The following Q&A appeared in the the latest edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To subscribe for future editions, click here.
MEDIA CONNECT: What business topics currently interest you the most?
Sally Haldorson: I believe what makes all of the curated content on our In the Books site unique to us, including our Jack Covert Selects reviews and Staff Picks, is that our entire staff simply loves books. So we offer a perspective mix of business book expertise, quality service, and a love of literary fiction and non-fiction that informs which books we think all readers will respond to. Work is a central part of most people’s lives, so we believe the best business books appeal to the general population because they talk about the humans in the center of all things business — and I find the genre really exciting for that reason. This all means our company tends to gravitate toward social science, leadership, productivity, organizational design and change, and cultural analysis in our favorite titles.
MC: What’s the most common mistake publicists make when approaching you?
SH: While we are a business content provider, we are also a retailer, so we always hope publicists and editors make that connection for themselves. While we choose to review plenty of books that we don’t sell a ton of and won’t make our Bestseller List simply because we love writing about them, we also need to get pitched those books whose authors are avid speakers or have a large platform, so we can help them with the sales and logistics side as well. It’s something that is very helpful to us and to authors, but many publicists miss because they’re just looking at the promotional side.
MC: Do you like receiving galleys? Do you prefer physical or e-versions of a book?
SH: We absolutely prefer receiving physical copies. Our sales and editorial staff has stacks and stacks of books on their desks, and seeing the book visually can help keep it front of mind; an email or eBook just doesn’t do that: the black print on white paper all looks the same and there isn’t much to visually or viscerally sustain our attention when the books arrive some three months ahead of their publish date.
MC: What is your policy on running byline articles or guest blogs?
SH: We are actually in the process of changing the focus of our Thinker in Residence series to include an author article for the first installment in that series (it has until this point been a review from us). But, in general, we prefer to write original material, or feature articles or blogs tucked within an analytical piece one of our staff members write. However, we do have New Releases and Excerpts sections on In the Books content site for publisher-provided copy, and of course, we curate the ChangeThis site which publishes six manifestos by the public each month.
MC: Do you ever feature self-published authors?
SH: Hmm. That’s a hard question to answer because I think there are several different levels of self-publishing authors out there currently. It used to be very rare that we would feature self-pubbed authors simply because the quality of the book just wasn’t great — from cover, to art, to editing — but that’s slowly improving with technology and the many resources via the Internet that authors can tap into to improve the quality, so we are not opposed to the idea. That said, it’s hard enough to keep up with the constant stream of books coming in from publishers we know and trust, so it would take a really good book or prominent self-publishing author to grab our attention. We have featured self-published books by Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin, for instance.
MC: What is your typical lead time for a story or interview?
SH: Our editorial calendar is pretty timely. Because our In the Books site offers so many channels, we’re happy to publish within a week or two, but ChangeThis is usually several months out because there is a design and production element to creating each manifesto.
MC: What topic or trend have you seen enough of in business books?
SH: I’m not sure it’s that I’ve seen “enough” of any kind of topic or trend as much as, being in this business for nearly 20 years, we are aware of a cyclical nature of topics that come around every few years. Right now we are receiving plenty of habit-forming/habit-breaking books; several years ago we saw far more industry books that evaluated the failures of the banking system and more leadership books that critiqued corporate irresponsibility — it’s likely these topics will fade and then reappear as most do.
MC: Which business leader(s) or business author(s) would you like to interview most? Why?
SH: We’re pretty lucky, doing what we do, to have access to an amazing breadth of business thinkers, though some our favorite authors include Charles Fishman and Steven Johnson and Seth Godin, all of whom we’ve been fortunate to meet in person and feature on our sites. Walter Isaacson comes to mind, as his work represents the best of the best in nonfiction.
MC: What are some of your favorite business books?
SH: As you might know, we wrote The 100 Best Business Books of All Time some years ago, and those books remain some of the best on business ever written. We then created a pdf addendum for the 5th anniversary called 5-4-3, which included some terrific titles like Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly and No Man’s Land by Doug Tatum, both of which we reference all the time around here. But I also keep a shelf of books that I love personally like Quiet by Susan Cain, Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs, and The Female Vision by Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson. I also have a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, because every writer should read it and then reread it.
MC: Can you forecast any business book trends? Big data, start-ups, crowd-sourcing, and social media marketing have been recent hot topics. What’s next?
SH: As I mentioned above, productivity or habit-forming books are very popular right now, but taking that one step further, I’d say we’ll see an increase in books that advocate for simplicity, for paring down and concentrating on what’s important whether that’s in the office or at home. We’ve also seen an influx of leadership books for or about women that branch off the success (or the controversy) begun with Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In and I expect that to continue. Organizational culture is big, though we’re moving away from the “be like Google” to a broader, but more in-depth, look at how to offer humans a human-centric work experience, perhaps re-inspired by the incoming Millennial generation. And of course, the future is ripe for more books on innovation, mainly of the DIY or start-up variety, because technology continues to allow for more creation to be done by individuals.
MC: What have been the most popular articles you’ve written or edited on business, workplace or career issues?
SH: Lists are always popular with business readers, so our most popular blog posts tend to be those that announce our business book award finalists and winners.
MC: Which companies or industries fascinate you most?
SH: Reinvention is always fascinating, so those companies that continue to modernize or undergo an internal sea change in order to stay current — I’m thinking of the auto industry (or maybe even the city of Detroit (explored wonderfully in Josh Linkner’s Road to Reinvention), or tech companies that have quickly become aged-out despite the youth of the industry, like Yahoo! — have a relevant and exciting story to tell that can inform people on a personal level or at the leadership level, because most everyone, internally, has some kind of strategic plan for their lives that will need an occasional reboot.
MC: Please briefly describe your demographics or audience.
SH: Publishers, publicists, authors, speaker’s bureaus and events, as well as business people, are all our valued customers, so we like to think that we offer services and content for both business book creators as well as business book readers.
MC: Why do you love doing what you do?
SH: We are strangely compelled to try to convince people that business books aren’t the ugly stepsister they have historically been treated as. People still make jokes about Who Moved My Cheese? after all. In addition to improving lives — both at work and home — business books offer rich reflections on society and culture, psychology and history, philosophy and pragmatism. In addition, the wonderful thing about our company is that we reside in this kind of “meta” space in which we run a business according to the very information and advice we read about in the products we sell. How cool is that?
Sally Haldorson‘s job as General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. Also part of the company’s marketing team, Sally reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits. Helping 800-CEO-READ’s former President, Jack Covert, craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time was a pretty good gig, too.