Thoughts on books, publicity, and the media from our Cave Henricks staff.

Five Quick Questions with Publishing’s Top Leaders: Susan Williams, Executive Editor, Jossey-Bass

In our weekly blog, we’ve been checking in with industry leaders from all facets of the business – editorial to marketing to sales, to find out how the shift to digital platforms, the weakened economy, and the diminishing number of brick and mortar stores is affecting how they do their jobs.

This week, we spoke with Susan Williams, Executive Editor at Jossey-Bass, an imprint of John Wiley and Sons.  At Jossey-Bass, Williams has cultivated long term and valued author relationships with authors Patrick Lencioni, Bill George, Ram Charan, Charlene Li and many others. She works closely with leadership guru Warren Bennis on his own series of books – and she personally edited his memoir that published Fall 2010.  Williams is a fierce believer in her authors and their messages – and she knows what it takes to make a bestseller inside and out.

 Q: Change seems to be the most frequently uttered word in publishing these days, with so many watching and wondering what the rise in readers of digital content will do to the future of the book.  What do you think?

A: Our goal is to provide the most important, cutting edge content – in the past the “book” has been the key vehicle – but the “book” is just one format…I think the market has a lot of great options now in how they want the material…we will see the role of the actual printed book shift…what percentage of business readers buy one, the other or both is yet to be fully determined.

Q: Is Jossey-Bass changing its publishing plans for each title to accommodate those reading on the digital ices? 

A: We changed awhile BACK – our books are available in all major e reader formats – our goal is provide the reader with whatever option they want.

Q: What does the ebook do to the economics of releasing a new book?   With the price of the digital book averaging around $10, it is almost like releasing a hardcover book SIMULTANEOUS with a paperback copy of a book isn’t it?

A:  The ebook is changing the economics of the book – is the growth opening up a newer market? (folks that would not have been as likely to get the printed book?) or taking from it? Hard to say.  All I know is that my volume in reading has gone up since owning an ereader. So, maybe WE will be selling more at a lower price.  At this point, it’s unclear.  I do know that all publishers are going to have to look at this and adjust their business models.

Q: What should authors expect from their publishers as the shift to digital formats continues to shake out?

A:  In my view the publisher role is still one where we are adding value at every step of the process – we are looking to help make the content the most relevant for the audience – no matter what format that may be – book, e book, enhanced ebook, app, short serialized book, webinar etc. and then we are looking to get it out to the largest possible audience whatever route that needs to be. We have the deep experience – based on working with tens of authors a year to see what works, to build communities with authors and learn from THEM. We expect authors to know their core audience – and we can help them amplify it.

Q:  What would publishers like to see from their authors in this highly charged, fast-changing publishing environment?  What can they do to support the process and sell books?

A:  Authors need to obviously be the key content experts in their areas, THEY also need to understand they are their own biggest advocate – they need to build their core newsletter lists, nail down clients who are willing to buy their books and to the best of their ability concretize those sales, build their speaking (if appropriate), and toot their own horn. They are the chief marketer of their book for the long term. Having worked in publishing for nearly 20 years I can tell you that has always been what counts – the vehicles may change (social media) – and now it is both easier to toot your own horn – as well as more important, because there is a lot of noise out there.