Guy LeCharles Gonzalez's Blog: loudpoet.com

November 4, 2016

I was excited to attend my first FOLIO: Show in ages, and after a slow start that included HTC'S awkward plea for VR content and some uninspired Facebook examples, things picked up with some great presentations from National Geographic, Harvard Business Review, The Foundry, and Revmade. While I didn't come across anything particularly new, there were some solid takeaways that I found helpful and heartening.
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Published on November 04, 2016 07:23 • 9 views

October 5, 2016

Over the years, I've worked with salespeople across a variety of industries and the best ones were always those who combined deep knowledge of our markets and products or services (backed by actual data) with an innate ability to identify their client's or (prospect's) real needs. They didn't rely on fancy media kits or elaborate PowerPoint decks, nor discounts or hefty expense accounts—all valid tactical tools to be used, or not, as each situation calls for—and personal relationships were just the icing on the cake they got to have and eat, too because they instinctively grasped Kaushik's underlying concept: understand a client's needs and challenges better than they do themselves, and then help them understand how to achieve their goals.
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Published on October 05, 2016 15:31 • 11 views

May 9, 2016

“There is no black and white in marketing; it’s all gray. There are no silver bullets. Marketing objectives sometimes need to be solved with a combination of efforts, not by putting all your eggs in one basket.”


Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute



During my current job search, an interesting point of discussion has come up a few times in interviews regarding my actual experience with Marketing, specifically campaign development, copywriting, and execution. It’s been sparked by some confusion around what terms like “audience development” and “content strategy” mean, combined with my having been in senior roles the past 8+ years, potentially implying more oversight, delegation, and/or arms-length consulting than actual hands-on work.


The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” It’s broad enough to encompass pretty much anything you want to throw under the Marketing umbrella (including Advertising, Branding, Engagement, Digital, Global, Marcom, Metrics, Research, and Strategy, as the AMA does), but it also leaves room for erecting the silos that have kept many organizations behind the curve on developing truly integrated marketing strategies.


I’m more a fan of The Cluetrain Manifesto‘s take, as outlined back in the proto-digital days of 1998:


Markets once were places where producers and customers met face-to-face and engaged in conversations based on shared interests. Now business-as-usual is engaged in a grinding war of attrition with its markets.


No wonder marketing fails…


Marketing has been training its practitioners for decades in the art of impersonating sincerity and warmth. But marketing can no longer keep up appearances. People talk. They get on the Web and they let the world know that the happy site with the smiling puppy masks a company with coins where its heart is supposed to be. They tell the world that the company that promises to make you feel like royalty doesn’t reply to e-mail messages and makes you pay the shipping charges when you return their crappy merchandise. The market will find out who and what you are. Count on it.


Doc Searls and David Weinberger, Markets Are Conversations



For me, “audience development” is a fundamental component of any integrated marketing strategy, because if you don’t know who your audience is and where they live (physically and virtually), and how to measure your efforts to reach and engage them on an ongoing basis, your strategy will be less effective than it could be. At best.


In some circles, audience development is still defined as the evolution of circulation and direct mail marketing, traditional disciplines that are deeply rooted in similar analytical models that drive the best digital marketing efforts but have been unfairly relegated to the “print is dead” division. I got my start in circulation back in 1993, and everything I learned in that area has been critical in the evolution of my own career in marketing, from free newsletters and webcasts, to paid subscriptions and events, and even display advertising and sponsored content.


In a presentation back in 2010, “Audience Development in the Digital Age,” I noted that it includes all customer touch points—from editorial and circulation, to ecommerce and competitions, to advertising and customer service— via our own media platforms, and everywhere else our community gathers. At the time I was a 1.5-man show running Digital Book World, so that approach wasn’t just theoretical, it was necessary, but even when I moved on to Team Library and worked with a bigger team, that fundamental premise remained: Marketing is a team sport.


If finding and engaging with your audience is a fundamental component of an integrated marketing strategy, “content strategy” is the spark that gives it life. From high-level planning to the actual creation of compelling copy, every successful marketing initiative is driven by compelling content, including text, images, audio, and video in every conceivable format… all depending upon the audience you’re trying to reach.


