicycle, and Absinthe: New European Writing
•    Publishes The Collagist, a monthly online literary journal launched in August 2009
•    Recognizes the best stories, poems, and non-fiction published online each year through the Best of the Web anthology series, now in its third year
•    Provides low-cost writing instruction to beginning and emerging writers by connecting them with accomplished writers through the innovative Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions
•    Funds the Dzanc Writers-in-Residence Program, which places published authors in public schools to teach creative writing to elementary and secondary students
•    Conducts the yearly Dzanc Prize, which recognizes a single writer for both literary excellence and community service, as well as an annual short story collection competition
•    Offers the Disquiet International Literary Program, a writing conference held in Lisbon, Portugal
•    Creates internship opportunities for students looking to gain valuable experience in independent publishing

Dzanc has been on my radar for a while, and I subscribed to their really interesting e-book club, which is not only a cool idea for an independent press to undertake, but is also a great way for readers to easily find some new writers to read and enjoy.  This particular project represents some great new thinking about ways that digital technology can create new opportunities for publishers to interact with readers.  But Dzanc’s nonprofit model, and ability to foster new projects across a broad range of literary activities, and to almost amoeba-like, absorb new energy and ideas into its structure is a powerful organizational model that may offer hopeful lessons for literary writing across the country.  Another corollary may be McSweeney’s, which has a similar umbrella approach to innovative and energetic literary projects.

I talked to Matt Bell, who is not only Editor for Dzanc Books, The Collagist and of Dzanc’s Best of the Web anthology series, but is himself a very interesting writer, author of How They Were Found, and three chapbooks and a number of magazines and anthologies. His book reviews and critical essays have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, American Book Review, and The Quarterly Conversation.  We discussed the plethora of Dzanc activities, their overall business model, and in particular their digital publishing program, all of which I think is valuable for anyone thinking about how publishing and writing are evolving into a new and vibrant future.

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