Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More on AAP Annual Meeting

“Is there anything else you can share about the AAP Annual meeting? What are the big insights into publishing that they have? Inquiring minds want to know.…” Mary Theresa Hussey

It was an interesting day. In addition to the significant focus on education and literacy—both adult and child—discussed in my prior post, the discussions ranged from “What the book business can learn from the film business about creating audiences,” with Michael Lynton, Chairman & CEO of Sony Pictures & Entertainment interviewed by Robert Miller, President, Hyperion to “The political perspective on reading & literacy" with the Honorable Eliot Spitzer, NY State Attorney General, interviewed by Richard Sarnoff, President of Random House.

Mr. Lynton’s perspective was inspiringly evenhanded, indicating that books and films have much to learn from each other. Big budget films must develop and deliver a universally accessible message. But the marketing and selling of niche films and DVDs are learning from books about how to catalogue and reach smaller, more focused audiences. He confirmed that the traditional business model is shifting with changing advertising revenue, and reinforced the sense of advertiser malaise. He touched on the ongoing blurring of fact & fiction in all media, and the challenges and risk of innovation for us all. Piracy, for films as well as books, is a major issue—a story he shared was that off-shore ships that had been used for narcotics had been repurposed and are now creating bootleg DVDs!

Eliot Spitzer and Richard Sarnoff had gone to both grade school and college together. They noted that if you’d played 7th grade soccer with someone, no matter how accomplished they became in later life, you simply could never truly take them seriously. I found Mr. Spitzer’s ability to take any question, frame it & articulate what he could speak to & why quite impressive. Subjects discussed were broad, covering issues of piracy, his gubernatorial race and copyright—something he believes in protecting. As you may know, both the AAP and the Author’s Guild have filed suit against Google over copyright, so that was good to hear!

We also heard from one of the co-authors of Freakonomics. His talk reinforced how dedication, commitment, the investment of time, energy and creativity all count for a lot—but it also takes luck and timing to deliver a blockbuster. His sage advice for a successful book? Four things: 1) Have something interesting to say. 2) Say it in an interesting way. 3) Create a story that people want to talk about. 4) Get lucky. Good advice!

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