Transcript: A New Brand Of Book News

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Interview with Lynn Rosen, editorial director, Publishing Business Group

For podcast release Monday, March 18, 2013

KENNEALLY: On the minds of many publishers today is the challenge of branding. Many an observer has noted the light touch of branding in the book business, where few readers ever ask for the latest book by Random House or HarperCollins. At F+W Media, by contrast, president Sara Domville stresses branding within communities of content and readership. In a recent interview, she told a reporter that successful branding starts with content, and content starts with editors.

Those words and principles surely fell on fertile ground, as the reporter is an editor herself, whose own publishing entity has just concluded a rebranding effort. Lynn Rosen, editorial director for the Publishing Business Group, joins me now from Philadelphia. Lynn, welcome to Beyond the Book.

ROSEN: Thanks, Chris. It’s great to be here.

KENNEALLY: We’re happy you could join us. We’ll tell people briefly about your background and what you’re doing there. As the editorial director for the Publishing Business Group at the North American Publishing Company, Lynn Rosen oversees publication of two trade industry magazines, Book Business and Publishing Executive, as well as a daily e-newsletter, Publishing Business Today.

The same group, Publishing Business Group, also runs workshops, webinars, and events, including the annual Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York. And if you want to save the date, the next one comes up on September 23rd to the 25th in 2013.

Before joining the Publishing Business Group last May, Lynn was director of graduate publishing programs at Rosemont College. For eight years, she ran the independent literary agency Leap First, and she’s worked as an editor at many houses, including Ballantine Books and Running Press.

Lynn has an honors degree BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a master of arts in English and comparative literature from Columbia University. Quite the background, Lynn, and I’m particularly pleased you wanted me to make sure to mention your accomplishments in the academic world. Because it’s the book business, but it’s really still about books and the love of literature, isn’t it?

ROSEN: It is, and I am fortunate to say that I have always loved my work, because the people who work in this industry are passionate about literature. What better way to spend your day?

KENNEALLY: Absolutely. And I know I’ve seen you around at several of the conferences, and you really enjoy writing up your accounts of what you see and what you hear. I mentioned in particular that recent interview with Sara Domville, because it struck me that it was apropos our own conversation. You want to tell our listeners about some new positioning for the publications you work with, Book Business and Publishing Executive, and what that really means moving forward. So tell us briefly, where are you with the new branding for the Publishing Business Group?

ROSEN: I think we’re in a really interesting position right now. I started with the company about nine months ago, and we have a number of, I’ll say, products in the publishing industry, as you mentioned – the two magazines, the newsletter, the conference, and so forth. Really strong pieces, but I felt that we weren’t really cohering together as a group.

I have always felt that publishers have done a sort of lackluster job of branding themselves, and now we’ve reached a time when it’s really important for them to think about how to do that, as you noted, as we wrote about in our last cover story of Book Business. And I thought we needed to do some branding right here, so we created a sort of umbrella entity that we are calling the Publishing Business Group that pulls all the pieces together and lets us move forward in a more coherent way.

KENNEALLY: Right. And you know, branding is a word often used, and I don’t know how well understood. I have my own definition for branding. I think of branding as a commitment between a company and a customer, whatever that might be. I don’t know if you agree with that, if you’ve got a different sense of what branding means. What does branding mean in the context of the Publishing Business Group there at NAPCO?

ROSEN: Well, I think that the way you put it, Chris, is a great way to put it. It’s a matter of understanding who our customer is – in this case, our reader or our conference attendee – and the commitment that we make is in our understanding of what they’re looking for us to provide and in continuing to provide that. We are committed to providing high-quality content. We’re committed to a readership who is made up of publishing executives to provide strategic business analysis, to keep them on the edge of the latest trends, and at our conferences, to provide really meaty content that helps them move their businesses forward.

KENNEALLY: Sara Domville mentioned about branding begins with content and content begins with editors. I imagine you would agree with that statement. Can you tell us about the kinds of content people can expect to see coming from future issues of Book Business and Publishing Executive? You’ve got positioning for each of those. Tell us about them.

ROSEN: A big part of the content that we cover inevitably has to be tied in to e-books and electronic publishing. That’s one of the biggest things that people are really struggling with, grappling with, some more successfully than others. So we want to stay on top of technological developments. If you don’t really understand what HTML5 is and how it works, we’re the ones who are going to tell you how it works. We’re going to talk to you about responsive design, EPUB 3 – lots of terms that may sound unclear, and we’re hopefully going to get you to understand what they are and how they could work for you.

