800CeoRead Business Book Awards, Murals on 54 at The Warwick Hotel, New York
January 19, 2011
Every year, it's the same thing. I promise myself I'll read more. "Be more well-read," I tell myself, standing in the pizza section of the grocery store. This year I decided to expand my reading promise to include taking down my "I don't need other people to tell me how to do things" wall. You know, the one that's resistant to what I like to call "Business Self-Help" books. The "Be the flower you see in the ad" sort of books. When I got the invitation to cover the 800ceoread Annual Business Book Awards party, it was like a sign.
I had never heard of this site or company, and when I did a quick Google search on it, their name showed up like a phone number -- 800-Ceo-Read -- which doubly confused me. Of course I tweeted about it, only to get a reply from a surprise source, one of my favorite beers, who further advised "Yes, I would suspect lots of high powered, bkfst at the Regency, lunch at Michaels crowd." Great, I would have to break out my "super-mature Kelly costume."
The event was held at Murals on 54 in The Warwick Hotel, which is a cute little place. Tiny lobby, lots of fwuppy carpet. I entered the party space as one of the first guests, and immediately darted over to the books. An entire wall of fresh, crease-free, some slick, some matte, all-colorful books were on display. I ran my hand over the soft-covered "Diary of a Very Bad Year": the cover art was heavy, a man in silhouette in a chair, his briefcase at his side, his face buried in his hands. The book is full of interviews with an anonymous hedge fund manager (HFM) during the infamous recent years of financial darkness (are we out of that yet?) I met the author/HFM interviewer Keith Gessen and Harper Perennial (the publisher) Associate Editor Michael Signorelli. They were doing synchronized appetizer munching when I cornered them.
I also met the winner of the Leadership category, Stan Slap, whose book "Bury My Heart In Conference Room B" jumped out at me with its Russian propaganda-style cover. I met Stan Slap because Paul McLoughlin, of McLoughlin Signature Video and Bob Burke, also of McLoughlin Signature Video, bounced into my conversation with Thought Equity Motion's Gail Hilton raving about how Slap just flew in from Texas and boy were his arms tired. McLoughlin is in the business of web talk radio (at webtalkradio.net) but also produces video snacks for others' sites.
I also met Sharon Polese and Tom Wilson of John Wiley & Sons, a publisher responsible for one of my favorite titles -- "Brains on Fire," which could double as the title for my memoirs. It was so fun being around so many publishers, authors, and book nerds. One particular book nerd that stood out for me was Laura Czaja, PR Manager for FT Press. Laura loves books. "Why does it have to be either/or?" she asked, while we talked about e-readers, books being published for iPad only, and our old friends, the paper versions. People still love the tangible experience of books, and regardless of your opinion on that matter, it can't be argued that the book publishing industry is an exciting place to be right now. At least people want to read, right?
But here's what I wonder, what is going to happen to the singletons whose greatest pick-up move has been the "Oh, hey, I'm reading that too, how do you like it" line on the subway? Remarking on a cover is benign, peering over a shoulder is just plain creepy. Paradigm shift!
"Rework" by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson won for Book of the Year, and while the recognized authors weren't there to accept, Matt "I helped them write this book, but their names are listed on the cover" Linderman was. And he was armed to the teeth in his rally against publishers. Well. Maybe not against, but let's just say he'd rework his experience.
Linderman is obviously a critical thinker, someone who doesn't just follow process blindly because that's the way it's always been done. People with their own brains question things, not to be jerks, but to find better ways, or to at least understand the why before proceeding forward. Linderman described his experience with his publishers as a pushing-back dance, with the publishers pushing back because "entrepreneurship books don't sell" and the rework guys pushing back because "when you tell people to do things the way you've always done them... you're homogenizing things."
I'd say the relationship worked out well for both sides. The New York nerd circle is abuzz about it, it's a New York Times Best Seller, and now Book of The Year according to 800CeoRead. It seems both sides of that relationship knew what they were doing.
The nutella filling to this delicious doughnut of an evening was that guests were encouraged to grab any books they wanted on display before heading home.
I have a lot of reading to do.
Also out and about at the book party last night: Andrew Palladino, Freelance PR dude; Micah Solomon a customer service keynote speaker and author; Adrien Zuckheim, Publisher at Penguin Group USA; Donya Dickerson, Senior Editor at McGraw-Hill; Felicia Sinusas, Publicity Manager at Jane Wesman PR; Heather Fox, Senior Publicist at Pearson Education; and a bunch of sliced meats, chickens on sticks, and bacon wrapped scallops.
Send your invitations to firstname.lastname@example.org!