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Sourcebooks NEXT.

Sourcebooks Next Blog

We’re at a historic point in the transformation the book.

Ebooks, reading devices, retailers and e-tailers, software and apps, and all the cool things we haven’t even imagined yet are changing the face of reading, entertainment and learning. Sourcebooks Next is our blog looking not from the perspective of pundit or prognosticator, but from the perspective of a publisher deeply engaged in the workings of the transformation. Please feel free to join us.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I recently had the great honor of accepting the 2013 Luminary Award from the Committee of 200, a membership organization of the world's most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate innovators dedicated to fostering, celebrating and advancing women's leadership in business. (This really is the most amazing group of people you may not have heard of). The Muriel Siebert Entrepreneurial Champion award goes to a female entrepreneur who has created an innovative new product or service with global implications.

When they asked me to give an acceptance speech, I thought I'd talk about the importance of books and the transformation that has so changed our industry and Sourcebooks. A lot of the people in the room asked me to share the talk, so here it is. Thank you to all of you who have been a part of this journey so far! It's been amazing!!


Committee of 200 2013 Muriel Siebert Entrepreneurial Champion

Acceptance Speech October 25th 2013

The women in this room are brilliant and extraordinary. I’m certainly more than a bit overwhelmed to have been presented with an award from all of you.

So first let me just say Thank YOU! Thank you for this award but particularly thank you for being. Thank you for being strong, thank you for being outspoken and committed, thank you for being role models to me and to the thousands of other women (and not a few men) whom you impact every day.

In short, thank you for being yourselves – writ larger than life!!

I believe in books.  And my story is very much one of following your passion (through all the surprising turns that takes). Today, I’m part of a revolution in reading and therefore in books. We call it the digital revolution.

I started Sourcebooks at the beginning of another revolution 26 years ago…that was the desktop publishing revolution. A Mac, a Laser Printer and off I went.

Starting out

And it was a real challenge… My first idea was pretty limited. And it probably didn’t help that the first banker I met didn’t see women as real entrepreneurs, a problem I know other women entrepreneurs in this room have experienced.

There was my first real success (round about year 3), a book that sold 25,000 copies, directly followed by the distributor who refused to pay me and said succinctly “I don’t have to pay you. You’re little. Sue me.” Probably the most notable memory from that period was hanging up the phone after that call and slipping to the floor sobbing in the living room. I still remember it. It’s that visceral. And the only thought in my head was, “How do I tell Ray (my husband) I’ve lost the house.” And do you know what he said? ”We’ve just paid for your graduate school. You’re pretty good at this. Let’s do it again. Now you know how to do it.” And so I did.

It was hard…resilient making. It’s what I see when I look at my council or any of you in this room—tough, resilient, women who have kept going in the face of challenges and some pretty long odds.

Breakthroughs and taking risks

Now fast-forward 20 years, and all those challenges (yes both the failures and the successes) turned out to be pretty good training for another revolution. This time it was the digital revolution of the book and being an entrepreneur who knew some things about walking into uncertainty turned out to be real training for what has become my greatest passion. I call it the promise of digital and books.

The promise of digital and books

As I said, I believe in books. Reading a book is one of the few times that we allow another voice deeply into our being. For days, weeks, sometimes even months, we walk in another’s shoes, see life through a different pair of eyes and maybe even sometimes (surprisingly) learn something new or change our minds about something. Books are a powerful and in some ways unique force for creating a different, greater YOU. Books are one of the few places that girls, like the girls we were, can discover what more life can offer.

And what I saw in digital was the promise of bringing books and reading to more people than ever before. When I got into book publishing, people in the industry told me, about 5% of Americans go into a bookstore in an average year. For me, that was staggering. “What about the other 95%?” I thought. Yes, some go to libraries, but how do we touch everybody? How do we create a nation of readers?

The promise of digital is to have any book, the book that you most need available to you, RIGHT now on whatever device you happen to be carrying, from your smallest phone to your big screen tv. It’s any time, anywhere, any device.

What more can digital books be

And today, digital is transforming the landscape for books.  eBooks have grown the number of books that are being published and consumed. Far from being dead, with digital books, people are buying and reading more books than ever before. And by the way, they’re buying both print and digital books…

And the question we’re now asking is: What MORE can digital create for books?

