Firebrand Community Conference Inside Edition: Q&A with Firebrand Founder, Fran Toolan

Firebrand’s  Chief Igniter, Fran Toolan sounds off on what the annual Community Conference means to him, and the sentiment about being a part of the Firebrand family – which takes a lot of pride in cultivating a cohesive working community within the publishing industry. He promises he won’t completely re-introduce the branding of the company this time around, and will leave the floor wide open for industry professionals to sound off on what they’re challenges are and how we can work together to make the ever-changing pace of the industry a bit smoother to navigate. Chris Hislop is back to his investigative ways, this time sending Toolan to press.

Chris Hislop: In your own words, what is the goal of the Community Conference?

Fran Toolan: There are several objectives of the conference as far as I am concerned:

  • To inform our community about what we are doing
  • To educate them about new technologies in publishing
  • To bring them together to work on common problems
  • To foster relationships between the Firebrand Team and our customers as well as foster relationships between our customers
  • To have everyone leave with actionable ideas that they can put into practice when they get back to their respective offices
  • To have fun
  • To feel proud to be part of the Firebrand Community

CH: What excites you about hosting this event?

FT: The positive energy that is produced both in preparation and in the execution of the event.  It’s a time where we really get to enjoy the camaraderie of our clients and partners and to engage in dialogs on topics where we share a common passion. It’s also a time where the Firebrand team gets really excited.  Everyone in the company gets involved in this, from showcasing development, to helping with logistics, to planning sessions.

CH: You’ve used the conference in the past as a platform to completely rebrand your business. Any big moves up for announcement this time around?

FT: [Laughs] Nothing as big as that, no. This year’s focus is on demonstrating how we’ve listened to our customers. There are many new developments in Title Management, Eloquence, Content Services, and NetGalley (that will be just rolling out a new website if all goes according to plan), and these major developments all reflect what we believe our clients want from us.  We’re very excited to show these off and get feedback from our customers.

CH: The adoption of Social Media in Publishing is becoming more and more prevalent when it comes to industry marketing/outreach. How important is this skill for the contemporary publishing world?

FT: The handwriting is on the wall. Social Media is not a fad, it’s the manifestation of the promise of the internet, and it will be with us for generations.  Our generation is getting to write the original rules on how it is used, and there’s a lot of experimentation going on.  I don’t think Social Media is a “skill” yet because it’s a moving target.  But, I agree that understanding it’s capabilities and making the most of those capabilities are important for any business that wants to be around for the long term.  For publishing the goal has always been to get a product message in front of a customer when they are ready to hear that message. Social Media gives publishers all kinds of tools to help achieve that objective.

CH: You set out on a quest to slay the “Rights Dragon” at the last Community Conference. How is that quest going? Can you weigh in on the metadata issues related to selling books internationally?

FT: Well, those are a couple of loaded questions, and all I can say is that they will be answered at the conference – so anyone really interested needs to attend. We’ve already held a preliminary webinar on what we’re doing with slaying the rights dragon, and it was very well received. We expect to unveil the finished product at the conference.  With regard to metadata issues for selling eBooks internationally, we are currently working with a couple of customers on solving that dilemma, and we expect to demonstrate that as part of the show as well.

CH: Who inspires you in the world of publishing? 

FT: The people that inspire me most are honest, have integrity, and let their actions speak more than their words.  (We are fortunate to have many people in our organization that have such qualities.) In publishing specifically, those people who back up their passion for the industry with actions and hard work – even though they go down the road less travelled – are very inspirational to me.

CH: How did you get into the industry?

FT: I came to publishing as a general IT consultant many years ago and worked with companies like William Morrow, Random House, Prentice Hall, Harper & Row, and Addison Wesley. In working with these companies I simply fell in love with the book business. I started Quality Solutions (Firebrand’s previous brand name), in 1987 because I thought that having in-depth knowledge of the industry that we serve would improve the quality of what we delivered and lower the cost. I believe that we are still here today because the market agreed with that philosophy.

Join us at the Conference! Click here for more information and to register.

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