Content marketing, branded content, native advertising… they’re not interchangeable terms, but clumsily lumped together, they’re a hot topic for brand marketers these days. At its core, though, it’s all just good old-fashioned publishing: producing great content for an engaged audience.


And to do that well, you need a content strategy.


Traditional editorial content usually aims to educate, entertain, and/or excite a particular audience–with the often unspoken business goal of driving revenue, either through paid subscriptions or eyeballs for advertisers, or both. Marketing content can (and should) do all of those things, too, as needed, with the main difference being priority of business goals is usually more apparent, for better or worse.


MARKETING TECHNOPOLOGISTS

marketing technopologist


A number of managers identified an ideal set of skills for an executive that go beyond those of a typical M.B.A. holder or tech expert. We coined the term marketing technopologist for a person who brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction. A manager said, “I’d want to see someone with the usual M.B.A. consultant’s background, strong interest in psychology and sociology, and good social-networking skills throughout the organization.”


Salvatore Parise, Patricia J. Guinan, and. Bruce D. Weinberg

The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World



I first came across the term “Marketing Technopologist” at Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit back in 2009, and although I immediately connected with it, it didn’t really catch on which is a shame. Not only is it a great representation of my skill set, it’s arguably a role the industry explicitly needs today more than ever.


I’ve been fortunate enough to have had two great roles that explicitly embraced that overlap of marketing, technology, and social interaction (along with a history of that overlap benefiting me in more traditional roles). In both cases, it allowed me to take a holistic, strategic approach to integrated marketing, but neither title clearly communicates that on a resume, so I’m glad the Marketing question has been asked explicitly and I was able to address it head on.


Of course, that only works if I’m in the room and the question is asked. The bigger challenge will be dealing with it on my resume to ensure I’m getting into the right rooms as my job search continues.



Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, formerly poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running, soccer.

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Published on May 09, 2016 15:17 • 18 views

April 4, 2016

Last week I finished a six-month gig at a publishing-adjacent startup that helped confirm how little trade book publishing has changed since I left Digital Book World in 2011, at least when it comes to marketing and audience development. While ebooks have mostly found their level, self-publishing isn’t terribly controversial anymore, and Amazon has tightened its grip on both, consumer marketing and engagement have increasingly been pushed to individual authors, email remains a grossly underutilized channel, and “content strategy” rarely rises above basic tactical initiatives.


Ever the optimist, I’ve had a variety of interesting conversations over the past several weeks with friends across the industry, hoping to find examples of progressive thinking and innovative strategies, and excepting a few notable outliers, the underlying consensus was slow, incremental change remains the law of the land. The bigger publishers are generally cautious, more likely to wait for someone else to take the lead and/or silo their experiments in areas where outcomes are difficult to extrapolate, while smaller publishers are more open to innovation but have limited resources to take full advantage of potential opportunities.


Surveying the industry, the vast majority of consumer marketing efforts are still by-the-numbers title marketing “campaigns” built on short-term metrics, and I’ve found very few people in strategic roles that would suggest traditional publishers are thinking about audience development in the bigger picture–Jim Hanas (Harper) and Kate Rados (Crown) are two of them.


My next full-time gig will almost surely be outside the realm of book publishing, but while that search is in progress, I’d love to take on a couple of short-term projects for publishers who want to develop a more strategic approach to audience development and content strategy, particularly in the areas of email marketing and community engagement.


If you’re interested, check out my resume or drop me an email directly.



Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, formerly poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running, soccer.

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Published on April 04, 2016 07:19 • 13 views

February 24, 2016

“But if people in publishing genuinely believe that books save people’s lives, their output shows they believe only certain lives to be worth the trouble.”


“You Will Be Tokenized”: Speaking Out About the State of Diversity in Publishing”

BY MOLLY MCARDLE



I had the privilege of being one of the fifty voices included in Molly’s excellent feature at Brooklyn Magazine (the interview for which inspired my last post), and it’s a must-read for everyone in publishing. It left me with mixed emotions, no less frustrated with the industry and still vaguely optimistic that real change is on the horizon. Maybe.