And here is what’s exciting: We’re working to create books that are:

  • More interactive
  • Smarter Today’s textbook need no longer be static – which have feedback and analytics built inside the book. Where the student reads the book and to some extent the book reads the student.
  • More social
  • More personal Today, we’re introducing new ways of actually connecting you and the book more intimately…putting YOU into a story. Like in Put Me In The Story: This is something new… an innovative new personalized children’s book platform that creates personalized books with the child’s name throughout each bestselling story. Can we help create a lifelong love of reading?


You know, we lose children at different times when it comes to reading. Can we create a greater bond between kids and reading? What happens when we really make books become "Mine"? If children can't read, they can't learn. We have to help create that bond younger and more deeply. We now know the importance of children knowing how to read well by 3rd grade; it's mission critical for us all.

What youll see next are books like youve never seen them before.

Our first experiences of books come from children’s books and textbooks, but our children will have new and different experiences with books. For them books will be interactive – content itself will be touchable, social, experiential, smart and deeply personal.

Books will become not more mechanical, cold, impersonal but just the opposite. Books will talk to you and help you. Books will be connected and connecting, becoming something quite new that we’re just beginning to understand.

What digital gave me was the gift to rethink my businessto rethink the limits that I had unknowingly imposed on Sourcebooks just by being part of an industry…to rethink all that we could do. My favorite fictional character likes to say: “Tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift.” Digital was a tremendous test for our organization. We got to rethink every part of our world, how we worked with our content partners, our authors, our brands and licenses and to extend what we could create that was of value to them.

And how we worked with our retail partners, from the products we gave them to how we marketed with them and what we could create together. Digital changed everything.

And the impact of seeing yourself in a bigger way changes everything. Last night our French author Jennifer Yerkes accepted the Gold Medal for A Funny Little Bird at the most prestigious juried show in the world of illustrated children's books; 6 years ago we weren’t even in children’s books. When we push beyond who we know ourselves to be, it changes every aspect of what we do. 

I want to thank my tribe

And so we come full circle. I want to thank my tribe…All the people who believed not just in me but in Sourcebooks – the authors, agents, my family, my friends, all of you (who have so inspired me for years!).

Just a quick note here about the partnership we’ve built with authors. The creative people that we work with are, in the end, the reason we do this work. And our authors continue to amaze me. Their smarts and commitment, their drive, ambition and willingness to think beyond boundaries has inspired me to take risks and to drive beyond the boundaries I thought were there.

In some ways, the people who have helped me the most were our customers. From Barnes and Noble, to our local bookstore Anderson’s, to Apple, to our friends and partners at Readerlink…to many many bookstores, to Walmart, Indigo to library partners far and wide. And to the dozens (literally) of individual booksellers who helped me rethink Sourcebooks at every stage of our development.

There are authors, booksellers and colleagues all over the world who have repeatedly shown us the way.

They have viewed us as a force for innovation and allowed us to try new things (even when some of those new things didn’t work).

And of course our team – the people of Sourcebooks who are actually the recipients of this award. Their drive, their willingness to learn, their innovative attitude and hard work, that’s what makes everything possible.

It’s exciting to have a 26-year-old company that is a startup once again—new challenges, new things to learn, and a whole lot of fun.

Thank YOU!

Luminary Vase

Thursday, August 29, 2013

This morning, we announced that Sourcebooks has acquired Simple Truths.

Here are 11 interesting things about Simple Truths:

