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Spotlight: Peter Goodman, IBPA Board of Directors

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August 2013

by Linda Carlson



Who’s who on the IBPA board? To introduce you to the people whose names you often see at IBPA events and in its publications, Spotlight continues its brief profiles of board members and officers. This month, we feature Peter Goodman, publisher at Berkeley, CA–based Stone Bridge Press, which has specialized in Japan-related topics since Goodman founded it in 1989, and author of the Board Member’s Memo column in this issue.

Today Stone Bridge Press publishes 150 titles on Japanese language, business, literature, manga, design, and culture, including reference books on pop culture and Japanese characters.

Unlike IBPA members who start out as writers and continue to write part-time because writing is a satisfying aspect of work life, Goodman has spent almost his entire career in publishing. Because he sold Stone Bridge in 2005 to Yohan Book Distribution, continued working there without personal financial responsibilities, and then reacquired the press in 2009, he has an unusually valuable perspective on what is now needed for publishers to prosper.

During the five years Goodman was an employee rather than an owner, the U.S. economy and business environment experienced tremendous change, he reminds us, including the onset of what is now called the “Great Recession.” For his niche, there was another significant challenge by 2009: “Interest in Japan was fast fading in China’s shadow.”

But, says Goodman, now 63, “The biggest change was the rise of social media. I’m more comfortable with it now—as I have to be—but back then it was so foreign and seemed so unappealing to the older demographic that was—is—me.”

For Stone Bridge, which he expects to stay with for years to come, the publisher has two primary goals: to continue to connect directly with readers to form a community, and to pursue works that matter in terms of quality or mission. “This means greatly reining in our subject areas, but also doing much more to reach out and connect with readers,” Goodman says. “The road to survival and good works lies in digital downloads, I’m afraid.”

For publishers in general, Goodman recommends a similar emphasis on outreach and community building to generate interest and desire in an organization’s publications and to inspire loyalty. He cited a speaker who recently said that while people used to go to the books in bookstores, now the books must come to the people, wherever they happen to be. “This has profound implications for everyone, but especially for bookstores,” says Goodman, adding, “I believe they are mired in industry traditions and rigidly betting on everything to go back in time.”

People in publishing must quit thinking of text as fixed on a page or even fixed in content, Goodman says, since “content can now be sliced and diced, crowd-sourced, dynamically updated, and festooned with nontextual media. And while that approach may not lend itself to every work or mode of authorship—I mean, conventional books and novels and treatises aren’t disappearing—or can be uselessly garish or gratuitous, it does go hand in hand with emerging tastes and technologies.”

“Publishers need to learn how to rethink what is content, what is argument, what is exposition,” he continues. “I have trouble seeing myself create in this area, but I have no trouble understanding how important such new-media works can be to our industry and to a new generation of readers.”

For those who want to get into publishing, or are now in entry-level positions, this former English major advises: “Read a lot. Stretch your vocabulary. Learn to write correctly. Become very versatile with digital tools of creation.”

Perhaps even more important: “Don’t be compartmentalized into just one aspect of the industry. Marketers need to know about content and quality and design, and editors need to think about publicity and promotion and how things will look and feel on phones and tablets.”

Advice for authors? Goodman’s got that, too: “Learn how to create community. If you write only to please yourself—and there’s nothing wrong with that—don’t quit your day job. If you want to be a professional writer, become very computer literate, develop a voice, own your territory, and create a readership.”



Speaking of new media, Warwick, RI–based Arundel Publishing marketing director Aimee Henkel shares the blogger review strategy for her company’s new YA adventure, Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29, by Axel Avian.

“Young adult bloggers are an extremely valuable resource when it comes to getting the word out, especially among other bloggers and hard-core readers of young adult fiction,” Henkel reports. “These YA bloggers are passionate, well-read, and extremely serious about their role in finding diamonds among the stones, and supporting their well-beloved authors. In addition to posting reviews about your book on their blog, they also post their reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, LibraryThing, and Shelfari.”

And, says Henkel, “They will post your cover, host Q&As with your authors, sponsor giveaways, and do cover reveals, all for the price of a free book. Now, that’s love!”

But—important point—they won’t do it without adequate notice. So Strategy #1 is “Plan ahead, way ahead.” Strategy #2: “Research and target bloggers.”

Using the YA Book Blog Directory (yabookblogdirectory.blogspot.com/p/ya-book-blogger-list.html), Henkel created a list of blogs that review action/adventure books. Then she checked each site. “Most bloggers post review policies on their home pages, indicating what books they are interested in and how you should contact them,” she notes, advising: “Read those carefully!”

