This is by no means a complete list, but the ten people below have helped shape the future of modern publishing. Some may have played an active part in the construction and dialogue of where publishing is moving, others may have been completely unaware of the significance their role has played.
Consumer activist Jonathan Clifford is the person who coined the term Vanity Publisher as far back as 1959 when he came upon the first big US companies advertising as publishers in newspapers and magazines. Clifford campaigned tirelessly for decades against vanity publishers and later predatory publishing service companies and in 2009 he was awarded the Daily Mirror Good Service Award jointly with Trevor Baylis OBE (the inventor of the clockwork radio). Clifford’s website on vanity publishing is here and is packed with the same worthy advice he has espoused for decades. Clifford has written for print and online media and appeared on many national and regional radio stations in the UK. In 1999 he was invited to the British House of Lords to speak to members from both parliamentary houses about the need to change the law to stop “rogue traders” in the publishing world. While this did result in some changes to UK law, the growth of the Internet and e-book revolution over the past ten years has changed the publishing landscape somewhat, but Clifford’s core values remain as valid as ever.
Jason Epstein was an editorial director for Random House for forty years and in his time there oversaw the publication of books from authors like Mailer, Nabokov, Vidal and Philip Roth. In 1952 he created the first of the trade paperback formats, a format which has consistently remained profitable and popular since that time. He is the author of many articles about the book industry including Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future, published in 1979. Epstein has consistently been an innovator and visionary in the book publishing industry for decades. In 2004, he co-founded On Demand Books, the company that markets the Espresso Book Machine.
Benny Landa founded Indigo in 1977. Indigo is a company that develops and manufactures digital offset printing presses and workflow solutions, and it is now part of Hewlett Packard. HP Indigo presses are used in production commercial and label converting environments to print applications such as marketing collateral (e.g. brochures, business cards, posters, etc.) photo specialty, direct mail, labels, folding cartons, flexible packaging, books, manuals, and specialty applications . Its ability to print without films and plates enables it to create personalized short runs, changing text, images and jobs without having to stop the press. Each press has up to 7 color stations, which can use cyan, magenta, yellow, black and a variety of special and spot color inks, such as white, UV Red and transparent.
Gary Starkweather is an American engineer and inventor. In 1969 he unveiled his most notable invention – the laser printer. He collaborated on the first fully functional laser printing system at Xerox PARC in 1971. Later, at Apple Computer in the 1990s, Starkweather invented colour management technology and led the development of Colorsync 1.0. Starkweather joined Microsoft Research in 1997, where he works on display technology. In 2004, he was elected to the United States National Academy of Engineering.
Without the Internet, e-books would not exist today. The e-book has supported and facilitated the newest and most accessible platform to self-publish without expensive marketing and production. There is no single person credited as being the inventor of the Internet, but Professor Leonard Kleinrock, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at UCLA, developed the mathematical theory of packet networks and the technology underpinning what we understand now to be ‘the Internet.’ Kleinrock, as a graduate student at MIT (1960-1962), oversaw the concept and birth of the Internet in his UCLA laboratory (3420 Boelter Hall) when his host computer became the first node of the Internet in September 1969 and it was from there that he directed the transmission of the first message to pass over the Internet on October 29, 1969.
Nash understood the implications of the Internet and new print and marketing strategies long before many of his peers in the industry. Crucially, he grasped the need for the industry to reassess its methods to discover and deliver books to readers and is one of the most innovative voices today challenging the structures of traditional publishing. Nash is an independent publishing entrepreneur – VP of Community and Content of Small Demons, founder of Cursor, and Publisher at Red Lemonade. For most of the past decade, he ran the iconic indie Soft Skull Press. While there, he was awarded the Association of American Publishers’ Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing in 2005. Utne Reader named him one of Fifty Visionaries Changing Your World and Mashable.com picked him as the #1 Twitter User Shaping theFuture of Publishing. He has spoken on the history and future of reading, writing, and publishing across the world, from Melbourne to Toronto to Helsinki to Seoul – Chris Anderson characterizes his Publishing 3.0 talk as “the best I have ever seen.”
Gregg Zehr, a former vice-president of hardware engineering at Palm Computing, set up shop in an empty room in the offices of A9, Amazon’s Palo Alto base in 2004. The new Amazon subsidiary would eventually become Lab126, tasked with building an e-reader. Zehr soon became president of the company and first considered building Internet-connected set-top boxes or an Apple-styled MP3 player. Zehr and his team researched e-readers at the time like the Sony Librie in Japan and decided the way was open for something really new. By autumn 2007, the first generation Kindle was born. The rest is history. Just as the name Hoover is synonymous with vacuum cleaners; Kindle is synonymous with e-books and is now one of the primary accessible avenues to e-book publication for self-published authors through Amazon’s KDP publishing platform.