These are some of the quotes that really hit me the hardest, but you should go read the whole thing and find your own. And then share them widely on your favorite social networks to keep the momentum going. This is an important conversation that needs to move past talking into real action.



“I haven’t quite figured out ways to undo the structure other than living in it.” Megan Reid
“How many stories have I not heard because this editor was in charge?” Mira Jacob
“None of us are laughing—this isn’t a learning moment. This is all a game to you. You are trying to figure out situations where you win.” Daniel José Older
“But there is a mediocre white dude in the Midwest who believes that just on the strength of his own name he won’t succeed. That’s progress. Maybe.” Angela Flournoy
“One thing I have found especially for erotica, some reviewers will cover a 50 Shades of Gray, but if I send them a Zane book, I get an email: ‘“I’m not really interested in this books. I’m not really into this kind of erotica.’ You mean African America erotica? And then I don’t get a response.” Yona Deshommes
“People are quick to judge me by the clothes I wear, rather than the human I am. I don’t even get a word out before they’ve come to conclusions.” Hafsah Faizal
“So, what happens at that last moment in a bookstore? Why is it that the person doesn’t end up going to the register to buy it? That’s a question I constantly struggle with because I’ve had the great privilege of a huge amount of exposure. I think it’s impossible to say it has nothing to do with my ethnicity.” Porochista Khakpour
“The positive public response has been unexpected. There are no pitchforks. Part of it is about timing, the fact that I am white and it isn’t an intersectional story.” Alex Gino
“I can’t believe there is a conspiracy, but publishing is failing in this way. The truth is people help the people who they are most comfortable with, or who they think will bring them more power and glory.” Elissa Schappell
“The worry there is always that I’m going to be labeled as problematic and hard to work with, that editors won’t want to work with me anymore because they don’t want to be labeled a racist.” Danielle Henderson
“I’m half Asian, I almost forget that as a reader. I kind of subconsciously identify as white as I’m reading. I’ve never really looked for a half Asian narrative because I don’t expect to find it. Even when I find Asian American novels, that’s not really my experience either.” Kirsten Carleton
“I found and read the Spanish versions, loved them, and pitched them to my supervisor. She decided not to pursue because no one else in the office could understand Spanish and vouch for my gut feeling. It went on to be bought by a big time editor at another house.” Shelley Diaz


Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, formerly poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running, soccer.

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Published on February 24, 2016 09:50 • 7 views

February 10, 2016

‘‘And, for writers who are trying to challenge the pandering of the white gaze, if you have to go through a series of gatekeepers who are uniformly white, you’re going to end up with something that’s’’ — here came a considered pause — ‘‘it’s going to be tough to preserve the integrity in the end.’’


“How Chris Jackson Is Building a Black Literary Movement”

Vinson Cunningham, THE NEW YORK TIMES



What’s the most exciting thing to happen in book publishing over the past several years? The rise of self-publishing? Coloring books for adults? Social commerce? (LOL!)


I’d argue that it’s the slow but steady maturation of the discussions around the industry’s disappointingly predictable lack of diversity, from staff to shelves.


 



@glecharles @LEEandLOW has always walked the walk of making diverse books for kids, watching them take the fight to the industry is v cool.


— Emily Williams (@emilyw00) February 8, 2016



 


WHERE IS THE DIVERSITY IN PUBLISHING?

The recently released results of the first Diversity Baseline Survey, spearheaded and championed by Jason Low and a small group of forward-thinking industry professionals (including my former colleagues at SLJ who walk the walk better than anyone I’ve ever worked with), weren’t terribly surprising: book publishing is predominantly straight, white, and female, with straight white men predictably making notable inroads at the executive level.


Diversity Baseline Survey

via Lee & Low


What was surprising, though, was how many publishers and review journals participated–34 and 8, respectively–and how the data is seemingly starting to drive more focused, more actionable discussions across the industry.


Not coincidentally, while this survey was being conducted, we saw a variety of relevant incidents over the past year or so that highlight publishing’s diversity problem, from Daniel Handler’s racist introduction of Jacqueline Woodson, to reader outrage over the inclusion of gay and lesbian characters in a beloved franchise, to happy, smiling slaves in childrens’ literature.


