Here is an excerpt from an article written by Andrew Wylie for WSJ Magazine (June 2011). To read the complete article, please click here.
In an introduction to the article, Daniel Gross explains that literary agent Andrew Wylie “is of the old school. His office suite in New York’s Fisk Building feels more like a faculty lounge than a synergistic, new-media conglomerate. But the Wylie Agency, which represents some 750 clients, including a who’s who of the literary establishment—Roth, Updike, Rushdie—has been at the vanguard of changes in the book industry world-wide. With the advent of e-books and the demise of Borders, the publishing establishment may seem to be crumbling. Yet Wylie, renowned for his ability to extract huge advances from tightfisted publishers, doesn’t seem to be much ruffled.
“Nicknamed ‘The Jackal’ for his aggressive deal-making, Wylie struck terror into publishers last year by setting up a company, Odyssey Editions, to distribute electronic versions of books he represents through Amazon.com. But don’t mistake him for a pop-culture version of a vulpine 15-percenter. Trim, polite and circumspect, Wylie, 63, is uncaffeinated. A New England WASP, he stands foursquare for literary elitism and good old-fashioned standards. And while he has his share of celebrity and political clients, he insists his work is all about great, lasting literature, not quick-buck synergies, “60 Minutes” tie-ins or Facebook friends.
“Wylie remains a rare optimist in publishing circles, fueled perhaps by the healthy backlists and literary estates he represents. Information technology may be upending business models, but he believes the global interconnection these advancements permit provides immense opportunities for his authors.”
Here’s the excerpt:
I think most of the best-sellers list is the literary equivalent of daytime television. This is a world in which Danielle Steel is mysteriously more valuable than Shakespeare. Now, she may be more valuable than Shakespeare for a period of days, months or even years, in purely economic terms. But over time? We have the Royal Shakespeare Company’s collection of Shakespeare works, which pays a royalty each year, a strong royalty. So the business we’re in is to identify and capture and anticipate the value of books that are inherently classics, future classics. If publishers did the same there would be less of the wild weekend in Las Vegas approach to acquisition that distinguishes the industry and its decline.
Things are generally tough and getting tougher across the industry. In the U.S., publishers are continuing to pay advances at pretty much the same level as five years ago, but they’ve reduced the number of high bets they’re making. This is a trend that should be encouraged. The front list is overvalued and the backlist is overvalued.
The devaluation of quality editing and writing is sad and it’s inevitable. Each house has a large number of titles to publish, and with a difficult economy, fewer people to handle the publications. But publishers need to become smaller, leaner, and they will have to learn new disciplines. The whole one-year publication process must be reduced.
We try to avoid people who can’t write. You can usually spot them from the first sentence, or from the cover letter. It’s a little like sitting in the audience at Carnegie Hall and watching someone walk up to a piano. If you’re trained, you can tell the difference between someone who knows how to play and someone who doesn’t. Of course, sometimes you want to work with people who have a significant achievement, which is not writing, and so that usually requires closer editing, and ghostwriting. Heads of state are not always the best writers.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler are assoviates in the VitalSmarts firm, “An innovator in corporate training and organizational performance, VitalSmarts helps teams and organizations achieve the results they care about most.” They have also collaborated on four business bestsellers: Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, Influencer, and most recently Change Anything.
Here are mini-bios:
Kerry Patterson is a co-founder of VitalSmarts who has co-authored three New York Times bestselling books as well as designed the company’s line of award-winning training programs. He received the prestigious 2004 BYU Marriott School of Management Dyer Award for outstanding contribution in organizational behavior. He also did his doctoral work in organizational behavior at Stanford University.
Joseph Grenny is an acclaimed keynote speaker, three-time New York Times bestselling author, and co-founder of VitalSmarts. A consultant to the Fortune 500, he has designed and implemented major corporate change initiatives on every major continent for the past 20 years.
David Maxfield is a leading researcher and frequent conference speaker on topics ranging from dialogue skills to performance improvement. The author of the immediate New York Times bestseller, Influencer he did doctoral work in psychology at Stanford University, where he studied personality theory and interpersonal-skill development.
Ron McMillan is a three-time New York Times bestselling author and a sought-after speaker and leadership consultant. As the co-founder of VitalSmarts, he has consulted with leaders ranging from first-level managers to corporate executives on topics such as leadership and team development.
Al Switzler is a renowned consultant and world-class speaker who has directed training and management initiatives with dozens of Fortune 500 companies worldwide. In addition to his consulting work, he co-founded VitalSmarts and authored three immediate New York Times bestselling books.
* * *
Morris: Before discussing Change Anything, a few general questions. When and why did you and your co-founders start VitalSmarts?
Ron McMillan: My co-founders and I came together in 1990 – so we’ve been together over 20 years. Our mission at VitalSmarts is to increase humanity’s capacity to change for good. We believe that practical application of good social science can enable organizations to be substantially more effective at adding value to the world, can make workplaces more humane, and can empower individuals to achieve much more of what they want from life. That’s what VitalSmarts is trying to accomplish.
Morris: Please explain the process by which you began to collaborate on a series of four books. Also, how has the division of labor been determined?
Kerry Patterson: Like most authors, we didn’t start as authors. In our case, we initially formed a partnership aimed at delivering corporate consulting and training offerings.
After forming the team and developing our training products we finally decided to write a book. As you might guess, five authors offers the blessings of synergy and division of task, as well as the possible nightmare of not being able to agree on the content or create a common voice.
Here’s how we encourage the one and reduce the other. After we’ve studied and developed the content of our training products, we sit down and create a detailed writing outline for the upcoming book. We then assign out chapters, write them, pass them back and forth, give them an overall edit to ensure voice continuity, and send the first draft to our editors. We then make more changes, pass it around again, retouch for voice and continue this process until we decide the product is finished.
Morris: For those who have not yet read Change Anything, what is “the new science of personal success”? In which respects is it scientific?
David Maxfield: I lead our research team at VitalSmarts and the Change Anything Labs. We work with the very best of current social scientists – people like Albert Bandura, who was my advisor from Stanford, Dean Karlan at Yale, Toni Yancey at UCLA medical school, Brian Wansink from Cornell, and many others. Before writing Change Anything, we studied the change attempts of more than 5,000 people—focusing on those we label “Changers”. These Changers are individuals who once faced enormous personal challenges, but wrestled them to the ground and have remained successful for at least three years. From our study of the Changers and decades of social science research, we discovered willpower has very little to do with one’s ability to change. There are actually six sources of influence that shape our actions and those who develop strategies within all six sources are ten times more likely to change.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while completing research and then the manuscript? Please explain.
David Maxfield: People often talk about how long it takes to change. A head-snapping revelation we discovered is that “time” is not the variable that matters. Change is not about time; it’s about the number of influences working for or against you. Imagine you are on the losing side of a tug of war—if it’s just you and your willpower on one side and all six sources of influence lined up against you, then more time won’t help.
On the positive side, once you’ve taken the blinders off, seen the influences that are currently keeping you stuck, and brought all six sources of influence over to your side, then dramatic changes happen quickly.
Morris: What is the “Willpower Trap”? How best to avoid it or escape from it?
Al Switzler: The Willpower Trap is the false assumption that our ability to make good choices stems from nothing more than our willpower. As soon as our willpower runs thin, we shop trying to change altogether. We have a lot less control over our behavior than we think we do; however, we do have great control over the things that influence us. Successful changers spend less time trying to “gut it out” and more time wisely aligning the six sources of influence that control their behavior.
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
You are cordially invited to check out the resources at these websites: