In October, Reed Press, headed by former PW/LJ/SLJ publisher Fred Ciporen, will release its first book, The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion. To find out more about Reed Press and its list, PW visited Ciporen in his comfortable office several floors above our own.
PW: What's the general feel of Reed Press's list?
Fred Ciporen: We have a diversified list because we have a lot of diversified magazines. The Oscar fashion book is the first one, with the Variety imprint. Our mission statement allows us to be as diversified as Random House is.
PW: What do you think the reception will be for the Oscar fashion book?
FC: It's interesting. At one point, the Oscars were about stars and just seeing famous people. Then it became all about the red carpet, stars and what they wore. The Oscars have brought Hollywood and the fashion industry closer. So this book lives in both worlds. A lot of people who've seen the book just love going through the pictures. It's a very good holiday gift book.
PW: How will Reed Business Information's magazines be involved with Reed Press's books?
FC: The imprints—off the magazines—are the assets of the corporation. The advantage we have as a publishing house is that the magazines have four million readers, but they're niched. So we could get a book out on, for example, tools, for the construction industry. We're also looking at books off of Interior Design [another RBI magazine], about interior design in the '40s, '50s and '60s.
PW: Are all of Reed Press's books going to be tied to RBI magazines?
FC: No. We have just signed Walter Laqueur's forthcoming book. He's one of the world's foremost historians and experts on terrorism and has a very exciting book called Jerusalem and the End of Zionism. We have a series of books coming out that are directed at the Hispanic market, a book on how to become financially literate and a book on New York education reform by Andy Wolf, who writes a column in the New York Sun. And we're trying to build backlist.
PW: What's it like moving from being publisher of PW, Library Journal and School Library Journal to being publisher of a publishing house?
FC: The most striking thing is that book publishing is a very slow business. It's administratively very intense. Every book needs a business plan, a contract, and it takes so long to produce a product. Everything about it is slow. The difference between being publisher of one house and being publisher of a publication that visits many houses is that you get more information [when you're visiting many houses]. On the other hand, in book publishing, the kick is being able to publish something that can make a difference. You can find something that you would say with pride, "We publish this." With a magazine, you feel that pride every week. But I couldn't deviate from the mission of Publishers Weekly. With [book publishing] I can. I can entertain, or I can get into national politics.
Editorial is a very powerful tool. Just by what it does—it selects and prioritizes, and it sets what the agenda is. I know of no more powerful editorial tool than the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. Being involved in editorial to me has always been very exciting. I don't miss the corporate end of having to do the magazines. Sometimes when some event happens, I miss being able to talk to the people in the industry. And I miss seeing how Publishers Weekly might be able to help solve a problem or lubricate the channels of distribution. But it's very nice just kind of minding your own business.
PW: When you were head of the magazines, you always spoke about listening to the market and letting the market make the decisions that we were going to respond to. Are you following the same philosophy now?
FC: Very much. We want to publish according to the demand. I do find what was easier for me to do as a publisher of the magazines was to tell people how to market. It's much harder to execute that. But I believe that the market will tell you what to sell it, if you listen.