Spotlight on John Mutter: Cofounder of Shelf Awareness and Keynote Speaker at Write to Publish 2015

Write to Publish, Ooligan Press’s annual publishing conference, is proud to have John Mutter as our keynote speaker. John is the cofounder of Shelf Awareness, a company whose newsletters reach both readers and publishing professionals. With Write to Publish 2015 quickly approaching, we thought we would spotlight John Mutter and Shelf Awareness so you, dear readers, can learn a little more about them.

TS: For those who don’t know, what is Shelf Awareness?

JM: Shelf Awareness began nearly ten years ago, when Jenn Risko and I founded it. Our first—and still main—part of the company is the Shelf Awareness Pro newsletter, which is sent out on most business days. It’s full of news, reviews and information that’s intended to help booksellers and librarians do their jobs better. Thus we have listings of what authors are appearing on what national TV and radio shows, news about books that are just coming out, news about authors, news about bookstores and much more. We have a lot of readership throughout the book industry even though we don’t have news, for example, about literary agents signing contracts for a book coming out several years down the road. We have more than 30,000 subscribers.

Our other big product is Shelf Awareness for Readers, which we introduced in 2011. It comes out twice a week and is intended for booklovers. Besides some author interviews and book news, the issues mostly consist of book reviews—we do twenty-five a week. Like the Pro edition, this has done very well. We have more than 300,000 subscribers, many of them through the editions we do with more than eighty bookstores (which go to their email lists).

We have more than ten full-time staff people and an office in Seattle. Most of the editors, however, are on the East Coast and work from their homes or other locales.

TS: How has your previous experience working with Publishers Weekly influenced your work at Shelf Awareness?

JM: I started at PW in 1981 as a junior reporter, with journalistic experience but not much knowledge of the publishing industry. In my more than twenty years at PW, I learned a lot about the book world, made many contacts, and started up something similar to Shelf Awareness. (That project did well for a while but then was wrecked by corporate politics—but it became the seed for Shelf Awareness.) PW was my introduction to the book world.

TS: Why did you want to participate in Write to Publish 2015?

JM: I think I can help participants at the conference understand the publishing industry and publishing issues better. Also, I would like to better understand what Ooligan Press and the Portland State University Publishing program do.

For more information on Write to Publish 2015 and our keynote speaker, visit the event website.

It’s Starting to Come Together

Why, hello there. It’s been a busy month for the Write to Publish team. We have roughly half of our panelists confirmed, although we won’t be announcing those lovely folks until closer to the end of summer. Some exciting news that I can offer you is the big reveal of our keynote speaker, Mr. John Mutter, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Shelf Awareness.

In case you haven’t heard of Shelf Awareness, here’s a brief run down. Shelf Awareness publishes two newsletters that go out to readers, professionals in the book industry, and librarians. Combined, these newsletters reach over 300,000 individuals. The newsletters are filled with reviews, author interviews, publishing industry news, and more; it’s considered an essential resource to book lovers everywhere, and if you’re not already a follower, here’s the link to sign up.

Before starting Shelf Awareness, John Mutter was the executive editor of bookselling at Publishers Weekly and the former PW Daily for Booksellers. He has years of experience in the industry, and we at the press could not be more excited to hear him speak and share what he’s learned. We hope you are, too!

By fall, we hope to have most of the developmental side of the conference—like finding sponsors, vendors, and the rest of our panelists—completed, so that we can take a deep breath and dive into marketing. While we are personally contacting panelists, any organization interested in being a sponsor or vendor can feel free to contact us at In the meantime, be sure to check our temporary landing page for updates. If you’re a high school student, you might be interested in our essay contest, created just for you. The winner will receive free admission to the conference and their essay will be published on the Ooligan blog.

More updates will be posted shortly, including information about our short story contest, which is sponsored by Gertrude Press. Be sure to stay tuned!