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Cover Blurb:  “Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society BookSweet but never boring.  Intense but never overdone.  Inspiring but never preaching.  Loving but never raunchy.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a rare novel, one that comes into our life without a sound, but leaves having made an imprint on our soul.

Such an odd, cumbersome title, and one that may have never appealed to me personally except Random House professionals, Susan Kamil, SVP, Editor-in-Chief, and Jane Von Mehren, VP, Publisher, Trade Paperbacks, came to my NYU SPI class to share their experience and the road to success.  This title is globally recognized as this book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List since publication in 2008 (read the inside story of how it achieved such fame in my column on Beneath the Cover, “The Making of a Bestseller”).  Small in stature (the trade paperback a mere 274 pages), this book may initially be cast-off as a whimsical historical fiction novel until you try to put it down… I dare you to leave it untouched for a full 24-hours once you’ve begun.

The characters are lively, quirky, and lovable as they communicate via hand-written letters in 1946, as they rediscover themselves and their world post the trauma and impact of World War II.  You find yourself wanting novelist Juliet Ashton as your own pen pal and quiet Dawsey Adams as a neighbor.  Twists and turns are discrete and natural so that you almost don’t realize when a revelation occurs and the impact in the character’s life.

This novel celebrates people who love books and the written word.  Text, language and history are embraced within remarkable friendships.

Though the era has passed, issues of love, hope, and the kindness of the human spirit will always be timeless and this book (I wager) is destined to become a classic alongside the titles of the authors celebrated in the text, including the Brontes, Austen, Shakespeare, etc… This book  appeals to a wide audience, as it is told from multiple perspectives allowing a glimpse into different psyches.  I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote, above, to give yourself the gift of this book.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A
  • Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Publisher: Random House
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Brian Murray, President and CEO, HarperCollins

Though he may not be as recognizable as Brad Pitt, George Clooney or A-Rod, I think he’s more deserving of his fame.  Is he famous, or is that only my skewed, publishing-obsessed view?

Now off to class to see other amazing speakers, hope this teaser holds you over until I can get back and give you a review of Murray’s “What’s A Book: The Digital Transformation of Publishing” speech!

“I am not a Media Person” -Chris Anderson

chris andersonAfter hearing Chris Anderson speak this morning, I have to heartily disagree with his own statement, above.  Before becoming entrenched in the media world, Anderson was an active physicist (not sure exactly what this is, but know smart and scientific) when he was approached by Conde Nast.  Hard to believe he had never heard of this huge media conglomerate, but knowing my own Robotics/Aerospace/Mechanical “enginerding” family I’m not totally shocked.  Through his rise to the best-sellers list and award-winning EIC of Wired magazine, Anderson has maintained his scientific background through his robotics company, GeekDad.com and the technology apparent in his magazine.

In his hour and a half speech, I had to scribble to try to write down even half the things I wanted to remember.  Including, but not limited to, these enticing little tidbits:

  • We live in a messy world, and it’s only getting messier.
  • Atoms increase in worth; bits decrease (digital moving to free)
  • We need to make the most of the Old World while exploring the New World.
  • No business in their right mind would go to a 100% paid online model.
  • You can only make money off scarcity. Time, experience, food, land is scarce; digital content is not.

Chris Anderson free BookAnderson was generous enough to give us a copy of his book that’s not released until July 7 (quite a thrill in holding a book not available in public!), which is titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Radically, the digital version and full length audio book are free, though the premium content of abridged audio and hardcover title come with a price tag.  

Though Anderson came to speak about his magazine work, I was enthralled by his book publishing knowledge.  He shared interesting insights, from not wanting to receive royalty checks (since that means the advance wasn’t high enough), to making money from speaking as opposed to the selling of his books, to how once the coherency was decided for his book he can’t even remember the actual words pouring forth.

 

Wired - in print

Wired - in print

Another note-worthy comment made by Anderson is his openness to a digital Wired.  In fact, he made the bold statement of “If the Kindle is [made in magazine form] I will stop killing trees immediately.”  I asked about the digital magazines available today, through Zinio and the like, and Anderson explained he doesn’t think people want to read a magazine on a computer or need the physical pages, but need it to be mobile.  So my next question is: Who will be first with the mobile mag reader? There have been rumors about Conde Nast, or will Amazon lead the pack yet again?

 

Anderson is highly optimistic in his views.  Believing in the monetization emotionally – writing etc. for fulfilling reasons vs. financial, as well as future brand extensions, he in no way sees the death of publishing (an obvious sigh of relief).

And it was Digital.  And Amazing.  And Beautiful.  In a Space-Agey, Totally Green Way.

