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SPAWNews is packed with writing, editing, illustrating, and publishing information. Each month you receive market opportunities, events, and articles you can use now!
Not sure? Check out back issues of SPAWNews on our blog, or in the older SPAWNews archives)


CHANGING OF THE GUARD

© 2004 by Richard F.X.O'Connor, http://www.richardfxocconnor.com

In the year 1960 all publishers did advertising, publicity and sales promotion for a book, but they did not market it, because "marketing" was not in their lexicon until the mid-60s.

To be sure, Lucky Strikes were marketed in the ‘60s, as were DeSotos. But the staid, if not quaint, world of publishing had yet to grasp the concept. After all, book publishing was a self-proclaimed cottage industry and there were no such things as bookstore chains or publishing conglomerates.

If memory serves me—which it does less and less—in 1964 the House of Doubleday sent this writer to take an American Management Association course on marketing. What an eye-opener. My counterparts at this gathering came from companies across the business spectrum including the ad mangers from Duracell Batteries and the New York utility Con-Edison. I was exposed to the brave new world of product development, marketing plans, and market share.

Swelled with all this marketing knowledge, I returned to my company certain that I alone held the key to its future; I was going to bring Doubleday, if not publishing, into 20th century business.

Did I mention that publishing was quaint and staid? Never did it cross my young mind that publishing might not be ready for all these new fangled notions. I simply couldn’t imagine that I was on a collision course with more than a century of tradition.

The inevitable train wreck occurred at a presales conference editorial presentation by none other than the venerable Pyke Johnson, Jr., editor-in-chief of Anchor Books, Doubleday’s prestigious line of quality paperbacks, supplementary college textbooks—later known as trade paperbacks.

Pyke was an extremely well read and soft-spoken person, a gentle man bespeaking his Quaker heritage. I, on the other hand, was young, ambitious, and dumb…and I showed it by referring to one of Pyke’s books as a product.

Segue: in this day we know that books are products; that is indisputable. But in the mid-60s, books were…well, not products, as Pyke Johnson was about to let me know.

After calling his book a "product," there was a momentary silence in the room full of editors and sales types. All eyes were on Pyke, whose blood visibly rose up his neck and into his face offset by his white hair. He turned slowly to me, his voice rising with each word as he enunciated, "Young man, a book is not a…PRODUCT" – that last word expelled with the force one would spit out venom from a snakebite.

Oops!

Properly chastised, I never again coupled the words "book" and "product" in front of an editor for the next three years. What I could not appreciate then was that I was witness to a changing of the guard from editorial control of publishing to power vested in marketing. For better or worse, publishing was in a sea change, which has not ended to this day.

What came with marketing were the amoebas (MBAs) that damn near sunk publishing—but that’s another story. And then there are the buzzwords such as "Platform" or "Author Q" making one wonder if all the changes were for the better.

Postscript: a couple years later I was named the first-ever Marketing Director of Doubleday. What a ride!

–Richard F X. O'Connor is the published author of seven books including the best selling "How To Make Your Man More Sensitive" (E.P. Dutton/ Fawcett) and "Ident-A-Kid" (S&S). His self-published work is "How to Market You and Your Book."

 

 

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