Notably, in the latter example, several of the people involved were black, an important reminder that being “committed to diversity” and hiring a few people of color isn’t some silver bullet.


And, of course, diversity isn’t simply about race, but it’s arguably the most glaring aspect of the industry’s challenges as systemic racism is embedded deeply in its DNA.


Throughout my 20+ years in publishing (mostly in the magazine world, but the past 6+ years have closely aligned with books) I’ve often been the only minority in a meeting, or one of just a few on staff. As I moved into management and started hiring my own staff, I was often frustrated by the lack of minority candidates I’d see, even when I’d proactively seek them out. And minority interns are the industry’s true unicorns, especially when the roles are unpaid, as they so often are.


As a result, my own professional network looks nothing like my personal network. It’s overwhelmingly white and I’ve often been stumped when asked to recommend minority candidates for jobs or conference panels or articles about publishing’s diversity problems.


It’s frustrating as hell, actually.


DIVERSITY IS REALITY

Diversity isn’t a trending topic.


Diversity isn’t about tolerance for “others” or being politically correct.


A “commitment to diversity” isn’t an initiative or a program with a start and end date.


Diversity is reality. Period.


It’s long past time the publishing industry came to grips with that reality, especially if its biggest players have any real expectations of being the “global industry” it thinks it is.


The $100,000 question, though, is what can I do to help change things?


If you’re white and work in publishing, the path to creating a more diverse industry that represents the real world is actually a lot clearer than it is for those who are underrepresented. You’re the default; you have access and influence and the ability to drive change from the inside. And thankfully, I know many who are doing exactly that and I appreciate their efforts.


But what about the rest of us? How can we help drive change in this industry we care so much about, despite it so often not caring all that much about us?



I often question why I work in/for an industry that doesn’t really value my existence or interests, so that Jackson profile is heartening.


— Guy L. Gonzalez (@glecharles) February 2, 2016



Is the only solution to do it all ourselves while a handful of exceptions slowly drive change from the inside, or is there a realistic, viable middle ground?


I’m asking for a friend.



Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, formerly poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running, soccer.

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Published on February 10, 2016 09:46 • 6 views

December 3, 2015

Not quite six years ago, in the waning moments of the inaugural Digital Book World conferenceand the shadow of the iPad’s disruptive (for all of the wrong reasons) reveal, I offered some closing remarks that expressed my optimism for the future of publishing.


“If we’ve learned anything from the Internet and its growth from the early days of AOL and Compuserve to the right now of blogs, Wikipedia and Google… there is an insatiable thirst for ideas. People are reading more than ever, and that’s not a threat to publishers, it’s an opportunity.”


At the time, any stance that even remotely suggested traditional publishing wasn’t actually on its death bed, or that ebooks weren’t going to be as transformational as digital music or, god forbid, that maybe the iPad wasn’t the publishing savior every tech fetishist insisted it would be — any sense of optimism that the industry could survive, maybe even thrive, was met with scorn and snark. And not just from outsiders with no skin in the game but, way too many times, the call was coming from in the house, often full of self-loathing and desperate for attention.


And yet, in these final days of 2015, here we are, with a traditional publishing industry that’s evolved to include new players and business models, alongside an independent publishing industry that’s steadily growing and continually evolving, too. We’ve seen a variety of interesting and ill-conceived experiments on both sides come and go, lip service still being paid to independent booksellers and libraries who soldier on anyway, and pundits who randomly move the goal posts whenever’s convenient.


What we haven’t seen are the radical disruptions that so many predicted were right on the horizon… there? No, over here? Wait, there it— #cmonson


NOT DEAD YET!

The generation of young readers now entering their adult years had a richer diet of superb books published for them than any before. Raised on “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” they’ve had books as a huge part of their lives, and have watched those books become excellent movies, expanding their imaginative hold. Having grown up online, they are all of necessity writers and readers. As this generation comes to the market over the next decades, their demand for great and exciting books will fuel a huge growth in writing and reading.


