Lunchtime Keynotes: Do You Have a Business Book in You?
Elisa Camahort Page, Co-Founder and COO, BlogHer (moderator)
Brooke Carey, Editor, Portfolio, Penguin Group
Laura Perciasepe, Editor and Trade Paperback Coordinator, Riverhead Books/Penguin Group
Virginia Smith Younce, Senior Editor, The Pengiun Press
Brooke: Portfolio is business book imprint at Penguin, including entrepreneurship, leadership, etc. Authors she works with include Guy Kawasaki.
Laura: Her area of focus is big idea narratives, memoirs, fiction. She looks for new voices and ideas.
Virginia: One of the books she worked with is Bringing up Bebe. Interested in thinkers and communicators. Imprint also includes historians, scientists, some fiction and memoirs.
Elisa: From talking with these editors she realized that they are also in sales, to the people who sell books to bookstores. Asks for the process to get a book to print and promote it and how they personally become invested.
Laura: When I find a book book my first thought is, "How am I gonna get people in-house on board with this?" I have to pitch it internally to the different departments who are part of launching a book. Everybody is in sales: we're constantly selling our ideas to our kids, our boss, etc.
Virginia: Keep in mind that your starting place is not necessarily the place that those you pitch to are coming from. You need to be able to look at it from their perspective, put yourself in their shoes, think of your book/idea as a product. Think about the person listening to you: who they are, what they know.
Brooke: Think about selling your book not just to the target reader but also your agent, your editor, your publishing house. Each of those entities is like another person with their own preferences and interests. It's very important to research. Think about what other books would you want to be next to yours on the shelf and find out who publishes them , who's their editor, agent, etc.
Elisa: What can possibly differentiate, say, another book about business?
Brooke: What makes your book different: an original idea, an original concept, a compelling story? The story is really important here. Start with your own story of how you came to it and why.
Laura: Build your platform, connect with your buyers, establish yourself as the expert who should be writing that book. That's a way to differentiate yourself.
Virginia: Find blogs of people writing and join or start a writers' group. "I shouldn't be the first person who's read your book!"
Elisa: What is the value to this audience, most of whom already have a (blog) platform? What does writing a book give us?
Virginia: I have a relationship with my authors' work. I care about it, I am with them every step of the way. You can use a free-lance service to publish your book but you won't have the advantage of an editor who is invested in your book.
Brooke: A lot of what happens in publishing is behind closed doors and isn't visible to authors. It's icky, shouldn't be seen. Editor is passionately fighting for your book. People who become editors do so because they love books.
Laura: We invest in our authors because we want to work with them long-term so they do more books. Also Penguin is a global trusted brand and so there is value to having the Penguin imprint on your book.
Audience Member: As a self-published author who has already been building my platform, why (besides the prestige) would I go for a big publishing house?
Elisa: One author I interviewed answered this question with "Distribution" ... the publisher takes over the grind.
Laura: Sometimes authors come to us who have self-published and when things blow up (in a good way) they realize the publisher can assign 50 people to handle what they've been spending time on themselves: selling their book to wider distribution.
Virginia: We want to partner with authors who bring tremendous energy to their projects. We're inspired by the energy of this event. You have gone the distance and someone should now meet you there.
Audience Member: What role do agents play? Do you need one?
Laura: Yes, agents are great and they will be included in the acknowledgements because they're so great.
Brooke: Even if you already know an editor for your book, the agent can help you get it in front of more editors or negotiate with you. Don't negotiate with a publisher on your own unless you're an expert. Contract may be 15-20 pages long.
Elisa: It's still good to prepare by knowing the terminology.
[Editor's note: The transcript above reflects what the liveblogger heard, to the best of her ability, but is not a verbatim transcript of the session. As such, it may contain abbreviations or paraphrases.]
Blogger: BJ Wishinsky