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.