Having spent more than 60 years in the book business, industry legend Martin Levin thought he knew how publishing worked, but that was until he started to promote his own recently released title, All I Know About Management I Learned from My Dog. “Every publisher should write a book and try to promote it,” Levin observed. “They’ll learn a lot.”
Although Levin had written Be Your Own Literary Agent about 15 years ago, he noted that was a very niche title written “when the road wasn’t so crowded.” Levin, who turned 92 in December, first entered the book industry after getting out of the Army in the 1950s, when he joined Grosset & Dunlap. He spent most of his publishing career running the book group for Times Mirror and in the process acquired companies ranging from law and medical publishers to the then paperback house New American Library. As he neared retirement, Levin enrolled in New York Law School and was admitted into the New York Bar at age 65. He has been associated with the law firm Cowan Liebowitz & Latman for more than 25 years, where he has done 106 mergers and acquisitions in the book field.
The idea to write a management book had an unlikely beginning. To help him cope with the death of his wife, Levin’s therapist suggested that he get a dog. He took the advice and found a golden retriever at an animal shelter in Westchester County. Levin’s initial attempts at training Angel did not work particularly well and standard dog books weren’t much help, so Levin returned to the management principles that have worked for him in his professional life. As the training process went on, it occurred to him that the techniques he was using “would work to raise a dog or run your life.”
Never one to shy away from something new, Levin began blogging about his experiences and had developed 10 rules that he eventually decided could be boiled down to four: trust & leadership; communication; problem solving and decision making; and perseverance. While he was working on the manuscript, Levin showed it to management guru and bestselling author Ken Blanchard (who provides a blurb for the jacket), who told him to go ahead and look for a publisher. Much like Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, All I Know is a book of parables, in which Levin takes dog stories and adds life experiences to them.
Levin began showing the manuscript to his legions of industry contacts, and when Tony Lyons, president of Skyhorse Publishing, heard about the project, he asked for a copy. “He told me, ‘We do pretty well with dog books.’ ” After Lyons agreed to publish the book, what Levin said began as therapy “has become an obsession.” In his quest to get attention for All I Know, Levin has set up the required Facebook and Twitter accounts, and started a Web site (martinlevin.com) and a database of potential customers. “We have a clear market for the book, and it is business managers,” Levin said. While he added that Skyhorse has given him great support, Levin is experienced enough to know that a publisher can only do so much. “I’m an unknown author,” he acknowledged. While Levin’s mind is sharp and he remains extremely active at 92, he doesn’t expect to do a book tour. “I’ll use my resources the best I can,” Levin said. “And if Jon Stewart calls, I’ll do the show.”
Adopting Angel and writing the book have proven to be an effective tonic for Levin, and even the death of his pet in November, while terribly sad, provided him with the inspiration for a second book, Letters from Angel, that Skyhorse plans to publish in October. For Letters from Angel, said Levin, “I heard her voice. All I had to do was the typing.” Some of the proceeds from the books are going to the Angel Fund charity that Levin has established to support the SPCA and the Animal Specialty Center. And Levin has found a new dog, Harvey, who he is training by using the Angel principles. “I’m a lucky guy to be able to do this,” Levin said about his latest book-related endeavor. “I’m in a great part of my life. This is extra time. It would be a shame to sit around and just waste it.”