SCBWI-NY 2012: An interview with Rubin Pfeffer

Most of us have realized that the future of publishing will include, in one way or another, ebooks and apps. But what does it all mean and how can we adapt our thinking and work?

This is where Rubin Pfeffer comes in. Not only has he held some of the highest posts in traditional publishing, he is also blazing new trails in the digital landscape. As a faculty member of the national SCBWI conference in New York,  he'll tell us what it all means, and more important, what we might do to position ourselves to thrive.

First, a bit about his background: Rubin started as a designer for Macmillan in 1974 and then spent 27 years at Harcourt, where he rose to become president of their trade book division during the era the company won Newbery, Caldecott, and National Book awards, as well as Nobel prizes for work on the adult side. He worked as a senior VP and chief creative officer with Pearson Education, blending material from several publishers for both print and online works. In 2008, as a senior vice president at Simon & Schuster, he launched Beach Lane Books, whose first list included a Caldecott Honor and NYT Bestseller (ALL THE WORLD, by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee). And in 2009, he joined East West Literary Agency as a partner.

To find out what he said in at the 2010 SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, check out Lee Wind's blog recap.

Here's a preview of what he'll be talking about in New York in January. You can still register for the conference too!:

Rubin Pfeffer: I’ll first give an overview of the language. Apps is a very broad term. Too daunting. Let’s discuss how we may find ourselves active and in the running rather than confused on the sidelines. Much of it seems so abstract and we all yearn to be a part of digital children’s publishing.  But how?  I hope to make the digital jargon clearer, discuss what stories mean in a digital age, who the players are out there, and how best to venture into the space.

You gave a surprising and groundbreaking keynote at the SCBWI summer conference in 2010. Has the industry continued to change as you predicted? 

2010 is eons ago in app-talk. Change continues to be rampant as business strategies necessarily continue to evolve and revolve around possibilities offered by the new medium. But, yes, I will build on points raised from that conference—with the benefit of hindsight—and hope to provide foresight for SCBWI attendees.  I think it will be fun to check off some of the key points from 2010 and see what is happening in 2012.  And let’s throw out some possibie scenarios to look for in the next 18-24 months ahead.

Can you name some authors and illustrators to watch in the app space? What gets you excited about their work, and what can the rest of us learn from it? 

Martha, since this is a blog—a real-time living communication with followers, let’s make this question more relevant and inclusive.  May I invite your readers to reply to this question—and if I can have their responses by 12/31—what they find exciting and WHY, I’ll share and build upon what our own constituents have to say. To kick this off, I recommend A PRESENT FOR MILO by Mike Austin—an early entry into the field of original digital storytelling—as an example of one of my favorites.  Full disclosure: I produced this particular app.  Now let’s hear from your readers.

screenshot of A PRESENT FOR MILO by Mike Austin

OK, let's hear it, friends. What are some of your favorite book apps and app publishers? What do you like about them? Please post your thoughts in the comments.