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The Corner Office : On the Record With: Paul Bogaards

Chatting with Knopf Doubleday's PR chief about technology, working the press and the most powerful people in publishing

November 2012 By Interview by Lynn Rosen
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Paul Bogaards is Executive Vice President, Executive Director of Publicity and Media Relations for the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, where he has worked since 1989. He directs the publicity efforts for all Knopf books and authors, participates in acquisitions decisions, rights sales, speech-writing for group Chairman Sonny Mehta and more. In January Bogaards posted a much-talked-about tumblr post entitled “Hierarchy of Book Publishing: The Top 100 (circa 2010).” He spoke with Book Business about the challenges and rewards of working in a changing industry.

What’s your take on the book publishing industry these days? An industry in turmoil? An industry rife with opportunity for growth? Somewhere in the middle?

● I’m bullish about our immediate prospects and optimistic about our long term future. But it’s not wise (or healthy) to do what I do, sit where I sit, and be a pessimist. It’s a great time to be an author. It’s a great time to be a reader. And it’s a great time to be a publisher.

Physical books are proving to be remarkably resilient. The ebook ecosystem has become more diverse across publishing, self-publishing and retail sectors. Independent booksellers are proving their mettle at driving customer engagement and becoming vibrant community hubs. Publishers are making necessary adaptations in the digital space and significant investments in tools and resources to gain reader insights, map performing media, measure reader engagement, aggregate audiences and listen to conversations as they animate around books and authors. There is more capturing of data and sharing of knowledge than ever before, and all of these enable us to market our authors with more precision.

Overall, our industry has become more dynamic, with a publisher focus on servicing authors in greater capacities.

You have been called one of the most powerful people in book publishing. What do you think it is about what you do and how you do it that makes people perceive you as being powerful?

● A great falsehood, this. If you spent any time working with me, you’d see me for what I am: the company water boy. Public relations professionals are all water boys (and girls).

The perception probably has something to do with my candor. I have always been candid with colleagues at Random House and in my external dealings with colleagues in the media. I don’t believe in telling people what they want to hear or speaking in code. Also, I have learned to say “no.” And media outlets are used to hearing “yes.” But as an advocate on behalf of the authors that we publish, saying “no” is sometimes essential. You have to know when to walk away.

 
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