Faces of Publishing: Lynn Pasquale, Prometheus Books (September, 2012)

Kevin Smith

Lynn Pasquale

Lynn Pasquale has been with Prometheus Books for over ten years and currently serves as Director of Digital Publishing.

Alex C. Telander: Most important question first: is it ebook, eBook, Ebook, e-book?  Is there a definitive nomenclature?

Lynn Pasquale: The answer is all of the above. Various publishing and conversion houses seem to have their own preference on how to write “ebook.” This spelling—ebook—is simply the standard we chose to follow as a press to keep everything consistent.

Alex: How did you end up working in the ebook department?

Lynn: I worked in publicity here for about 8 years and I was ready for a new direction. The timing was such that ebooks were coming onto the scene and the need for a full-time staff member to manage them became apparent. I was ready to take on the challenge, and I am grateful that our president realized the work ethic, brand loyalty, and detail-oriented focus that had served me well in publicity would translate into helping us navigate this new market.

Alex: What does an ordinary day entail for you?

Lynn: An “ordinary day?” I could have answered this question so differently six months ago from today and I will probably answer it differently six months from now. Things are evolving and changing all the time so my job has to adapt. Right now I am focused on making sure our entire science fiction and fantasy imprint, Pyr, successfully gets converted into epub format and online, which involves managing the conversion and getting the files to our excellent team of proofreaders and then to our various ebook vendors. We are also focusing on the conversion of our frontlist Prometheus Books which need to go through a similar process. There can be conversion-induced errors, particularly in formatting and especially with charts and graphs, so we really need to make sure everything looks good before putting it out there. This involves a lot of project management and proofing. We are also in the process of expanding to additional platforms which involves research and a whole lot of metadata management.

Alex: Have you had to learn a lot of technical knowledge about ebooks, or is it all pretty straightforward?

Lynn: I’ve had to learn a lot of technical knowledge about ebooks but it’s all been very gradual due to the constantly changing nature of the field (certain technologies would come and go without necessarily making an impact), and to the fact that everyone else was all in the same boat. It’s been kind of a “learn-as-you-go” experience. I think most people in publishing and bookselling would agree with that statement. I regularly read industry e-newsletters and I’ve taken advantage of a lot of webinars and attended a few ebook conferences that help put some perspective on what everyone else is doing and where we should be. They also provide a sense of community in this tumultuous time for publishing. You can get caught up in your own little world so it’s good to get the pulse of the industry now and then.

Alex: Do you think there will eventually be just one standard ebook format like Blu-ray, or will ebooks always be available in various formats?

Lynn: I do think there will eventually be a standard. I think the epub format is headed in that direction. But who knows how or when it will all shake out.

Alex: Do you think ebooks are going to completely replace print books, and if so when do you think it will happen?

Lynn: No, I don’t think print is going anywhere anytime soon. Our print books certainly aren’t going anywhere. I think ebooks will peacefully coexist with print books for some time to come. First of all, you have those people who are not yet ready to move over to ebooks, but mainly you have people who want both: they have certain books they want to hold in their hands and keep on their shelves. Personally, I have a thing for cookbooks. I want a print cookbook to page through and I want to have it physically sitting on my shelf with the rest of my cookbooks. But I might want to read a novel that I don’t particularly care to have on my shelf so I might buy it in ebook format. You can’t categorize everyone into one or the other right now so you need to be prepared for both.

Alex: Are out-of-print titles coming back into print in ebook format?

Lynn: Yes, many out-of-print titles get re-issued in ebook format so publishers can tap into an additional market here that traditionally was not available. We don’t put many of our books out of print so for us the benefit is more in the form of rejuvenated interest in our backlist.

Alex: The common misconception is that ebooks are way cheaper to produce than print books and should therefore be much cheaper than they are.  Can you clarify this?

Lynn: I think of it this way: if you are producing a quality ebook you still need to take it through the same process you would a print book, complete with all related costs: acquisitions, editing, typesetting, design, proofreading, marketing, etc. So the only production cost you’d be saving here is the printing. Clearly not much cheaper, if at all, than producing a print book. The misconception lies in the idea that if you are already producing the print book, you can just turn around and publish it as an ebook with little additional cost. The truth is there are conversion costs and the cost of staff needed to proof the ebook for any formatting errors post-conversion, and the humans needed to get the ebooks onsite for all the various platforms. Or, if you are using a service to get your ebooks onsite then you’ve got to pay for that service. Just because they are digital doesn’t mean you can turn a print book into an ebook with the simple push of a button. Basically what it comes down to is the primary cost of publishing lies in the development and production of the content, not in the manufacturing of the physical books. And that overhead and investment remains in the ebook world.

Alex: Do you believe that the pricing of ebooks will increase or decrease or stay the same in the near future?

Lynn: It may stay the same in the near future but eventually, I think the price will need to increase to compensate for the decrease in print sales. In my opinion, if print and ebooks are going to coexist, they need to be more comparably priced.

Alex: Do you only read ebooks now and who do you like to read?

Lynn: No! I actually prefer the print book! Am I not supposed to say that? Ebooks are great for quick reads or certain novels as I said earlier, but I’m not ready to relinquish the feel of a book in my hands. Lately I’ve been into Jeffrey Eugenides. And I’m reading him in print!

Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Lynn: Besides reading? I like to stay active. Unlike most US publishers, we are located in Western New York (just outside of Buffalo) so I like to take advantage of the winter activities available here and I definitely like to get outside and take advantage of our beautiful summers.

Alex: What is your preferred device to read ebooks on?

Lynn: I really like reading ebooks on the ipad but I’m also partial to the Nook ereader. I like the regular black and white touchscreen Nook because it’s light weight and I really like the E-Ink touchscreen because it looks more natural, like real paper.