Firebrand Community Conference Inside Edition: Q&A with NetGalley President, Susan Ruszala

Susan Ruszala is the President of NetGalley. With Doug Lessing, Firebrand’s President, she hosts the “Firebrand Show,” presented annually at the Community Conference. Firebrand’s Community Concierge, Chris Hislop – in his quest to expose what fuels the charge of Firebrands regarding the Community Conference – asked Susan for a few thoughts regarding the upcoming event.

ImageChris Hislop: What excites you about hosting this event?

Susan Ruszala: The Community Conference is a personal, focused event that provides ample opportunity for our client community to share ideas, learn what’s new, and help us plan to meet their needs for the future. There’s no other event quite like it, and it’s an honor to host.

CH: NetGalley has a lot in store for the conference. Can you give us a preview?

SR: We’re re-launching the NetGalley site at the end of the summer 2012, so at the Community Conference we’ll be working with a refreshed, redesigned application. Although much of the core functionality will remain the same (allowing members to request galleys, and publishers to invite members to view titles; our focus on the promotion of pre-publication content and book discovery), we’re adding significant new features as well. What I’m most excited about is sharing with our publishers the new tools we’ve added to algorithmically measure member influence and “match” it to publisher preferences. This development perfectly leverages the central connection point NetGalley has become, as our publisher and reader populations have exploded over the last 12-18 months.

CH: NetGalley has a strong presence in the social media realm of marketing/outreach. How important is this skill for the contemporary publishing world?

SR: I’m not a social media junkie, as my team will tell you. So what I believe about the value of social media is closely tied to the value of good marketing and good business in general: have an authentic voice, be courteous and respectful to clients and users at all times, deliver messages that are meaningful, well-timed and interesting, and do all this consistently and across as many channels as possible.

If you can find staff members who can craft the right messages, that’s the key. Younger employees will come to your team comfortable with social media platforms, so it’s most important to have them think 360 degrees around the messaging – how is it connected to the overall brand? What value does it deliver to the audience? Is there continuity?

CH: Who inspires you in the world of publishing? How did you get into the industry?

SR: Reading has saved my life more than once; and the magic of a good story has yet to wear off. Simple as that.

CH: What do you see as the most interesting challenge facing publishing right now?

SR: The positive side of me believes there is still a lot of opportunity for digital, independent bookselling/retailing outlets to flourish – genre-focused, off-shoots of physical retailers, joint ventures with publishers – I’m rooting for more places to discover and purchase new titles.

The more somber side? As an industry, we need to fight for reading’s share of the entertainment pie. Books – in all their wonderful forms – are competing against more sophisticated media every day. I’d love to see more initiatives like World Book Night that get readers talking more about books.

For more information on the upcoming Community Conference click here!

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