Michael Pietsch, CEO, Hachette



Wannabe disruptors make bold, unsupported claims, get adoring praise. Publishing CEO makes pragmatic statement, gets snark. #cmonson


— Guy L. Gonzalez (@glecharles) December 2, 2015



The Reading RoomI was amused and annoyed by the predictable snark on Twitter in reaction to Pietsch’s op-ed, but not really surprised. What did surprise me was his unexpected validation of one of the primary reasons I unexpectedly (to most, myself included) joined a publishing startup two months ago.


As of October, I’m the father of TWO teenagers, and the list of things that make me feel like the proverbial old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn seems to grow longer with each passing year. Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, memes, emoji… OMFG!!!


In the spirit of “Go with what is. Use what happens.” though, one of the main things that intrigued me about the new gig was the audience they’ve attracted: 76% of our registered members are younger than me!


In a member survey we conducted in October, right after I started, 66% of our US members reported reading more than 48 books per year; 38% spend more than $26/month on books; and 78% still read print. (On a delightful side note, 72% also borrow print, ebooks, and audiobooks from the library. LJ‘s Patron Profiles finding that borrowers are buyers still holds up, haters!)


WE’RE ALL DIGITAL IMMIGRANTS

I’ve never bought into the idea that so-called “digital natives” would turn away from print anytime soon, or that they’d be too distracted by Angry Birds and Candy Crush to bother reading anymore, partly because the term “digital natives” is stupid and reductive.


I was born in 1969 and grew up with an Atari 2600 and Commodore 64; I made short FILMS with my G.I. Joe figures and a Super 8 camera; I self-published a newsletter for my high school fantasy football league with desktop publishing software and a dot-matrix printer. Years later, I learned more about the internet from four old white guys than most 25-year-olds will ever know; everything else I taught myself.


Lately, I’ve been fascinated by my teenage son’s reading tastes evolving almost identically to how mine did at his age, and how he decides between reading something in print vs. ebook, or juggling between reading, playing games, and watching movies. After a few fits and starts, he’s now starting to make his own videos, too.


And yet, as of December 3, 2015, despite viral YouTube videos that imply otherwise, I haven’t seen any news reports that someone’s been born with a computer chip in their brain and USB port in their ass, so there are no digital natives, only digital immigrants.


STILL AN OPTIMIST

I am thrilled that, six years after taking on the mantle of “Chief Executive Optimist” at Digital Book World and, later, seeing it outlast its more antagonistic competition, there’s still a sense of optimism about the industry’s future. I’ve certainly had that optimistic outlook challenged over the years, especially when it came to seeing firsthand how libraries are mistreated and devalued (again, the call is usually coming from in the house!), but I’m thankful for Pietsch’s optimism.


The ebook dust may be finally settling but the industry itself still has a lot more changes looming on the horizon and no one should pretend otherwise. What hasn’t changed, though, is our insatiable thirst for ideas, for stories told in a variety of media and formats, including books.


As Pietsch noted, the generations coming behind us are both actively engaged consumers AND inspired creators with their own stories to tell; the publishers (and publishing-adjacent partners) who are able to meet them halfway and engage authentically have nothing but blue sky ahead.


Margaret Drabble



Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, formerly poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running, soccer.

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Published on December 03, 2015 12:16 • 12 views

September 16, 2015

Four-and-a-half years ago, I joined Team Library with a mission to help bring three strong but neglected print brands into the digital present, and after a rocky first three years of rebuilding infrastructure and establishing sustainable processes, the past 18+ months have been a rather enjoyable roller coaster of successful new (and revamped) initiatives built upon a pretty solid foundation of strategic planning and smart, engaged staff.


A month-a-half ago, my boss resigned after five years at the helm. I was his first hire as publisher and we worked closely together–moreso than I ever have with any previous boss–sharing a similar vision, occasionally differing on how to get there, but in the end, always getting there together. He resigned with the confidence that he’d achieved his primary goal of leaving the three brands in (far) better shape than when he took them over, and I’m now ready to move on with a similar feeling of accomplishment, too.


