A bit of news: I’ve joined the brilliant folks at Atavist Books as Associate Director of Marketing.
I’ve been very fortunate to work with great publishing and technology companies for the past ten years. As I marketed bigger and bigger campaigns, one question persisted: How much value am I contributing? Book marketing resists quantifiable success metrics–perhaps due to the economics’ low-margins, or the field’s relative novelty in trade publishing. You’ll see quick hits and a few successes, but it remains difficult to discern if the work you’re doing is improving in the long-term. (Being asked to speak at conferences isn’t a yardstick.) Not to mention that publishers don’t reserve big R&D budgets; every dollar is stretched.
My solution? Get in early. Join a new press in its infancy and really test my skills.
In many ways I lucked out: Atavist Books is a wholly new company, founded by Barry Diller, Scott Rudin, and President and Publisher Frances Coady, whom I worked with at Macmillan. My old Penguin colleague Christian Smythe is steering operations.
As you can guess from the name, we’ve partnered with the Atavist for creating enhanced and static digital books. And print books are also very much a part of the plan, as is a lot of outreach to and dialogue with indie booksellers.
As you may know, the Atavist app was an early and successful entry in the longform space, marrying serious journalism with multimedia assets native to iOS devices. They’ve received a National Magazine Award nod and licensed their technology to institutions like TED and The Paris Review. (Friends may remember co-founder Evan Ratliff’s 7x20x21 presentation at Digital Book World in 2011.) If you’ve read an Atavist piece on an iPad you know how easy it is to disappear into the writing.
Atavist Books combines the very best of tech and publishing and will have a relatively small list with a strong emphasis of publicity and marketing.
Friends have asked the usual questions: when are the books coming out? Who are the authors? Is there a ping pong table in your office? For now I can only say: you’ll find out soon enough. I can confirm the ping pong.
I’d first drafted this post around the theme of risk taking. I’d still like to share my favorite passage on the subject from Nicholson Baker’s “Art of Fiction” interview in The Paris Review.
I had a job doing technical writing, which was really consuming me. I wasn’t sleeping. So my wife and I figured out that we could live for six months, mostly with the money she had saved up. I quit the job and wrote as hard as I’ve ever written. I would get up at eight in the morning and write until seven at night.
My wife was working two days a week, so I would take care of our daughter, Alice, on those days, and she took care of Alice on the other days.
The book he produced? The Mezzanine, an experimental novella about a guy on an escalator. (It’s great, by the way. Read it.)