I first wrote for publication (and pay) as an 11-year old covering the Little League for a local paper (we’re talking 1958 here...) which was the first tangible payoff for having learned to type properly a year or two before. Taking the physical effort out of writing was a key element enabling me to do a lot of it in all the years since. Perhaps I wasn’t born to blog, but I was sure raised to take great advantage of this communication form which has arisen over the past ten years.
I entered the book publishing business a little later, when I was 15 (1962) and, through my father’s connections, got employed for the summer selling books in Brentano’s. With some brief interruptions to get a college education (UCLA 1969) and work on a presidential campaign for two years (McGovern 1971-72), I’ve been working in publishing ever since.
I was sired and mentored by Leonard Shatzkin, who made a career out of changing publishing from executive positions in major houses before he created a distribution company, Two Continents, which employed me in the 1970s and where I learned the fundamentals of the business: calling on accounts, working with dozens of diverse publishers who distributed through us, hiring and training sales reps, getting familiar with the annual US trade show (then called the American Booksellers Association convention and now called BookExpo America) and with the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Being raised and then employed by Len Shatzkin was a way to get a PhD in publishing with a specialty in “change.” Len’s principal interest was the “supply chain,” although we didn’t call it that in those days. My consulting career began in 1979 primarily selling my expertise in distribution. But when the digital transition began, I found my true calling: synthesizing and articulating how the digital capabilities and the Internet changed publishing. At first that change was mostly about how books got found and sold (Amazon); then Ingram started Lightning Source and almost nothing ever went out of print anymore; and then we got ebooks and it became increasingly clear to everybody in the industry that almost nothing we “knew” to be true couldn’t be overruled by changing circumstances very shortly.
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