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Thinking-in-New-Boxes-by-Luc-de-BrabandereOne of the books I am currently reading is titled THINKING IN NEW BOXES – A New Paradigm for Business Creativity. The book is written by Luc de Brabandere and Alan Ivy of the Boston Consulting Group. It is edited by Random House executive Will Murphy.

Like all business books, it has it’s usual take-aways, graphs, tables, catchy phrases and lists. Also like many business books, the authors are consultants or “thought-leaders” who travel the world espousing their wisdom. This book is no different than the usual business tome — but I am enjoying it quite a bit.

I read a lot of business books. I find most of them interesting and there is usually something to be learned. No doubt, many are repetitive phrases and all contain similar lessons. But then, there really isn’t anything new to management and getting your employees to be creative. The key is to establish an attitude that allows for creativity. To view it with fresh eyes and a ‘”beginner’s brain.”

SJ_paperback__1_I never read a business book from front-to-back. I always skip around. I may read the last chapter first or the index. I also like to write in the books. These are both reasons why I seldom buy business eBooks. I much prefer the paper form. It is ideal for writing notes and for flipping around. I have found that digital just doesn’t deliver the same experience. So, I may read a business biography (STEVE JOBS by Isaacson) in digital form but not management or policy books.

For THINKING IN NEW BOXES, I found a wealth of information reading the first page of the Glossary.

Some notes on how this book has and will help me:

  • The Theory of the Box
    • The Box is a Mental Model
      • Concepts
      • Stereotypes
      • Categories
      • Ideas
      • Frameworks
      • Paradigms
    • Need to break out of the old “mental model.”
    • New Way to Think
      • Organize Facts
      • Connect the Links
      • Use the Information to Create Patterns
      • Repeat
    • The Power of the New Box
      • Baggage-free
      • Risk-taking
      • Fact-based
      • Psychology involved
  • 26-31-34-42-44-46-64-67-82-06-11


I don’t expect this outline to mean much by itself. But having read enough of the book, it does make sense. It helps me to review projects in a new manner and to explore beyond the obvious. I link this thinking to Edward de Bono’s classic work LATERAL THINKING.

Looking forward to reading more.Unknown

I just received four books from my friend and Random House sales rep Tom Nevins. Tom is a long-time marketing pro at RH.

He was kind enough to send me the following titles:

  • ONE SUMMER (America, 1927) by Bill Bryson – Doubleday.
  • TOP DOWN (A Novel of the Kennedy Assassination) by Jim Lehrer – Random House.
  • LEAGUE OF DENIAL (The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth) by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru – Crown Archetype.
  • THINKING IN NEW BOXES (A New Paradigm for Business Creativity) by Luc de Brabandere and Alan Ivy – Random House.


I will read all four of the books for they are the type of books I like to read. Most of the non-fiction (although Lehrer is Fiction, it appeals to my non-fiction self). These books are the ones that never seem to come up in any of the “daily deals” or the endless emails I get from the 6-7 different platforms I subscribe to.  Most of the email marketing focuses on genre fiction and selling eBooks at 99 cents.

I first read Bill Bryson with the brilliant A WALK IN THE WOODS. That was the story of his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. His new one, ONE SUMMER, looks like more excellent narrative history from Bryson. Nineteen Twenty-Seven was one of those watershed years in American history.

Jim Lehrer has written 21 novels. I have probably read a dozen of them. I used to watch him on the PBS NewsHour and have always liked his easy-to-read, but torn-from-history novels. He also keeps them short with this one at less than 200 pages.

The next book, LEAGUE OF DENIAL, covers one of the most controversial themes in sports today – the history of how the NFL covered up the severity of head injuries and the long-term effects on the players. The league is stronger and richer than ever, but uses it’s players as disposable parts. I am very much looking forward to reading this one. This is a tie-in to a Frontline special (ESPN was a part of it but pulled out at the last minute).

The final book, THINKING IN NEW BOXES, is a business/psychology book. I read a lot of business titles. Most of them say basically the same thing, but I generally find some bit of wisdom in them. I especially enjoy books such as this one that brings in psychology. The aspect of how we think, act and perceive things is fascinating. I seldom read business books from cover to cover but like to scan and read “out of order.” I have delved into this one and like the perspective. It reminds me a bit of de Bono’s classic concept “Lateral Thinking.”