  1. Their philosophy is "less is more."  These are books that can be read in 30 minutes or so. As Mac Anderson, their founder, likes to say "Not everything, but the most important things."
    • In past years there have been a number of faster approaches to business and motivation titles as our world had gotten faster paced (see for example, GetAbstract and SoundView Executive Book Summaries). Mac’s approach strikes me as having the most heart and reach.
  2. Mac Anderson is a remarkable entrepreneur who founded McCord Travel (1979), Great Quotations, Successories (1988) and Simple Truths (2005).
  3. As with any book publisher, their authors are the key. And Simple Truths has numerous bestselling authors:
  4. And they have created numerous bestsellers:
  5. Companies like Disney, FedEx and Southwest Airlines have all used Simple Truths books.
  6. Movies are an integral part of their marketing. Over 100 million people have watched Simple Truth's inspirational movies. In fact over 30 million have watched The Dash.
  7. Theirs is primarily a direct to consumer model (their books are largely NOT found in stores). Their website gets 1.3 million unique visitors a month. They have 1.2 million customers (which is pretty amazing).
  8. They are #669 on the Internet Retailer Top 500 (part of the second 500 list), which is the list of the largest retail websites in the country. There are few book publishers on that list.
  9. The free Simple Truths app ties to both movies and books. 
  10. For Sourcebooks, we've always been interested in how Books Change Lives. It's fundamental to what we do and think about. I thought Dan Green's story about Simple Truths' book Finish Strong was a great example of how a small, easy to read book could influence a lot of people.
  11. And then there's the Simple Truths team (who know a lot about how to have fun): check out their Harlem Shake. We're all looking forward to a lot of fun moments together...

Ultimately what was most meaningful to us at Sourcebooks was that Simple Truths has (and will continue to) reach and touch a lot of people. That’s what books are meant to do. We’re excited to create what’s next together.

Coverage in the News:

Publisher’s Lunch (paywall)

Crain’s Chicago Business

Publishers Weekly

Publishing Perspectives

Media Bistro

The Bookseller

See our press announcement here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Next Thursday (Thursday, May 30, 2:00 pm - 2:50 pm) I’ll be moderating a panel at Book Expo America entitled: The Future of Ebooks and Ereading.

I’ve invited some of the most knowledgeable people in the field to answer the questions that we really have about our transforming book ecosystem:

Michael Cader: entrepreneur and creator of Publishers Marketplace, Publishers Lunch (the industry’s “daily essential read,” now shared with more than 45,000 publishing people every day), Publishers Launch Conferences (with Michael Shatzkin) and the recently launched, Bookateria.

Jason Merkoski: author of Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading. Previously Jason was a development manager, product manager, and the first technology evangelist at Amazon, where he helped to invent technology used in today’s ebooks and was a member of the launch team for each of the first three Kindle devices.

Andrew Savikas: CEO at Safari Books Online. Previously, Andrew led the digital publishing and ebook program and strategy for O’Reilly Media as VP of Digital Initiatives, and was a Program Chair for the Tools of Change for Publishing conference.

Michael Tamblyn: Chief Content Officer at Kobo, responsible for sales, publisher and industry relations, content acquisition, and the merchandising experience across Kobo’s web and mobile services. Prior to joining Kobo, Michael was the founding CEO of the supply chain agency BookNet Canada, where he launched the national sales reporting service BNC SalesData.

It’s an exciting (and very knowledgeable) set of panelists gathering to talk about what comes NEXT for ebooks.

What are YOUR Questions?

The book world is changing rapidly: the rise of eBooks, the advent of self-publishing, consolidation in the publishing industry, and the technological turmoil associated with the digital revolution. We are very much in the middle of the digital transformation of the book. So what does the future hold for ebooks and ereaders? And what are the implications for authors, booksellers, publishers and readers?

What are YOUR questions about the future of ebooks and ereading? Feel free to add your questions to the comments below. Or you can tweet your questions using hashtag: #ebooksfuture.

Looking forward to a GREAT conversation!

With warmest wishes,


Friday, May 03, 2013

Last Friday Library Journal announced an experiment between Overdrive and Sourcebooks called The Big Library Read.

The Big Library Read—The Pilot

Sourcebooks and OverDrive are partnering on a pilot program that will allow library patrons worldwide the opportunity to read New York Times bestselling author Michael Malone’s acclaimed novel “The Four Corners of the Sky” in ebook format. The Big Library Read is a no cost program in which libraries worldwide promote from their lending catalog a single ebook to their patrons. In addition to creating a global “library book club,” it’s designed to generate data about the positive exposure and sales influence library ebook catalogs provide to authors and publishers.

The Data

How do readers discover authors and books? This seemingly simple question has always been central for book publishers, perhaps more now than ever. Any publisher will tell you that libraries have always been critical agents of discovery. Both Sourcebooks and Overdrive understand this.

