Thursday, October 09, 2008

Guest Appearance: Lou Aronica, Publisher

If you are anything like me, you sometimes wonder how it is someone ends up landing such a great job as being a publisher. So, I thought it was finally time to pose that very question to someone in the profession.

I was thrilled that I was able to snag a moment with Lou Aronica who has worked with such authors as J.A. Jance, Peter Robinson, Dennis Lehane, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Neil Gaiman. Even my husband's eyes lit up at the idea. Lou Aronica has recently branched out on his own, setting up a new publishing company called Story Plant, which publishes commercial fiction.

Many thanks to the folks at Pump Up Your Book Promotions for letting me be a part of Lou Aronica's virtual blog tour.

Please welcome Lou Aronica to Musings of a Bookish Kitty!

I came to book publishing in a roundabout way. Actually, I think most people do. I’m sure some people think about careers and immediately say, “I want to be in the book business.” For the vast majority, though, they ponder multiple options and someone suggests, “You could try book publishing.”

That’s the way it was with me. I was an English major with minors in Creative Writing and Education. My intention was to be an English teacher and spend my summers writing incisive fiction. The problem was, back in 1979 when I graduated, there were fifty applicants for every available teaching position – ironic considering the teaching shortage now. A college friend said, “You could try book publishing,” and I sent out a bunch of resumes. When Bantam hired me – for a dreadful job that involved carting cover mechanicals and copy from one executive’s office to another for approvals – I had no illusions about having embarked on my life’s work. Since I wanted to be a novelist, I figured a few years in publishing would give me plenty of “inside information” about the industry, which would help me when I started releasing my own books.

Relatively quickly, though, something started to happen. Listening to people talk about books, sitting in on cover conferences where people made plans for these books, and getting my hands on manuscripts stirred a fascination in the process in me. Some of the executives I hounded for approvals, most notably Irwyn Applebaum (who is now Publisher of Bantam Dell), actually engaged me in conversation about the books and I found that this intrigued me as well. I’d never once considered myself a businessman, but the business of publishing was proving somewhat interesting.

Then I encountered Ian Ballantine. Ian introduced the mass market paperback to America, founded Bantam, left Bantam to found Ballantine, and then returned to Bantam in an at-large position. He spoke oddly, dressed oddly, and maintained no discernable regular hours at the office. He was also a genius. And, for some reason, he seemed to like me. He’d engage me in conversation about a variety of publishing-related topics, walk me through his projects, and take me out to dinner with his equally brilliant wife, the legendary editor Betty Ballantine. What Ian showed me was that the business side of publishing was exciting, creative, and fulfilling. He inspired me to think in contrarian ways about building publishing programs. This led me to believe that I could do something with Bantam’s floundering science fiction and fantasy program. And once I got started on that, my dedication to the book business was complete.

In 2000, I finally started that writing career I thought was a central part of my career path, and I stepped away from the business side of the book industry. As much as I love writing and I love being a writer, I’ve felt that something was missing because I couldn’t see a book from the written page all the way to the market. I couldn’t build programs because that was the publisher’s job and I was no longer a publisher. An industry I’d entered very casually had become an essential part of my life. My friend, literary manager Peter Miller, and I talked about this often. These conversations led to the creation of The Story Plant, our new independent publishing house that launched this fall. I’m still writing, but I spend a good part of every day now thinking about how to develop the writers on our list and how to publish the way Ian Ballantine taught me to publish. The goal of The Story Plant is to take the business of publishing very seriously while giving our writers a true home.

It is very good to be back.

Be sure and check out the other stop along Lou Aronica's tour route:

Future Perfect Publishing


Book Marketing Buzz

The Writer's Life

American Chronicle

Scribe Vibe


Fiction Scribe

In Bed With Books

The Book Connection

Minds Alike on the Shelves

Year of Reading

Paperback Writer

The Bookworm

Breeni Books

The Real Hollywood

Bookish Ruth


  1. I love hearing "how I did it" stories. I think that's why I love autobiographies so much. Great post, Lou, and thank you Bookish Kitty for letting Lou guest blog today! For those who are following Lou's tour, tomorrow he will be appearing at In Bed With Books!

  2. What a great interview. I love these behind the scenes stories.

  3. Fascinating post! It's interesting how most people who work in publishing end up there in a roundabout way. There almost seems to be no direct route. It's great to have a chance to hear about how things happen from an insider.

  4. Hey Bud! How was Hawaii? I am going to go looking in case I missed the post!

    I hope you had a brilliant time. Bye for now!

  5. I have often wondered how people end up with wonderful-seeming jobs in the book business. Thanks for this interesting guest post!

  6. Hi Wendy :}

    Thank-you for this interview anything to do with books has got to be a dream, mine anyway :P

    By the way Dorothy lives close by me, I never find anyone with a book blog in my area until I found Dorothy, hi Dorothy :}}

    I'll get back to you this week-end Wendy :}

  7. Thank you for stopping by everyone! I enjoy hearing "how I did it" stories too.

    Dancin' Fool - I had a great time in Hawaii. It feels like so long ago though. I do wish I was back there!

  8. I think this is so fascinating! I also love reading about how people in the business came to do what they do. Thank you for the info.

  9. Wow! Thanks for sharing with us, Wendy. Interesting what he says about the teacher shortage because the same isn't true for college teachers. When I was in grad school I had a professor that gave us the "nightmare" talk every week about how many applicants go through the MLA round every year--sometimes 800 applicants for a single position. It was enough to scare me a way! :)


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