It wasn’t an easy decision as the current staff includes some of the smartest, most passionate people I’ve ever worked with, and the audience they serve is one I have the utmost respect for, second only to teachers. Their mission continues, but it’s time for me to move on to new challenges and, man, did I ever find one!


The Reading Room


The Reading Room connects books with people. We make discovering books entertaining, informative and socially engaging. And, most importantly believe that the best recommendations come from people you know and trust.


On September 30th I’ll be joining The Reading Room as VP, Audience Development.


It’s a relatively new(ish) startup that I’d never heard of before earlier this year when my former Digital Book World colleague, Matt Mullin, joined them as Sales Director, but the more I learned about them, the more intrigued I became. I’ve been a pretty vocal skeptic when it comes to publishing-adjacent startups over the past several years, and the idea of working at ANY start-up at this point in my career wasn’t on my ideal job wish list at all, but I really like what they’re building and how they’ve gone about it, focused on engaging community first, learning what that community wants and needs, and continually refining the product based on what they’ve learned.


Having spent the last 12+ years helping legacy print brands navigate the digital transition (excepting that 18-month run building DBW from scratch), I’m excited about the opportunity to jump into the digital present with both feet, no print crutch in sight. I still love the magazine industry and have a fondness for print that will never die, but I couldn’t resist an opportunity to help build something in the digital book world that will challenge me in new ways and allow me to expand upon skills that have always been somewhat constrained in print-centric environments.


Most importantly, though, I like the people. Culture is the underrated special sauce at any company, and it was my top priority in considering my next move. Reuniting with Matt is definitely a plus, but their… our CEO, Kim Anderson, has assembled a pretty impressive team that I can’t wait to start working with.


If, like me, The Reading Room wasn’t already on your radar, go check it out and let me know what you think, good or bad. And if you’re already using it, send me your profile so I can follow you.


UPDATE [4/29/16]: After six months, I left The Reading Room at the end of March 2016. An interesting experience that I’ll fully unpack one of these days, but suffice to say, most startups fail to gain traction for a variety of reasons, but the most common one is misreading a gap in the market, especially when personal benchmarking is at play.



Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, formerly poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running, soccer.

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Published on September 16, 2015 12:48 • 6 views

Four-and-a-half years ago, I joined Team Library with a mission to help bring three strong but neglected print brands into the digital present, and after a rocky first three years of rebuilding infrastructure and establishing sustainable processes, the past 18+ months have been a rather enjoyable roller coaster of successful new (and revamped) initiatives built upon a pretty solid foundation of strategic planning and smart, engaged staff.


A month-a-half ago, my boss resigned after five years at the helm. I was his first hire as publisher and we worked closely together–moreso than I ever have with any previous boss–sharing a similar vision, occasionally differing on how to get there, but in the end, always getting there together. He resigned with the confidence that he’d achieved his primary goal of leaving the three brands in (far) better shape than when he took them over, and I’m now ready to move on with a similar feeling of accomplishment, too.


It wasn’t an easy decision as the current staff includes some of the smartest, most passionate people I’ve ever worked with, and the audience they serve is one I have the utmost respect for, second only to teachers. Their mission continues, but it’s time for me to move on to new challenges and, man, did I ever find one!


The Reading Room


The Reading Room connects books with people. We make discovering books entertaining, informative and socially engaging. And, most importantly believe that the best recommendations come from people you know and trust.


On September 30th I’ll be joining The Reading Room as VP, Audience Development.


It’s a relatively new(ish) startup that I’d never heard of before earlier this year when my former Digital Book World colleague, Matt Mullin, joined them as Sales Director, but the more I learned about them, the more intrigued I became. I’ve been a pretty vocal skeptic when it comes to publishing-adjacent startups over the past several years, and the idea of working at ANY start-up at this point in my career wasn’t on my ideal job wish list at all, but I really like what they’re building and how they’ve gone about it, focused on engaging community first, learning what that community wants and needs, and continually refining the product based on what they’ve learned.