I’m really not a Monday person, especially when I only have access to one round of coffee.  So I was somewhat a disenchanted with with the concept of sitting in a rather uncomfortable chair (sorry NYU) for eight hours with few breaks when I went to class this morning.  Until my mind was boggled with presentations and a glimpse into the future as seen by:

  • Steve Malley, Senior Deputy Editor, ESPN magazine
  • Robert (Bo) Sacks, Owner, The Precision Media Group
  • Jeanniey Mullen, CMO/EVP, Zinio
Pay-caption found on ESPN Magazine's site

Pay-caption found on ESPN Magazine's site

Malley presented first, and had a hard time containing his evident excitement as he shifted his weight and gestured wildly with his hands behind the podium.  He is the first Editor of the many we’ve heard speak who has put their digital content behind a pay-based wall: Yes, that means the content found on ESPN.com is no longer free (which is too bad, I really wanted to read the story about Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush).  Malley compared the current changed in the media industry right now to when Gutenberg invented movable type – so people, get ready for revolution.

Bo Sacks is impressive, having held what seems like every title available in the publishing industry (Twitter @bosacks).  Some of you may be impressed with his status as the Founding Father of the High Times magazine, but today he spoke from his position as President of the Precision Media Group.

It’s more important to know how to search for a fact than know a fact. -Bo Sacks

Sacks is omnipresent in ways, dividing the media as “BD” or “AD” – Before Digital and After Digital.  He showed mind boggling technology amid humorously photoshopped pictures (there were quite a few laughs of Einstein with an iPod, etc.).  The technology shown is light in weight, small in stature but is without a doubt changing the publishing industry: e-paper.

e-paper

e-paper

This foldable, bendable, light weight piece of space-age technology will in the future be a pocketable book, but for now ables the Kindle and Sony E-reader.  It is expected to have a virtual keyboard – as in it somehow reflects a keyboard onto a surface that somehow tracks your actions (crazy I know, I really can’t explain the concept, it’s akin to magic to me).

Crazy e-paper aside, Sacks says that while he doesn’t believe magazines should not be printed, he does think the physical editions will become more expensive and only account for 25% of the market within ten years.  Without a doubt, he believes competition to be redefined; digital publications to become stronger and more reliable; and the digital publishing realm to continue its advancements.  Senior management beware: put your palpable fear aside, Sacks thinks my generation is the smartest.

Who reading this had “paged through” a digital magazine? I’ve had very little experience with the medium and have always thought of magazines to be much more of an experience – glossy pages, perfume samples, vivid ads… That is, until Jeanniey Mullen of Zinio presented her site.

Jeanniey Mullen

Jeanniey Mullen

As EVP/CMO, Mullen is in the ideal role at Zinio.  In an arena with plenty of room for growth, (unlike the cell phone industry which is almost at full saturation) she is at the forefront of a fast-emerging media – the digital magazine.  With printer and distribution costs on the upswing and weak advertising revenue, many magazines are struggling (some even closing, like Domino and Nickolodean Kids) at this time.

Not only are digital magazines more economically friendly (ie green, so automatically trendy), but they offer more opportunities for interaction both with the content and advertisements.  Mullen pulled up the Zinio-published women’s magazine Viv, and I was astounded at the potential.  Not only is the reader able to actually change the model’s clothes in a photograph, but the advertising content is able to be interacted with as well.  The ads change content within a brand, and even link through to individual websites where the featured product can be purchased.  Dior took the advertising a step further and embedded their TV spot with a corresponding print ad, along with a link to purchase directly.  Unlike traditional advertising, specific metrics are available!!!!!!

What’s shocking is that the digital magazine advertising is still considered in line with print – not a different, more expensive business model.  I see potential to change to a CPM business model as the digital magazine industry continues to grow, with potential for different advertisers to buy identical content that changes once a minimum number of impressions has occurred (does that make sense other than in my head?).   Now Zinio is a company for which advertising sales would prove fascinating.

Another really cool aspect the digital magazine realm offers: the ability to save interesting content!  I am one of those people who tears pages out of things I like – from fashion to recipes to editorial.  But, not being organized I don’t have a filing system other than “storing” the torn out pages in random locations, never findable when needed.  Being able to save content to my computer is totally different, and a concept I will embrace and keep organized!  Also, magazines are searchable, so you can skip directly to the content you want.

I already followed Mullen on Twitter (@empg) and was pleased to see she had tweeted during her time at NYU, which made me an even bigger fan.  I’ve already acted on her advice to try out http://www.goreadgreen.com and signed up a a FREE one-year subscription of Viv!  Go online and choose your subscription today, and take a look at Zinio.com for the latest and greatest digital magazines.  My new plan to fulfill my promise to get Dad an Esquire subscription is to do it through the digital medium; 12 digital issues only $7.99!

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