In this era of digital everything, SEO, blogging and all the various methods to have books “discovered”, there still is value in sending physical books as a part of the overall marketing plan.

Thanks Tom.


2013-10-10 19.08.55While many in the publishing industry attended the Frankfurt Book Fair, I chose to stay closer to home and go to the 8th annual New York Comic Con.

I have attended every NYCC and although the growth has been tremendous, the essence and fun of the show has not changed. It is still a great show to attend and learn about what is happening in pop culture.

The original NYCC had about 25,000 in attendance, this year there was over 130,000. It sold out again.

Book publishers have increased their presence every year. This year it looked like the publishers even stepped it up more.  It reminded me of the ABA of many years ago. When the annual book show created interest in the big titles, with long lines to meet authors and there was a buzz around. The difference is the people in line to see their favorite authors actually are BUYING the books. There was not the dread of the trolls who go to the ABA (and later BEA) just picking up free samples.

Most of the publishers were in the same area of the show floor. I walked through many times and came away very optimistic about the industry and the future of print. Actually I had a sense of deja-vu for many of the publisher booth’s looked like they were recycled from old BEAs. There was a lot of activity and energy.

I was mostly impressed by the Random House Inc booth (8-10 sections); the amount of fans at the Penguin booth; the title selection at the Abrams booth and the overall look of the Simon & Schuster booth. Amazon was there with Jet Comics and 47-North.

One booth was very cool, Anomaly Productions. They only have two books out, but both blend the qualities of print and the technology of digital. I remember them from last year with their oversized illustrated book ANOMALY: The Graphic Novel (which can be bought in a gift box). But I have read and am very excited about their new book – SHIFTER. The new book can be read like a old-school graphic novel. But there is also a corresponding smart-phone and tablet app that uses the camera and highlights selected parts and animates them in 3D. Very cool.

Others that were of interest include the 5-Hour Energy; Vivarin; Geico and Verizon booths.

The Artists Alley was once again in a separate section from the floor. It was in the north area of the Javits Center. This area was packed too. Many well known artists had their booths but also up-and-coming ones. What I have always like about ComicCons is the connection and easy-to-meet relationships between the fans and the creators.

I didn’t get a chance to attend any of the panels. I wanted to but just ran out of time and energy.

Maybe I should have stopped by the Vivarin booth a bit more?

Some random photos

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imagesI met Kurt Vonnegut twice.

The first time was at a book party for Andrew Dubus and his new collection of short stories, DANCING AFTER HOURS. I was the national accounts director of sales for Knopf (division of Random House) and back then there were a lot of book parties. I remember walking through the party and just “bumping into” Mr.Vonnegut. We exchanged a few words and that was it. I was thrilled. He probably didn’t even remember.

The second time I met him was 4-5 years later. The Random House offices were at 201 East 50th in NYC. I was walking from Grand Central Terminal and saw Vonnegut sitting on a bench along Lexington Ave. I did a double-take. I walked past him and thought he looked familiar. Kurt Vonnegut was very distinctive looking.  I turned back and stopped. Had about a five minute conversation with him. I don’t remember the details. I walked away feeling very cool for I had a chance to talk to a genius.

Although I am a fan of his work and was thrilled to meet him, I have not read every novel. I probably have read only 6-7 of his books.

IMG_3243My favorite is SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. I love time travel novels and found the story of Billy Pilgrim thought provoking. I also enjoyed the movie. Many people were required to read it in school. I never had to read. I read it because I had seen the movie first and wanted to understand it better.  I almost always read the book before the movie but in this case I didn’t because both came out decades earlier.  Charlie Kaufman is rumored to be writing a new script for a new movie. I can’t wait.

My other favorites are BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS and the short story collection WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE. Both had the bizarre worlds and style that appealed to me. What I learned was that you could do whatever you want. The rules or writing, drawing, reading and creating are flexible. I took from Vonnegut that one could just be as one wanted to be. Go for it.

There is an interesting business story behind Vonnegut’s eBooks. Because a deal was struck a decade ago (years before Kindle existed), Rosetta Books acquired the digital rights. But Random House Inc. also has the rights. So, Amazon has two eBook editions of many of his titles. The Rosetta Books versions come up higher in search and are available on the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) for free. The books are also available in hardcover, trade paperback and mass market.