Having spent the last 12+ years helping legacy print brands navigate the digital transition (excepting that 18-month run building DBW from scratch), I’m excited about the opportunity to jump into the digital present with both feet, no print crutch in sight. I still love the magazine industry and have a fondness for print that will never die, but I couldn’t resist an opportunity to help build something in the digital book world that will challenge me in new ways and allow me to expand upon skills that have always been somewhat constrained in print-centric environments.


Most importantly, though, I like the people. Culture is the underrated special sauce at any company, and it was my top priority in considering my next move. Reuniting with Matt is definitely a plus, but their… our CEO, Kim Anderson, has assembled a pretty impressive team that I can’t wait to start working with.


If, like me, The Reading Room wasn’t already on your radar, go check it out and let me know what you think, good or bad. And if you’re already using it, send me your profile so I can follow you.



Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, formerly poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running, soccer.

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Published on September 16, 2015 12:48 • 14 views

July 17, 2015

“I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”


Ta-Nehisi Coates, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME


Between The World and Me, Ta-Nehisi CoatesI first came across Ta-Nehisi Coates via his blog at The Atlantic years ago, at the height of my political engagement and concurrent love affair with the work of his colleague, Andrew Sullivan. Coates was a smart writer, but more importantly, he was a contemporary, lacing his probing political and cultural observations with references to D&D, comic books, and poetry, and I wasn’t at all surprised when I realized we’d overlapped on the latter, having mutual connections in the poetry slam world. He was the new media journalist equivalent of Willie Perdomo, someone from a background I could relate to who was changing the game, and I quickly became a fan.


Coates’ first book, The Beautiful Struggle, a memoir, was the first of its genre to ever really engage me, partly because our lives followed similar paths, but mostly because he’s an excellent writer whose connection to poetry and hip-hop shined through brightly–poets make better writers, period, and hip-hop is an underrated influence on modern American culture.


His latest, Between The World and Me, is one of the most important books to be published this decade, surely, possibly even this young century. In context of the long list of tragic events of the past few years (from Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland, to Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charleston), it is timely, but that’s the easy part. It’s the combination of Coates’ framing (a letter to his son) and his raw, unapologetic tone (Amanda Nelson nails it: “it totally lacks white gaze-y couching of language”) that makes it stand out as a singular work that has drawn deserved comparisons to James Baldwin.


For many, Coates’ work is revelatory and/or discomfiting, and that is as it should be. He doesn’t offer his son any condescending platitudes or even a hint of a happy ending, because doing so would be disingenuous.


“Your life is so very different from my own. The grandness of the world, the real world, the whole world, is a known thing for you… I don’t know what it means to grow up with a black president, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, social networks, omnipresent media, and black women everywhere in their natural hair. What I know is that when they loosed the killer of Michael Brown, you said, ‘I’ve got to go.’”


The parallels and diverging paths between Coates’ life and my own that were apparent in The Beautiful Struggle converge in Between The World and Me, as he wrestles with how to be a good father in a world where black and brown lives can be ended in a split second with no accountability or remorse, where the only “protection” we can ultimately offer them is being brutally honest about reality while not completely giving in to an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that hovers uniquely over our lives on a daily basis.


Honestly, I’m still digesting the book, and have given it to my wife to read, and then to our 14-year-old son afterwards, hoping to fully unpack it together. Or not. We’ll see.


While I love that it’s getting so much attention in the mainstream despite dropping at the same time as Harper Lee’s “new” book, I wish more of the discussion was introspective, less defensive, and made room for voices who don’t typically get heard. When in doubt, sometimes the best response is silence, a bit of advice someone should have given a certain NY Times op-ed columnist who apparently couldn’t help himself.



Yes, @nytdavidbrooks, your gut instinct to be silent, for a change, was right. Couldn’t help yourself; privilege is tough, I guess? #cmonson


— Guy L. Gonzalez (@glecharles) July 17, 2015



I’m not one to give white people advice, but I can understand some will want to discuss Between The World and Me with their black friends and colleagues, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But tread lightly, be really clear about WHY you want to have that discussion, and most importantly, be prepared to STFU and listen, and don’t expect to come out of the discussion feeling “better” about anything.



Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, formerly poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running, soccer.

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Published on July 17, 2015 06:59 • 31 views

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