Besides checking policies, the Arundel crew examined each potential blog for review style. Then, Henkel relates, “we emailed more than 100 inquiries, addressing each blogger by name and asking them to review Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29 on or about its release date of May 15. Many said they appreciated the two-month lead time we gave them, and we think that factored into the extremely positive response.”

Henkel also credits the detailed yet concise information in Arundel’s introductory emails for the positive responses, noting that it “included pictures of the author and book cover, a link to the Amazon site and a brief overview of the book.”

To increase the chances of multiple reviews, Henkel and her staff followed up with each of the 31 bloggers who had agreed to review the book, and by the beginning of June, all but two had posted reviews.



Carefully targeted pitches and press releases are also what the London-based Live Consciously publisher Gemini Adams credits for launch publicity for The Facebook Diet: 50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug with a Digital Detox.

The most recent review (at bookdivas.com) says in part, “With hilarious ways to help us unplug with a ‘tech-detox,’ Adams nails it with this book filled with social media humor.” The Facebook Diet was reviewed earlier in such publications as the Huffington Post and the Denver Post; Adams was interviewed on Reuters television; and a feature in the London Book Fair’s Bookseller described her transition from traditionally published author to self-publisher.



Two dozen photographs from Wild Iris Publishing’s Curious Critters by David FitzSimmons have been on display this spring and summer at the Indianapolis Public Library. The photographer/publisher also made presentations at the library on the beetles, squirrels, and other common creatures in his book and on the process of publishing a photo book.



Sourcebooks publisher Dominique Raccah was quoted in a spring New York Times story, “Flash Sales Ignite Interest in Forgotten Book Titles,” about how one-day discounts are creating sales bumps for e-books. “For the consumer, it’s new, it’s interesting. It’s a deal and there isn’t much risk. And it works.” A Shelf Awareness report on BEA cited how she opened a session on the future of electronic reading by asking the panel: “What has been the biggest surprise in book publishing in the last three years?”

Sourcebooks managers and authors received several mentions in recent issues of Publishers Weekly. “Checking Out Romance” quoted Leah Hultenschmidt, an editorial manager, about how titles popular with library patrons often sell well in trade outlets: “Having that credibility with libraries means a lot to us.” The same story quoted Valerie Pierce, marketing manager, about library romance book clubs: “I’ll send the book club several copies of the ARC so that members can read the book before it’s published and send me feedback.”



Scarletta Press’s Determined to Matter, a family memoir of a young daughter’s nine-month struggle with a brain tumor, got coverage from several newspapers and broadcasts, including the Rochester, MN, Post-Bulletin; KTTC-TV, the Rochester NBC affiliate’s 5 p.m. news show; Medical Edge Talk Radio, presented by Radio Mayo Clinic; and Broad Talk on both KROC-AM and Fox 9 Morning News on KMSP-TV, Minneapolis-St. Paul.



New Harbinger, profiled in this issue, was the subject of a feature in PW about its 40th anniversary. Among co-founder Matthew McKay’s comments was the prediction of a hybrid book, “one with a code on the back cover which, when scanned by a smartphone, will take the reader to New Harbinger’s interactive online self-help program.”



Chelsea Green’s The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach got a starred review in a recent PW, which described the book as “a comprehensive, open-ended, theoretical and practical system for a post-carbon-dependent life.”

Chicago Review Press’s Beyond the Solar System: Exploring Galaxies, Black Holes, Alien Planets, and More: A History with 21 Activities was highlighted in the PW children’s book section column Great Explorations. The same publisher’s The Audacity of Hops is featured in a PW podcast, publishersweekly.com/acitelliqa.

Spotlight is compiled by Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com), who welcomes members’ news of notable special sales and licensing deals, significant recent media coups, movie and television options, and other achievements at linda@ibpa-online.org.

Please report on how you accomplished something as well as on what you accomplished so others can benefit from your experience as they applaud your achievements.

Note: We must have URLs for accessing any media coverage you’d like us to mention.

Please submit your news for Spotlight in the text of your email (no attachments) and remember to include:

● Your name and title

● The name of your publishing company as it appears in the IBPA membership directory

● Your email address

● URLs for the archived editions of any media stories you’re telling us about

Since information for this column is needed about eight weeks in advance of an issue’s publication date, news you submit by August 14 can be considered for the October and later issues. News that is time-sensitive should be directed to lisa@ibpa-online.org for consideration for the IBPA e-newsletter, Independent Publishing Now.

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