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

Shama Hyder Kabani: The Zen of Social Media Marketing

May 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

978-1936661633 – Ben Bella Books – $16.95 – paperback (ebook versions are available)

If you’re involved in any business or any form of communication arts or entertainment, you already know that social media has rapidly become the buzz term of the new century.  Increasing numbers of people all over the world spend hours a day online in some level of engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr and now Pinterest.   That the book I am talking about here, The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue, is an updated 2012 edition of a book first published less than two years ago, indicates how dynamic and fast changing online social media have become.

Over the last four or five years, I have voraciously read or skimmed any number of books that cover either specific social media platforms, or more broadly on social media marketing and strategies for businesses and professionals.  Quite a few of them were very good and taught me valuable lessons.  None, however, was as penetrating and inspiring as this book.  Author Kabani deeply understands how social media marketing is so different from traditional marketing – and requires a very different approach from anyone attempting to “use” social media for their business or profession.  Zen is the right term.

Shama Kabani started her own marketing business, The Marketing Zen Group, right out of graduate school, and built it into a successful operation, learning as she went.  Her company used social media to attract clients; she practices what she preaches.  In the book, Shama lays out her  basic principles, contrasting the conversational and participatory approach of social media marketing to the megaphone approach of traditional product marketing that worked in the one way world of broadcast and publishing media for so many years.  Her core structure is compelling and simple: ACT: Attract followers, Convert them to consumer or customer, Transform your successes into magnetic attraction.

Throughout the book, Shama features anecdotes, guest experts in a wide range of subjects providing useful advice, and a steady stream of really powerful tools and behaviors that will help anyone from beginner to expert become a better social media participant and therefore a marketer.  For many businesses, becoming adept at working in social media has been the magic that has helped them succeed and thrive in a challenging and constantly changing environment.  I do believe that if you only have time to read one book on social media, this is the one to have.  So many of your customers (and potential customers) are so deeply involved with social media, you cannot afford to ignore them.

Talking to Shama was great fun, highly rewarding for me, and I think this interview will be useful and extremely valuable to all.  Writers and publishers in particular will find this conversation of particular value.  You can reach Shama directly in a variety of ways:

Email: shama@marketingzen.com; Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn; Google+ 

Please post comments and any ideas and suggestions this discussion engenders.

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.

Douglas Rushkoff: Program or be Programmed

January 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

978-1935928157 – Paperback – OR Books – $16.00 (ebook edition $10.00)

with terrific original illustrations by Leland Purvis.

I think this book, Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age by digital critic and thinker Douglas Rushkoff, should be required reading for anyone interested in modern culture, politics or economics.  It’s a short book, densely argued, that requires careful reading and attention to its ideas.  Which probably makes it daunting to many in this era of fragmented ideas and short subjects.  But it’s divided into ten clear sections (note “commands” as in programming inputs, rather than “commandments” as in biblical instructions) and is well worth the effort a reader must put into reading it.

I spent more time with this short book than with many much longer books I have read recently.  And I am very happy I did.  As Howard Rheingold says “Thinking twice about our use of digital media, what our practices are doing to us, and what we are doing to each other, is one of the most important priorities people have today.”  It’s impossible not to agree.  And Rushkoff understands the complexity of behavior and thinking that the always-on, always-connected internet has brought to modern culture.

It’s not about whether the internet is good or bad, or whether online culture somehow supplants a more preferable offline one.  As the publisher says about this book, “the real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” writes Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.”

Having the opportunity to talk about these ideas with Rushkoff was tremendously exciting and invigorating.  He’s a really smart guy whose clarity of thought I admire alot.  I’ve spent alot of time participating in, reading about and analyzing new media and modern culture myself, and I know I have learned alot from Douglas Rushkoff’s books and ideas.  I think Program or be Programmed is one of the most important books I have read in a long time.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Allee Willis

December 28, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks, Technology, The Future

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 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 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.

Allee Willis is one of my all-time favorite people.  She is best known as a spectacular and hugely successful songwriter; her songs for Earth, Wind and Fire and the Pointer Sisters were giant hits, she wrote the theme song for “Friends,” the music for the Oprah Winfrey produced Broadway musical production of “The Color Purple, collaborated with the web sensation Pomplamoose (Jungle Music), and as of the date of this posting, her song “I’m Here” was sung by Jennifer Hudson for Oprah Winfrey’s Kennedy Center Honor Award.  But all of this musical success notwithstanding, as she herself says, Allee is “a one-woman creative think-tank. A multi-disciplinary artist and visionary thinker whose range of imagination and productivity knows no bounds, her success exuberantly defies categorization-‘unique’ pales as a descriptor.”  You have to visit her website to begin to get an idea of what a creative powerhouse she is.  Her Allee Willis Museum of Kitsch is not to be missed.  She’s constantly creating, integrating music, art, video, multi-media technology and lifestyle via a series of work which she co-composes, sings, plays, produces, draws, animates, directs, designs web worlds for and stars in. The first release, “Allee Willis Presents Bubbles & Cheesecake “It’s A Woman Thang”-part of a 6-song collaboration with singer-songwriter Holly Palmer (aka Cheesecake) was selected as Official Honoree in the 2008 Webby Awards, and won three 2008 W3 Awards. Her second video, “Allee Willis Presents Bubbles & Cheesecake “Editing Is Cool” was also ‘featured’ on YouTube. At one point, Willis’ 2009 video “Hey Jerrie,” co-starring 91-year-old female drummer on an oxygen tank Jerrie Thill, was the 12th most popular video in the world on YouTube.

I wanted to talk to Allee mainly because she has been working with the internet in her work almost since the ‘web went public – as she points out, the ‘web itself is her medium.  She is the ultimate social being, her work itself is social art, her medium is her life.  Anyone working in an artistic discipline today can learn from what she knows and how she conducts herself as an artist.  I loved talking to Allee about her work and what she knows – which is a tremendous amount.  And now I am addicted to her website too.  Writers and publishers, please pay attention to what she has to say: art is social! books are bait!