Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Jan Weissmiller

April 8, 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.
I believe 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 being discussed within the industry.

Jan Weissmiller recently achieved her fifteen minutes of fame when President Barack Obama visited her store – and the picture of her selling him a book went viral very quickly.  But Prairie Lights Bookstore has more going for it than simply being the backdrop for the first  citizen’s book buying habit writ large.  It’s been a fixture in the strongly literary community of Iowa City since Jim Harris started the store there in the late ’70s.

As times have changed, so has the store, and today Prairie Lights has an active web presence in addition to its longstanding role as “the” local bookstore in one of the great small towns of middle America.  I’ve been to the store many times over the years, and deeply admire the vision and care demonstrated first by Jim and Jan, when she was the first employee of the store, and now by Jan and her current wonderful staff of book devotees.  Many towns no longer have the opportunity to experience the depth of knowledge that a great bookstore can provide.  What Jan and Prairie Lights show us about bookselling is important – people use technology to make life easier, but people need other people to make life meaningful.

In case you missed it, here is the link to the NY Times story about Prairie Lights. And here’s the now famous photo.

Jan Weissmiller was the first employee of Prairie Lights, beginning in 1979, and is now its co-owner.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Peter Broderick

April 1, 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.

I believe 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 being discussed within the industry.

Peter Broderick comes from an independent film background and has a perspective that I think is terrifically useful and important. Peter is President of Paradigm Consulting, which helps filmmakers and media companies develop strategies to maximize distribution, audience, and revenues.  His work now is completely focused on working with film-makers to utilize new tools in marketing and distribution, and his ideas are very much in concert with my own thoughts about publishing.  I strongly recommend reading his article “Maximizing Distribution” and his reports, “Welcome to the New World of Distribution” and “Declaration of Independence;” as concise and spot on as they are for film, they will be useful to anyone thinking about media distribution today and in the future.

I believe there should be more cross-discipline conversations like this one.

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 Richard Curtis

February 11, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks

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In 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.

Richard Curtis, president of Richard Curtis Associates, Inc., is a leading New York literary agent and a well-known author advocate.  He is also the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including several books about the publishing industry. His interest in emerging media and technology has enabled him to help authors anticipate trends in publishing and multimedia.  He has lectured extensively and conducted panels and seminars devoted to raising consciousness in the author and agent community about the future of communications.  He was the first president of the Independent Literary Agents Association and subsequently president of ILAA’s successor organization, the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR)  He blogs regularly on www.ereads.com.  He is also, uniquely among literary agents, a publisher himself, having founded the innovative digital publishing imprint, E-Reads almost ten years ago.

I have known Richard for a very long time, have done business with him, and collaborated with him on an experimental publishing project a few years ago,  But mostly, over the years, Richard and I have talked about the book business, the future of publishing and of authors, and particularly, the future of digital publishing.  So it made a lot of sense for me to talk to Richard as part of the Publishing Talks series, as I knew he would have a great deal of interesting and compelling ideas to share about these subjects, which he almost always does.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Brian O’Leary

December 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Children's Authors, PublishingTalks

brian-olearyIn 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.

Brian O’Leary is a publishing industry consultant with broad and intelligent experience in books and magazines and who operates Magellan Media Partners.  Brian is a thinker and researcher whose writing about publishing I have always found interesting and solidly grounded in data and its intelligent analysis and application.  As he says, he tries to help publishers work faster, better and smarter.  His (shortened) bio: In addition to his consulting assignments, O’Leary is the author of a research report on the impact of free content and digital piracy on paid book sales, as well as the editor and primary contributor for a study of the use of XML in book publishing.  Both reports were published by O’Reilly Media in 2009.  Brian was a senior executive at Hammond, and prior to that spent a dozen years working for Time, Inc.  He earned an A.B. in chemistry from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

In this interview Brian and I talked in depth about his very interesting work in analyzing the impact of piracy on books sales, the lack of real data in the book business, and his compelling views about the future of publishing in a digital environment.

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