In 2002, Coker and his wife completed a novel about the daytime TV soap opera industry and tried to sell the book to large commercial publishers through a leading New York literary agent. Following a complete rewrite and countless rejections, Coker concluded that the publishing industry was ill-equipped to serve all authors. “They’re unable to take a risk on every author. They acquire books based on perceived commercial potential, but ultimately they don’t know which books will sell well.” By 2005, the seeds were sown for what would become the world’s largest distributor of independently published books. Officially launched in 2008, Smashwords is also a DIY self-publishing platform where authors can upload their manuscripts as Microsoft Word and ePub files to its online engine, which converts the files into multiple e-book formats for reading on various e-book reading devices. Once published, the books are made available for sale online at a price set by the author. Smashwords does not use or advocate the use of DRM (Digital Rights Management).
In 1993, Coker founded Dovetail Public Relations, an award-winning Silicon Valley PR firm that specializes in representing technology start-ups. He launched BestCalls.com in 1999, which helped level the playing field for small stock market investors, who at the time were denied access to the earnings conference calls of publicly traded companies. His work with BestCalls, as a champion for fair disclosure, was a catalyst for the SEC’s ground breaking Regulation FD. BestCalls was acquired in 2002 by Shareholder.com and was owned and operated by the Nasdaq Stock Exchange up until 2010.
Coker has been a long time angel investor and advisor to technology and media startups. In June 2010, The Wall Street Journal named him one of the “Eight Stars of Self-Publishing.” In March 2012, MediaBistro named him one of the “Five Ebook Experts to Watch.”
American novelist Bob Mayer is anything but an ‘inside the box’ thinker. He is more likely to ask, ‘what box?’ He is certainly a maverick as a writer, creative workshop tutor, inspirational speaker and analyst of the modern publishing world. Try a hybrid of popular adventurer Bear Grylls crossed with Iain M. Banks and you might get Bob Mayer.
Bob Mayer is a West Point Graduate, Former Green Beret, CEO of Cool Gus Publishing and a NY Times Bestselling Author. He has had over 50 books published. He has sold over four million books, and is in demand as a team-building, life-changing, and leadership speaker and consultant for his Who Dares Wins: The Green Beret Way concept, which he translated into Write It Forward: a holistic program teaching writers how to be authors. Cool Gus Publishing sells books in paperback and e-book form and has grown from into a seven figure business in just 18 months, which publishes both e-books and print on demand editions, so he has experience in both traditional and non-traditional publishing. The imprint re-publishes his back list of novels and also all of his future fiction and non-fiction releases along with releases from Jennifer Talty and other authors.
His books have hit the NY Times, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and numerous other bestseller lists. His book The Jefferson Allegiance was released independently and reached #2 overall in sales on Nook.
During his years at West Point and later in the Infantry, Mayer questioned the idea of “mission over men.” When he volunteered and passed selection for the Special Forces as a Green Beret, he felt more at ease where the men were more important than the mission.
Mayer has presented for over a thousand organizations both in the United States and internationally, including keynote presentations, all day workshops, and multi-day seminars. He has taught organizations ranging from Maui Writers, to Whidbey Island Writers, to San Diego State University, to the University of Georgia, to the Romance Writers of America National Convention, to Boston SWAT, the CIA, Fortune-500, the Royal Danish Navy Frogman Corps, Microsoft, Rotary, IT Teams in Silicon Valley and many others. He has also served as a Visiting Writer for NILA MFA program in Creative Writing. He has done interviews for the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Sports Illustrated, PBS, NPR, the Discovery Channel, the SyFy Channel and local cable shows.
With a background in intellectual property and business law, former attorney Mark Levine is the CEO of Hillcrest Media Group, a hybrid publisher with traditional and self-publishing service imprints. Levine is also the author of two novels (I will Faithfully Execute and Saturn Return) and the seminal book for self-published authors wishing to research and negotiate the minefield of self-publishing companies, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, now in its fourth edition and first published more than eight years ago. In fact, Levine’s entrepreneurial skills have helped to build an impressive array of vertically integrated businesses in the book publishing world and larger publishing corporations like Pearson/Penguin and Simon & Schuster could learn a great deal about what makes a good self-publishing imprint/service by poking their noses into Levine’s The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.
While there have been many valued books written in the field of self-publishing from Aaron Shepard’s Aiming at Amazon, all the way back to Peter Finch’s How To Self Publish Yourself in the 1990’s, Levine’s Fine Print attempted, for the first time, to examine under a microscope the detail and value of many emerging new self-publishing services throughout the past decade and create a definitive checklist of what authors should look for when exploring this area. While many self-publishing help books and manuals can delve deeply into the nuts and bolts of self-publishing as a process, few dare to nail down the core principals every author needs to look for in services and contract terms. Jonathan Clifford warned us what to be wary of when working with vanity publishers, but Levine showed us what to look for and insist on as a mark of integrity and quality in a self-publishing service company. The Fine Print was the first proper book that defined the blueprint for reputable self-publishing services and would be a foundation for principals held by many watchdogs and author organisations in this sector like Writer Beware and ALLi.
If you can think of anyone who has played as strong a role in shaping the future of publishing, by all means add your comment and suggestion. Remember, we are looking for someone who has shaped and influenced the future of publishing, not just someone who has been successful in any particular field of the industry.