Today there is a deep and fruitful conversation occurring between libraries and publishers, and on the business side of the discussion most of it centers around ebook lending and financial models. This pilot is of value because it moves the conversation toward what we might accomplish together if we partnered at a deeper level. It’s using data to push the business discussion into a reading discussion, and to my mind there’s very little that’s more valuable than that to our culture.

It has always been a “given” that library support helped drive author success, both short- and long-term. Seeing if we can provide data around that assumption is a fascinating challenge. With respect to this pilot, we hope to discover several things:

  • Can a large-scale coordinated promotion across many library systems drive strong and sustainable check-out rates for the selected ebook from the library?
  • Does interest in the featured ebook drive check-outs of the author’s other titles?
  • Is there any measurable impact on the ebook, print book, or the author’s sales in the retail segment?
  • Will a promotion like this drive buzz and word of mouth? How about book clubs and reading groups?
  • If there is an effect (in any of the above), how long does it last? Is the author left in a different place (or not)?

Library Journal has agreed to assist with data review and analysis following the pilot.

Our primary goal is to learn, and (as always) we are eager to develop new ways of reaching readers on behalf of our authors.

Bookstores and libraries

I’ve always believed there’s an interaction between libraries and bookstores; that people find books they love and want to own in libraries and then go to bookstores to buy those books. As the U.S. publisher of every book by Georgette Heyer, we’ve certainly seen that link. This OverDrive pilot with Michael Malone runs for 2 weeks and then the book disappears from devices. Will people want to keep reading? What form will they want to read the book in? Will people want to read other Michael Malone books?  Answering these and so many other questions makes for a compelling test.

No experiment is perfect

This is a pilot. Working with OverDrive and participating libraries, we will track and share data related to exposure, discovery, and retail sales activity that can be originated from library ebook lending catalogs Together we will endeavor to generate real data, ask and answer tough questions, and most importantly learn from it all.

Specifics of the program

  • The Four Corners of the Sky will be prominently displayed at your OverDrive-powered library website (if they opt into the program), and discoverable through your library’s catalog.
  • The program runs from May 15-June 1, 2013
  • For the pilot, the ebook will be simultaneously available for any and all readers with a library card to browse, sample, and borrow.
  • At the end of the pilot period, the title will be removed from the collection (unless previously purchased by the library), but will be available in OverDrive’s Content Reserve Marketplace to purchase for the standing collection ($9.95 USD worldwide).
  • OverDrive will share data from the pilot with Sourcebooks and participating libraries including the exposure, sampling, checkouts, and social media interaction.
  • Sourcebooks will share data with OverDrive and participating libraries including retail sales and social media interaction.
  • More information can be found at www.BigLibraryRead.com.

Why Michael Malone?

Well, first of all, Michael is an author who we all felt clearly deserved this kind of worldwide attention. He’s is an award-winning writer who’s written novels, plays, short stories, and even soap operas. As his publisher and his friend, both he and his compelling work are near and dear to my heart.

Secondly, The Four Corners of the Sky is a novel of love, secrets, and the mysterious bonds of families. Malone brings characters to life as only he can, exploring the questions that defy easy answers: Is love a choice or a calling? Why do the ties of family bind so tightly? And is forgiveness a gift to others...or a gift we give ourselves? The book was a 4-star People Magazine Pick and is beloved by Michael’s many fans. You can listen to this interview he did with NPR about The Four Corners of the Sky to learn more.

When I told him about the OverDrive program, Michael totally got it, quickly telling me that libraries are “history’s home and freedom’s harbor” (yes, he really does speak like that…he’s just remarkable). To get a sense of his commitment, you might want to read this letter he wrote for Big Library Read that will be inside the ebook.

And finally, this experiment is worldwide (there are over 25 countries involved) and Michael is an author for whom we have worldwide English language rights. As our digital culture continues to erode country and territory lines decades (even centuries) in the making, we will begin to generate data on what impact we can have worldwide.

For Discussion

What questions would you like to see us address? What hypotheses do you have? It’s all a compelling discussion, and we look forward to sharing and continuing it with you all. Feel free to post your thoughts below.

With warmest wishes,



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