Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: Chief Executive Optimist
By Sue Lange, Author, Book View Café
Digital publishing is either going to expand the audience for books, in print and electronic form, or it’s going to destroy publishing as we know it and authors will be left to fend for themselves in a flood of unfiltered content that we’ll all mindlessly pick our way through based on provocative titles and pictures of half-naked celebrities.
Who @glecharles is, I can’t remember. I’ve always enjoyed his tweets, but have no idea where I found him or why I decided to follow him. I run over to BVC Central and ask around. Amy tells me he IS Digital Book World. Is, as in not just the “Chief Executive Optimist” of his title, but also the CEO, CFO, and the CIO.
On Nancy Jane’s urging, I decide to interview him. I don’t often interview people. If I have a burning question I’ll take the opportunity, but that’s about it. Today’s burning question is: where is all this (meaning digital publishing) headed? I can’t think of a better person to ask than the person who IS Digital Book World.
So I give you Guy LeCharles Gonzalez aka @glecharles.
Sue: Guy, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Before we get into the Burning Question, tell me what Digital Book World (DBW) is and what your role with them is.
Guy: My official title is “Director, Programming & Business Development,” which is sort of equivalent to a magazine’s publisher and editorial director. DBW’s tagline is “The Publishing Community for the 21st Century,” and the broad vision for it is to be fully embedded in the industry as an educational and networking resource for publishing professionals. We produce a variety of events, online and in-person, including our main event, the Digital Book World Conference in January. Through digitalbookworld.com, we also publish articles from a broad range of publishing and technology professionals intended for publishing and technology professionals, including writers who want to stay on top of the myriad transitions happening in the industry. I solicit and edit those, and occasionally write some of my own, too.
While I’m arguably the most visible member of our team, especially on the website and via social media, it’s not quite a one-man show. Mike Shatzkin serves as our Conference Chair with a pretty impressive Conference Council helping him develop the program, and behind the scenes, our parent company, F+W Media, has a great events and emedia staff who help make the magic happen.
For better or worse, though, I have a hand in pretty much everything that’s connected to Digital Book World.
Sue: I like the description I found at the site:
“In the midst of the gloom-and-doom naysayers and pundits, there’s a thriving community of publishers, editors, marketers, agents, booksellers, librarians, authors, and readers of all kinds who are passionate about the book, in all its forms, and are working within the industry to help change it for the better.
That’s the description of a DBW Member.”
That sounds like a good place for a member of Book View Café, but DBW is expensive to join. Considering what an ebook author needs (readers), is it worth it for them to join? What would they get out of it?
Guy: First, let me say that I don’t define authors by their format. An author is an author, whether their work is published in hardcover, paperback or eBook formats.
That said, authors, especially independent-minded authors who either aren’t getting what they want from their publishers or have gone the self-publishing route, need to understand the publishing business, both how it works and how it’s changing.
There’s a lot of fluff and blather right now that makes it sound like eBooks are a magic bullet and simply uploading your book to Amazon makes you an independent author.
Most of that fluff and blather is coming from new intermediaries who take a smaller cut than traditional publishers, while putting your eBook on a virtual shelf where no one who doesn’t already know it exists will ever find it. And, of course, some of them will also upsell you on services to help you market your eBook and increase sales, for which they’ll get their cut.
In a lot of ways, it’s basically Vanity Publishing, in a shiny 2.0 coat.
I’m biased, of course, but I’d argue that the value DBW offers authors really depends on their goals. The free information and resources we provide will suffice for most, while $99/year is pretty cheap for access to the full range of content we produce. The information and insights in the video and audio from January’s conference alone makes it a worthwhile investment, and access to our archive of on-demand WEBcasts is the cherry on top that grows in size and value every month.
Sue: “Vanity Publishing, in a shiny 2.0 coat.” I like that. I don’t know if new authors are aware of how much marketing they’ll need to do regardless of where they’ve published. (I might remind everyone at this point that all of BVC’s authors have been published by traditional publishers as well as here at BVC) I noticed that DBW has a lot of information for authors on the subject of marketing. What strategies should ebook authors be thinking of, keeping in mind that non-fiction writing cuts into fiction writing time?
Guy: My advice to all authors is to write about what they’re passionate about, both in their books and online. Warren Ellis is one of my favorite examples of an author with an amazing platform, but he’s a pretty extreme example. Cherie Priest and Matt Ruff are two more who find time to blog and engage online while still writing and publishing excellent books.
Chuck Wendig is a well-published freelancer (day job) working on a novel and a screenplay, and maintains an excellent blog that he updates daily while also being active on Twitter.
It’s not easy, but it can be done. As the old saying goes, “Nothing worth doing is ever going to be easy.” But if you’re passionate about it, you often won’t notice how “hard” it is because you’ll be enjoying it.
Also, having a day job is an excuse to avoid all this, not a reason. So is being an introvert, actually.
Sue: Good advice and expanding on that, there’s this provocative statement at your personal blog: “Instead of worrying about the latest trends and what’s on the bestseller list this week, writers should focus on telling the stories they want to tell. And publishers should focus on connecting those stories to the readers who will appreciate them, via every available channel, not simply hoping for intermediaries and serendipity to do their jobs for them.”
It seems you’re laying responsibility for marketing on the publisher. Lately publishers seem to be laying it back on the author. Why is that?
This an excerpt from an interview originally published at Book View Café. Read the full interview there.
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is a published poet and writer, and active blogger since 2003. In 1998, he founded and led a thriving poetry slam community in NYC (a little bit louder) that has since evolved into the non-profit literary arts organization, louderARTS. An old and new media pragmatist, social media realist, and marketing strategist, he views publishing as a community service, and is optimistic about its future.
Sue Lange has been one of the following (pretty much in this order): child, student, potato picker, first chair flautist, librarian, last chair flautist, babysitter, newspaper deliverer, apple picker, form cutter, drama club treasurer, track and field timer, Ponderosa Steak House salad server (before the salad bar days, of course), disco dance instructor, waitress, wire harness assembler, usher, Baskin-Robbins ice cream dipper, volleyball team captain, biology club treasurer, circuit board checker, form reader, day camp counselor, tutor, stock room attendant, nurse aide, chemistry technician, senior chemistry technician, right fielder, Plant Laboratory Supervisor–non-radiological, house sitter, first base, receptionist, stage manager, data input technician, actor, bookkeeper, vocalist, typesetter, songwriter, recording artist, home builder, viticulturist, Digital Production Manager, orchardist, and Applescripter. Lately she’s been writing.