The Future of Publishing is Bright

Guy LeCharles GonzalezBy Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World

Six months ago, Digital Book World didn’t exist.

And yet, 48 hours ago I had the honor of giving the closing remarks at the end of our first annual Digital Book World Conference.

Simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted, I communicated most of what I’d hoped to say, but I wanted to reiterate and expand upon it here (and share my slides) because it was a message not just for those in attendance, but for everyone working in this industry that I’m so passionate and optimistic about.

First, the thank yous.

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A thank you to all of our attendees. The energy and passion they brought to the conference over the two days was absolutely inspiring and fulfilling. Also thanks to those who didn’t attend, but were following along on Twitter and interacting with those of us at the conference. “Digital” Book World, indeed.

Thank you to our Conference Chair, Mike Shatzkin, and his Advisory Board, who delivered an amazing program that addressed the major challenges trade publishers are facing today, including his wise call to include agents in the conversation, as well as finding a way to represent authors and booksellers, too.

Thank you to our incredible speakers and moderators, who brought life to the excellent program Shatzkin put together. From the feedback I’ve received so far, and definitely from the presentations and sessions I attended, they delivered on our promise of “solutions, not theories; practicality not punditry.”

(As a side note, thank you to Brian Napack for having the courage to deliver a controversial message with passion and clarity. Whether you agree with him or not, he took a firm stance on the issue and did so boldly and unapologetically.)

Thank you to our sponsors and exhibitors for recognizing the value of the program we put together and taking a leap of faith with us, investing in a conference that, I must repeat, did not exist six months ago.

And finally, a sincere thank you to F+W Media‘s event team — Cory Smith, Beth Mauro, Heather Griffin, Barbara Klus, Alicia Newton, and Lyn Menke — for their professionalism, enthusiasm and “by any means necessary” approach to launching a brand new conference for which they were given much less lead time than they typically get for an established event.

(And another side note, for a specific shout-out to Beth Mauro, my partner-in-crime on the marketing side. As one of the public faces of DBW, I get a lot of credit for the marketing that went behind it, but she was there with me behind the scenes, every step of the way. She’s my hero!)

A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.
–Sidney J. Harris

2009 was a tough year for publishing, and 2010 will offer old and new challenges of its own. But the past is past, and being cynical about the future is easy, but wrong-headed.

I’m optimistic.

I love books. I love bookstores. I also love the Internet and all things digital.

I don’t love zero-sum scenarios, though.

At BEA last year, during the 7x20x21 event that inspired our own series, Pablo Defendini made a point that stuck with me ever since: “Publishers should be idea advocates.”

I totally agree. If we’ve learned anything from the Internet and its growth from the early days of AOL and Compuserve to the right now of blogs, Wikipedia and Google… there is an insatiable thirst for ideas.  People are reading more than ever, and that’s not a threat to publishers, it’s an opportunity.

“Publishers should be idea advocates.”

And to take it a step further, the ideas we advocate should be worthwhile and meaningful, not just trendy. If you’re not familiar with Chelsea Green yet, I strongly suggest you check them out because Margo Baldwin gets it.

Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks is another publisher who gets it.

During the panel session I participated on, How Publishers Can Build Their Own Communities: Using Social Media Tools (#dbwsocial), I made a point that if you don’t have a niche, you better get one, and Raccah is doing an amazing job of “nichifying” her company with innovative efforts like PoetrySpeaks.com and SourceBooks College Bound.

“Publishers should be idea advocates.”

We need to focus on those ideas, and not be distracted by every new shiny that comes along.

Everything is changing around us. The industry is evolving rapidly, and the old ways of doing things don’t work as well as they used to.

There’s two kinds of people. Those who embrace change, and those who get run over by it. Which one are you? And what are you doing about it?

Here’s what we’re going to do.

As we were putting this conference together, we were encouraged by the early feedback on our decision to focus on trade publishing, and our position of “solutions not theories; practicality not punditry.” As word began to spread about Digital Book World, I heard from a variety of people in the industry who wanted to get involved.

Agents. Booksellers. Librarians. Authors.

With a two-day event, though, time is limited.

Fortunately, there are 363 more days in the year to work with.

The publishing community is large, diverse, and extremely passionate, and coming out of this conference, I’m excited to announce that, not only will we be gathering back at the Sheraton New York next year (January 25-26, 2010), we will also be producing a number of events, online and in-person, that focus on implementing the strategies that were put forward at the conference.

From digital workflow to marketing tactics to career resources, Digital Book World will offer programming that addresses the needs of the entire publishing community, from publishers and agents, to booksellers, librarians and authors.

People are reading more than ever, and that’s not a threat to publishers, it’s an opportunity.

What are YOU going to do about it?

After two days of our first conference, I’m pretty optimistic that you’re all going to do the right thing.

Don’t disappoint me.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is the Chief Executive Optimist of Digital Book World.

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