We’re interested in bringing in all kinds of different publishing. Our readers come from trade, from education professional, STM, association, university press, so we want to make sure we’re providing that’s relevant to all of those groups. We’re also starting a new regional spotlight. We’re doing a city spotlight in our next issue on Chicago. Last issue, we looked at San Francisco. We’re in Philadelphia, as you mentioned, and we’re very proud of our location, and I think that’s a part of what happens is this sort of regional connection and what comes out of different pockets of publishing around the country. So we’re really trying to approach content strategically like that.

When I spoke with Sara Domville, she had very interesting things to say about content. Since I’ve been an editor for all of my career, I’m focused on the editor sort of being the entry point for content into the organization that’s going to produce that content. But there’s a lot of thought now about how content gets out there, because we have these different containers – or as Sara talked about, buckets.

So you bring the content in, but it’s not necessarily coming out in the form it used to, which might have been a printed book. It’s going to go into one or another bucket, and so you have to take a completely different approach to your strategy and your workflow, and that sort of thing. Those are some of the things we’re looking at, writing about, talking about around here.

KENNEALLY: And you’ve got some original content that’s new to the site. There’s the Pub Buzz section for Publishing Business Today, and you’re also going to be doing a special daily e-newsletter for BookExpo America. Those are the kinds of things you’re talking about there.

ROSEN: Absolutely. We are basically three in-house reporters here, and we are trying to do the work of more people and be as many places as we can, and we will be on the floor at BookExpo and doing video interviews as part of our newsletter, which is another new and exciting thing for us. We have, as you mentioned, the Pub Buzz section, where we try to cover all kinds of new things, and I am always interested in having people write to me and pitch ideas for stories for the Pub Buzz section.

KENNEALLY: Among the other new things that will be noticeable on the site will be the use of augmented reality at Publishing Executive. You’ve got to tell me what that’s going to look like. Give us a preview.

ROSEN: It’s really cool, Chris. I get a great reaction. We are working at the moment with a company called Layar, a Dutch company that’s really used very prevalently in Europe, and they’re just starting to come over to the United States. What we can do right now with augmented reality is you download the Layar app on your smartphone and you scan the cover of Publishing Executive, and all kinds of fun things will pop up, including a link to subscribe, a link to our Twitter feed, and a nice little video that my kids made of me.

KENNEALLY: We’ll have to look for that. We are chatting right now with Lynn Rosen, who is editorial director for the Publishing Business Group at the North American Publishing Company in Philadelphia, NAPCO, which I understand is now in its 55th year. I suppose a great deal has happened in the half-century. You’ve been there for just a year now yourself. I wonder what surprised you most when you came inside to the company that you just weren’t aware of when you were on the outside as an agent, as an editor, and working at Rosemont College?

ROSEN: Well, I have learned an awful lot about the business side of the business. As I mentioned, growing up in the industry as an editor, and you mentioned my academic background, I started my career with a bit of an ivory tower mentality, that we are publishing books because books can change the world. And I still believe that, but now I am neck-deep in all this incredible new technology that’s out there, and it’s so exciting. I thought I knew about e-publishing before I started here, but I didn’t know nothing. (laughter)

KENNEALLY: I think you share that with a lot of people. I think that’s the real exciting and challenging part of the moment we live in. Everything is new. It’s open fields for everyone in the business, whether you’ve just joined straight of college or you’ve been working in publishing for a generation. There really is an opportunity to rewrite the rules for the business.

ROSEN: Yes. For some people, that’s exciting, and for some people, that’s scary.

KENNEALLY: And as a reporter, you get to convey to us both the fear and the excitement. It’s been a pleasure chatting with Lynn Rosen, who is editorial director for the Publishing Business Group at North American Publishing Company. Lynn, thanks so much for joining us on Beyond the Book.

ROSEN: Chris, it’s been great to talk to you. Thank you.

KENNEALLY: Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials, including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines, and blogs, as well as images, movies, and television shows. Follow us on Twitter, find us on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes, or at the Copyright Clearance Center website, copyright.com. Just click on Beyond the Book.

Our engineer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to Beyond the Book.