5 Questions for Ted Hill, Chair, DBW Conference

Ted Hill, DBW, DBW Conference,

Ted Hill, Chair, DBW Conference

Your recent article “The Best Way to Keep Your Job in Book Publishing” drew a lot of interest and highlighted the importance of the publishing industry conference, saying it’s the one opportunity for busy professionals to put aside the day-to-day grind and open up their minds to new ideas. With all the websites and online resources that publish articles, opinions and new findings, what benefits does the conference offer that those places can’t?

In a word: people. There’s no replacement for face-to-face contact when it comes to the depth of attention we pay to a new idea and its ability to really reach us. The networking, the hallway discussions, the serendipity, the excitement of being in the room—all of them come together.

Of course, the hard part is keeping up the momentum when you get back to the office, and we’re dealing with that in two very specific ways. First off, a major emphasis for the show’s programming will be on getting up to date. We’ll have lots of fresh data and summaries of the trends and issues that you may have missed from the past year. Just knowing you’re up to date can make a huge difference with the amount of time you spend sifting through newsletters, articles and websites trying to catch up.

Our second area of emphasis will be on how to get ahead in the coming year, and this is where most prior year attendees will see a big difference. The new program is more practical, with more focus on workshops, briefings and the working applications of new technologies and practices. I know from many years of consulting that the more clearly we see a path to improvement, the more likely we are to follow it.

DBW went with a new structure for this year’s event. Can you discuss why you felt the need to completely overhaul what had been in place?

Despite what I said about the benefits of getting out of the office, our time is more precious than ever, so whatever we do, it better be worth it. The old show was full of great programming and made sure to have something for everyone, but there were the inevitable gaps.

With the new structure, we’ve got two full days of programming just for professionals in editorial acquisitions and development; two full days just for people in production, distribution and ops; two full days, just for marketing and sales; two full days just for anyone who cares about data, analytics and sharing information within the organization. It’s impossible to waste a minute of your time.

On that note, each of the tracks has a track captain, whom you appointed. Can you briefly tell us what you saw in each captain that made you think they were the right person to schedule the sessions?

The question we first asked ourselves is how can you possibly replace Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader? Well, the short answer is that you can’t. But we realized the next best thing was to replace them with seven people. Laura Dail, Rick Pascocello, Bill Kasdorf, Kempton Mooney, Porter Anderson and Jane Friedman, and of course me.

Laura’s out there every day talking with editors, authors and her fellow agents. She’s got a finely tuned sense of what this group really cares about—and more importantly, what they don’t. From his days as VP, Executive Marketing Director at Penguin Random House, Rick brings a buyer’s perspective when it comes to new marketing tools and strategies. He asks, “why should I try this?” which I think is the essential question in a world with too many choices and not enough time.

As the general editor of The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing, Bill Kasdorf quite literally wrote the book when it comes to production issues. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who’s been as deeply involved in the pieces and parts of the transition from print to multi-format publishing and distribution. And Kempton spends every day working with publishers at houses large and small, hearing how they use the data Nielsen provides, and searching for new ways to make it more actionable and more deeply used within the organization.

I don’t think I need to say why we’ve chosen Porter and Jane for the Indie Author conference. They’re simply the best out there when it comes to this stuff.

The Indie Author conference is a new addition to DBW. Why was it so important to not only have sessions that address indie authors, but to dedicate an entire one-day conference to them?

Recently a colleague suggested a conference on the topic, “What would you do differently if Amazon were your only customer?” and when you really think about it, absolutely every aspect of how you publish changes. Well, the great majority of indie authors already live in that world, so they do need an event just for them.

Moreover, we’re seeing the emergence of what we’re calling the “new professional indie author”—traditional authors who want to go indie, or indies who have a book or two under their belts and want to raise their game. It’s a growing part of the industry with some real needs when it comes to education and guidance, and we’re happy to meet the need.

Any final thoughts?

If you haven’t already done it, everyone should be sure to check out the new agenda. We’ll still be making announcements as to keynotes, plenaries and additional refinements to the program, but I’m pretty sure you’re going to like what you see.


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