His work is also available for people to write fan fiction through Amazon’s Kindle World program. This was received by many as wrong, just wrong. But it remains. I do not think it takes away from his greatness. I believe it probably makes Vonnegut even more of an icon.

Kurt Vonnegut – an American master and an original. IMG_3246

I have one of his books signed — what an original signature too.

imagesimagesOpen Road Media released 10 early novels of genius Michael Crichton earlier this summer. These books are in the collection THE MED SCHOOL YEARS and written between 1966-72 and under the name of John Lange. The retro covers and the series look great. I have just started reading them and look forward to the complete set. Coincidently, Hard Case Crime is bringing out trade paperback of these books (with different covers) this Fall. I may end up buying both the eBook and the physical.

I have been reading Crichton for years and especially liked his string of books from the 90s; JURASSIC PARK (1990); RISING SUN (1992); DISCLOSURE (1994); THE LOST WORLD (1995); AIRFRAME (1996) and TIMELINE (1999). He dominated the decade with his six best-sellers (in addition to re-issues in mass market of some of his earlier titles like CONGO and SPHERE).

IMG_3153I read each of the books immediately. I would read them in 24 hours. He was so topical. I actually think he helped create the culture of the 90s. Each one of these books was made into a big movie. All well made with JURASSIC PARK being a movie/ride/experience that had a major impact on pop culture.

I was the National Accounts Sales Director for Knopf (part of Random House but pre-Bertelsmann).  We were having a good year and the numbers were strong. But this year Knopf was “dropping in” Michael Crichton’s latest AIRFRAME in early December.

IMG_3150Just in time for Holiday giving we were getting an “un-budgeted” 2-million copy gift that would propel us far beyond the annual goals.

This was great! We already had made budget, but the billing for mega-author Crichton would push the bonus to the max.  Every rep in Sales made more money because of this single book.

I mentioned this to Mr. Crichton when we had a “meet and greet” in the conference room. I thanked him. I went on how his book was going to make the entire Sales Force have better bonuses. He looked at me and said, “Do you think it will sell?”

I was confident in my answer; I knew it would blow out like his last few. I replied, “of course, you are on a roll!” He was the biggest selling author in America and he was one of the smartest people ever to pen novels. He had even won an Edgar for A CASE IN NEED written at Harvard Medical School!  Which brings us back to the reissues from Open Road. Can’t wait to read them.

By the way, AIRFRAME went on to be a #1 smash and sell millions of copies.



Forbes recently listed the top-16 earning authors for 2012-2013. It has the usual names but a few new ones. In total, the top 16 authors earned a half-billion dollars.


Although publishing news is dominated by the rise of the self-published author, the established methods are still very viable. Although the top seller, E.L. James, is the perfect example of how the new and the traditional come together to create a phenom.  James’ 50 SHADES OF GRAY trilogy was originally self-published and sold 250,000 copies. It was then picked up by Vintage (division of Knopf, division of random House, a part of Bertelsmann). Vintage was able to get physical distribution everywhere, re-edit the book and sold over 70-million copies world-wide.

The list:

  1. E.L. James – $95,000,000
  2. James Patterson – $91,000,000
  3. Suzanne Collins – $55,000,000
  4. Bill O’Reilly – $28,000,000
  5. Danielle Steel – $26,000,000
  6. Jeff Kinney – $24,000,000
  7. Janet Evanovich – $24,000,000
  8. Nora Roberts – $23,000,000
  9. Dan Brown – $22,000,000
  10. Stephen King – $20,000,000
  11. Dean Koontz – $20,000,000
  12. John Grisham – $18,000,000
  13. David Baldacci – $15,000,000
  14. Rick Riordan – $14,000,000
  15. J.K. Rowling – $13,000,000
  16. George R.R. Martin – $12,000,000

Some thoughts:

  • 15 of the 16 authors write Fiction – Only FoxNews personality Bill O’Reilly (written with Martin Dugard – wonder what he made?) wrote books that were non-Fiction. His KILLING LINCOLN and KILLING KENNEDY books remain hardcover bestsellers and eBook smashes.
  • E.L. James is an anomaly. She came out of nowhere and exploded onto the book scene. Chances are this will be the only year she is on this list. But what a year. Congrats!
  • James Patterson is more of a “Publishing Imprint” than an author. He has a stable of co-authors and writes in many genres. He brings out 14-20 new books a year. His output is impressive and larger than many independent publishers.
  • Old favorites continue to sell – Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Grisham all have been writing novels for over 30 years each. All have had best-sellers for decades.
  • The new Penguin-Random House publishes eight of the 16 authors. This fits with the dialogue that P-RH is about 50% of the best-sellers.  The biggest authors will continue to be published by the biggest conglomerate.
  • Large publishers published the other eight authors too.  The details – Hachette (2); Scholastic (2); Macmillan (1); S&S (1); Disney (1) and Abrams (1).
  • Three authors write primarily for young adults and children (Rowling, Kenney and Riordan) and a Patterson occasionally writes for kids.
  • 12 of the 16 authors were on the list last year. So there is little movement from the top. This plays into the brand name and celebrity of these top writers. They continue to get top billing, the best placement and exposure. Many write series and sequels that continue to expand on their previous books.


Zen Thinking

07.19.2013, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

In today’s busy and confusing world, we are all faced with numerous decisions. Many of these deal with the unknown and creating new rules and methods. It can be daunting making so many decisions with the results being hard to track.

In my consulting business, I deal with a lot of decisions and plans that are creative and have to be made with little information. I pull together as much data and research as possible, but in the emerging digital content market and the disruptive publishing business, the plans and the results are elusive. Plus, the physical book world is changing so often that plans and decisions are must be made without full information.

When faced with so many decisions on complicated matters, I find it can be helpful to go in the opposite direction and look for inspiration in something very simple.

Simple tasks can open up the mind to solving complicated problems.

The other day I was having a difficult time coming up with a proposal for a potential client. I had the basics and knew where I was starting and where I wanted to end. But the difficulty was coming up with a plan to connect the two. The harder I thought, the less I was coming up with ideas.

I decided to take a break and just do something completely different.

I went out to the patio.

I weeded.

I came up with a solution.

Some times is it best to not try as hard – and the solution will come to you.





Clear patio – clear mind – clear thinking – problem solved.

Pandora Radio

07.08.2013, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

pandoraPandora Radio has been getting a lot of flack from musicians over the past few months. Most recently, the surviving members of Pink Floyd penned an open letter in USA TODAY trashing Pandora’s payment to musicians.  How much worse is Pandora than Spotify, terrestrial radio, Sirius XM or others?

The timing of the Pink Floyd letter is interesting as they just agreed to let Spotify stream their music and Apple is starting their own subscription music platform.

I am not taking sides here and do not claim to fully understand who is right and who is wrong.

Musicians have been complaining about the industry since the first song was recorded. Record companies, radio stations and producers have been taking advantage of musicians forever. It is the norm for this conflict to exist.

I like Pandora. I find it a great service and it has helped me discover (and buy) at least 20 albums over the past year. Yes, I buy albums and not singles. I have bought all of these through Apple iTunes but would not have either heard of nor re-discovered many of these bands.

Some of the musicians that I have bought because of Pandora.

  • The Dirty Heads                      the dirty heads
  • The Expendibles
  • Slightly Stoopid
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (always listened)
  • Green Day (rediscovered their early stuff)
  • Sublime (rediscovered – and use them as the basis for recommendations)
  • Dave Gilmour‘s solo stuff – especially his Live at Gdansk. So even though he is complaining as part of Pink Floyd. I bought his music because of it.images
  • Numerous reggae groups and performers. This is the area that I probably have learned the most and bought albums by Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, obscure Bob Marley stuff, and at least a half dozen others.
  • I created Sublime+++ Radio and have discovered a lot of new artists. I find the recommendations spot on for me.

I completely understand that in this world of digital and downloading that artists continue to get screwed. But it seems to me that Pandora is being singled out for all of the others sins. I like Pandora and at least in my situation, they are responsible for many of my music purchases.


Carl Hiaasen has a new book out titled BAD MONKEY. It looks great and in the style that I have come to love from Hiaasen. I first started reading him with his first book TOURIST SEASON. Then pretty much read every one of his novels for adults. I have not read the YA ones though.

