PUBLISHED MARCH 2017
by Angela Bole, CEO, Independent Book Publishers Association
This month, we pay tribute to Gene Schwartz, a past IBPA board member and treasurer (1990-1994), as well as a dear friend to many of us in the publishing industry. Gene passed away on Jan. 30, 2017. He was 90 years old.
I first met Gene 12 years ago when I worked for the Book Industry Study Group in New York City. At the time, he reported on the publishing industry for several periodicals including Book Business magazine and Foreword Reviews. We spent time together at conferences and cocktail receptions, committee meetings, and advisory boards. He was always clear thinking, supportive, and positive. When I was hired as the executive director of IBPA back in 2013, Gene was one of the first to call with congratulations. He understood that good business is built on community connections—and he kept his connections strong.
Several years ago, Gene moved back to Del Mar, California, a place where he’d spent a great deal of time in his youth. During his first year back, IBPA’s COO Terry Nathan and I met him for lunch in Manhattan Beach. I remember him being as enthusiastic about the independent publishing community as ever. We discussed his work with Consortium House, a publishing consultancy he launched nearly 40 years ago, and his thoughts about the important position indies continue to hold in the overall publishing industry. I left lunch inspired and ready to dig into my work with improved focus.
Gene Schwartz with the founder and publisher of Foreword Reviews, Victoria Sutherland. “He was the reason we started Foreword. And our biggest supporter,” she says.
Good mentors are hard to find. For many of us, Gene was a great one. I hope you will enjoy the following tribute to his life and legacy and thank IBPA’s managing editor, Alexa Schlosser, for preparing it. As always, your personal thoughts are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gene Schwartz: ‘Publishing Maven, Publishing Maverick’
“In publishing, Gene was a Renaissance man,” says Rudy Shur, former IBPA board member and founder of Square One Publishers.
“Starting out in the book production department of Random House, he spent many years overseeing the production departments of many major publishing companies. However, his interest in the book publishing business far exceeded his role in production. He became a board member of PMA, the group that would eventually become IBPA, and began writing articles and columns about the business for many trade journals.”
His latest venture, Worthy Shorts, gave Gene the opportunity to use the skills he’d acquired throughout the years to guide writers and publishers through the business of creating, selling, and marketing books.
“His love of the business was obvious,” Shur says.
A Passion for Publishing
That love of the publishing business shined through in Gene’s endless drive and positivity. Bill Gladstone of Waterside Productions especially admired his friend’s curiosity. “He was still learning right up to his 90s and introducing me to new trends in book publishing,” he says.
“Gene loved books,” says Joel Gordonson, an author and friend of Gene’s. “He shared that love with everyone he met. His life was devoted to producing the printed paper and screens that we love to hold in our hands and read for a richer life. Every time I saw him talk about format, production deadlines, pricing, and all manner of things involved in publishing books, he all but rolled up his sleeves at the exciting prospect of all the facets that would come into play in getting a manuscript to market.”
Gene was simply too excited to retire, and he knew he had too much to share to let it go to waste. “He was the consummate networker,” says former IBPA board member Marcella Smith. “[Gene was] constantly working on behalf of his clients helping them make the connections they would need to advance their work.”
Insightful and Kind
People didn’t come to Gene for advice just because he’d been in the industry for so long; he had a way of thinking about the industry that was especially thoughtful. Plus, he was incredibly kind.
“He was always ready with a smile, a word of advice, and questions that made me think—and re-think,” says Florrie Binford Cooper, former IBPA president and publisher of Patria Press Inc. “Gene covered independent publishing as a journalist from its inception, and his insights and perspectives were invaluable.”
Terri Boekhoff of Rudi Publishing continues: “Was there an aspect of independent publishing that he did not touch? In any endeavor, his quiet, thoughtful demeanor brought objectivity and innovation. Ever mindful of other’s points of view, kindness, and civility, any discussion was better by having his participation.”
On the Cutting Edge
It might be hard to believe that someone who had been around the publishing industry for so long could keep up with—and be eager about—modern trends, but Gene certainly was.
“I recall his enthusiasm for e-books starting as early as 2004,” says former IBPA board member Dan Snow. “This seemed remarkable to me [because of his] age at the time.”
Gladstone agrees: “When he started Worthy Shorts in his late 80s, I was amazed that he was still on the cutting edge of both the book publishing industry and the new internet-based technologies that have and continue to transform book publishing over the last 20 years.”
In addition to technological advances, Gene was also ahead of the curve on the rise of independent publishing. “[He] predicted the indie publishing boom well before the Big Six in NYC caught on,” Snow says.
But not only did he predict it, he was highly supportive of independents.
“He was a real committed advocate of small presses and contributed so much knowledge,” says former IBPA President Don Tubesing.
“He was the first person I shared my idea for Foreword magazine with,” says Victoria Sutherland, founder and publisher of Foreword Reviews. “After grilling me for three hours about our intentions to celebrate indies in a new way, he ended the meeting with a request to join us.”
The publishing world will miss Gene, but his accomplishments and inspiring presence will live on. “He will be with us always through the inspiration he has provided and through our continued dedication to the world of books and knowledge,” Gladstone says.