The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.
MC: Do you mind being approached by an author directly instead of through an agent?
Ellen Kadin: Not at all.
MC: Do you need to see a whole book or do sample chapters work for you?
EK: Sample chapters work well. I usually like to see the introductory chapter and at least one chapter from the meat of the book. In some cases though, it’s actually better for the author to have completed only sample chapters; if, say, we have a different vision for the structure or contents of the author’s book, and the author ends up publishing with us, it’s better for the author not to have invested all the time and effort it would have taken to complete the manuscript.
MC: What types of business books do you specialize in?
EK: In addition to publishing books on General Business and Entrepreneurship topics, I specialize in Business Self-help; Career; and Marketing.
MC: What are some of your recent successes?
EK: We just came out with the paperback edition of one of my all-time favorite books, Mark Goulston’s JUST LISTEN: Discover the Secret to Getting through to Absolutely Anyone, whose hardcover edition has been one of our best sellers for years. The book recently passed the 100,000-copies-sold mark.
At Frankfurt this past year, one of my books, Data Crush, by Chris Surdak, was one of the two books — out of the 10,000+ reviewed — honored with getAbstract’s 2014 International Book of the Year Award. (Worth noting that in addition to giving the award to both the author and publisher, getAbstract also presents each party with a gargantuan Tobleron candy bar more than two feet across and weighing in at just under 10 pounds. Kudos to our publisher, Nancy Roberson, for getting that unwieldy, heavy sucker back to New York in one piece.).
MC: What book surprised you by how well it did in the marketplace?
EK: While David Newman’s book Do It! Marketing has been selling nicely, now we’re now being approached by a corporation who wants to buy tens of thousands of copies. We didn’t see that coming.
MC: What makes for an ideal working relationship with your authors?
EK: To me, the ideal working relationship is one in which the authors (and people, in general) are rational. When people are rational, everything else falls into place. (On the other hand, when rationality is not an option, I’ll be referencing the techniques in the fantastic new book I’ll be publishing next fall: Dr. Mark Goulston’s TALKING TO CRAZY: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life.).
MC: What are the major trends you see in business books?
EK: • Though the unemployment rate has been dropping, many people are still without jobs, and many of those who do have jobs are, for one reason or another, less satisfied in them than people were years ago. Given that, it’s not surprising that books on entrepreneurship are trending: whether it’s books on starting a full-time business; developing a microbusiness (to pad income or provide a safety net in case the ax falls at work); or making the choice to control your career as an employee by strategically choosing long-term temporary jobs. The trend is evidenced by business schools racing to establish and beef up entrepreneurship departments. And the topic is being addressed for readers of all ages: from entrepreneurially-minded graduates who either can’t find jobs, or who prefer to be on their own — to people late in their careers who have either been laid off or are still employed but so unhappy in their positions that entrepreneurship has increasing appeal.
• With the large generation of Millennials entering the workforce, a new attitude toward work is forcing other trends in business books. Millennials, too young to conceive of companies that once provided employees with a secure future, enter corporate life without the expectation of employer-employee loyalty held by previous generations. With stagnant wages and no clear path in the company to a secure future, Millennials’ low expectations give them the freedom to choose jobs based on which offers the better work environment. So it’s a good time for books that help companies create and sustain a positive corporate culture: one that engages, inspires, and motivates employees.
• Another trend will be management books aimed at employees taking on management positions at a younger age (because as Boomers retire, there aren’t enough employees in the much smaller Generation X to fill the management void) — and having to manage employees who are older.
• These days less and less bookstore shelf space is devoted to business books, and one of the many reasons is that people have begun deriving more of their business education from non-book sources, like free MOOCs.
• Authors self-publishing is a trend that’s affecting business books more than others. Authors who write business books are more likely to be people who consult, give speeches, workshops, and otherwise reach audiences who would be great candidates to buy their books. With many authors weighing the advantages and disadvantages of publishing with a traditional publisher, many authors of business books believe they can sell books to their own audiences, and are more likely than most authors of books that might be bought by traditional publishers, to opt for self-publishing.
• Another trend in business books is the “home run” publishing borne of risk-aversion in tougher economic times. Publishers that can afford to pay the advances to attract celebrity authors are doing so, going for what they assume will be the sure thing, and bothering much less with mid-list books by authors who are less well known. (For an employee of a smaller publisher that specializes in business books — like myself — this isn’t bad news.)
• Still another trend in business books is publishers leveraging their book content in all manner of ways and channels digitally. I’m sure you could fill an entire newsletter with material on that topic alone.
MC: What’s your favorite place for a publishing lunch? Favorite dish?
EK: People have time for lunch? I don’t think I have a “favorite” place for publishing lunches in this neighborhood (Times Square) as much as I have a few “go-to” places, based on their proximity, nice interiors, and consistent delivery of perhaps above-average food. But my true favorite lunch place in the neighborhood is an Argentinian/Italian restaurant called Sosa Borella, located on 8th Avenue just off 50th Street. The food is reliably tasty (and if they let you sit upstairs, the atmosphere isn’t that bad) — and as soon as they deliver the slices of tender focaccia served with deliciously herbed olive oil for dipping, it makes me nostalgic for the days before I read Wheat Belly and Grain Brain and knew it was healthier to give up things like bread. Prior to this unfortunate dietary revelation, my favorite item on the menu was the grilled spicy chicken burger, with smoked mozzarella and basil mayo on a sesame seed bun. (Post-grains, I still sometimes order it and just use the bun for a delivery mechanism.)
Ellen Kadin is Executive Editor at AMACOM books, a nonfiction publisher that specializes in business books. She was coauthor of the entrepreneurship book It’s Your Biz.