Hiaasen always appealed to me because of the warped sense of humor and the fantastic characters. Plus his background writing for the Sun-Sentinel newspaper led him to stranger truth than fiction. Many of those real people and situations made it into his novels of the bizarre world of South Florida.

booksHe is a native Floridian and has always been an outspoken critic of big business and their abuse of the land and culture. In 1998, he penned a short book for Ballantine’s Library of American Thought called TEAM RODENT: How Disney Devours the World. Needless to say the book was highly critical of Disney.

eisnerIn 1998, I was Sales Director at Random House. One of my responsibilities was to attend dinners and lunches with key authors and key customers. We were publishing then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s autobiography WORK IN PROGRESS. Over a three-day period I had two lunches and one dinner with him and key buyers from B&N, Borders and Costco. The B&N and Borders lunches were in NYC and the Costco one was at the Disney HQ in California.

I was seated next to Eisner at one of the lunches. He asked me what I was reading. Random House had just published Jimmy Buffett’s A PIRATE LOOKS AT FIFTY (more on that in another blog post) and it was a #1 best-seller and a major smash.

0679435271.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_I mentioned Buffett to Eisner. He wasn’t aware of Jimmy and his Parrot-head appeal. So I was reaching for an author to compare. I mentioned that Buffett represented the laid-back life-style and party feel of South Florida and the Caribbean. That he was similar to Carl Hiaasen.

Eisner straighten up and asked, “Isn’t Hiaasen the one who wrote that critical book about Disney?” Whoops?!? I got the sense that Eisner wasn’t use to hearing anything critical of him nor Disney. I said that it was but that Hiaasen’s “fiction is based in fact” – and his “fact is actually based in fiction.” It was a lame excuse.

Everything turned out ok. But I didn’t expect any offers from Disney…



06.13.2013, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

The recent NSA spying scandal has had a lot of effects. The one to hit the book world has been the explosion of sales on George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. Most every media outlet has a story regarding the bump at Amazon in all formats — the hard cover, the trade paperback, the mass market edition and the eBook. The 64 year old book is in the top 100 at Amazon in three of the four formats. B&N and independent bookstores have also reported the sales spike in their stores. A book that is as relevant today as it was in 1949. I have probably read it 3-4 times. I am currently reading it again.

Trade Paperback

Trade PB

Goodreads has 419 different editions of 1984 on its site.

Flavorwire has a great look back at the history of the covers.

The biggest seller of these editions is the trade paperback from Plume (a part of Penguin which is part of Bertelsmann). It retails for $16.00 but Amazon sells it for $10.08 (37% off). B&N sells it for $11.76 (26% off).  Many prefer a trade edition because it is bigger.

Mass Market

Mass Market

The mass market edition from Signet Classics (part of Penguin which is now part of Bertelsmann). Publisher suggested price is $9.99. Amazon sells it for $6.92 and B&N for $9.99. The book is available used for as low as $2.00. This edition is the one that sells the most in bulk copies to schools.

There is also a deluxe, cloth-bound with a ribbon edition from Everyman’s Library (part of Knopf which is part of Bertelsman). It is currently out of stock. The retail is $21.00. B&N sells it for $15.48 and Amazon for $15.58. A wonderful gift edition that looks good on the shelf. I am reading this edition now for I like the smell and feel of the pages.

The eBook edition rights are owned by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt. Ironically, in July 2009, Amazon erased editions of the eBook of 1984 from all Kindles. An Orwellian move in the new digital age. A digital publisher called Mobile Reference had illegally sold the editions. HMH produced an eBook of 1984 after that. Earlier this week, I checked all the retailers and they had a placeholder, ugly cover. Since then, Amazon and B&N Nook have replaced it with a real cover although Apple, Kobo, Google and Sony still have the old placeholder. The prices also were very different, Kindle ($6.57); Nook ($7.12); Kobo and Sony ($9.39); Google and Apple ($9.99) and the publisher suggestion of $12.95.

Deluxe Hardcover

Deluxe Hardcover

"Non-cover" for eBook.

“Non-cover” eBook

Designed eBook cover

Designed eBook cover

Van Halen edition

Van Halen edition









“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”