Interview, Len Vlahos (BISG)



[Image from Booksellers NZ]

* Interview #72, with Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) Executive Director, Len Vlahos!

* Note from Jess: BISG is the leading book trade association for standardized best practices, research and education. I noticed Mr. Vlahos’ “very interesting and unique bio” on GoodReads — so I decided to send a quick Q&A on career and life vision!

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Hi Len! Describe yourself in 5 words:


Caffeine free since August 2012.

What do you find most exciting and/or challenging with being the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)?

I love BISG because we represent every corner of the supply chain. Our members include Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google, Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, the American Library Assn, digital only companies, indie bookstores, small publishers, printers. the Author’s Guild, wholesalers, and on and on and on…

We are at the very center of the book industry. We exist to build consensus, and to help trading partners work more efficiently together. It’s a broad mission, and it provides real value to the entire publishing ecosystem. And it’s fun. :-)

You dropped out of NYU film school in the mid 80s to play guitar for Woofing Cookies (a punk-pop band that had a full-length LP on Midnight Records), before working in the book industry and writing novels — what a unique bio! Do you approach music the same way as you approach writing?

Dang the Internet! My cover is, apparently, blown. The bio is true. I took a circuitous route to this point in my life, not always an easy route, but one I wouldn’t change for anything.

My prose writing is more methodical than my songwriting. With music, I pick up the guitar and futz around until inspiration comes or it doesn’t. With prose, I try to stick to a fairly rigid schedule of writing everyday, which forces a more deliberate, measured approach, if that makes sense.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your debut novel, The Scar Boys (10-100 words):

scar boys

Excerpt: An older and much larger boy stood over me, blotting out the sun. “You weren’t goddam here when we chose up the goddam sides.” He was trying on curse words the way a little girl tries on her mother’s shoes.

Blurb: The Scar Boys is the story of Harbinger “Harry” Jones. His journey from outcast to guitar hero takes center stage in this rock and roll coming of age novel. There’s love (conditional and not), sex (imagined and not), drugs (prescribed and not), and a whole lot of music.

(For the record, I’m not as good at blurbs as I am at fiction.)

Share a short excerpt of one of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

At the far end of town, where the grickle grass grows
And the wind smells slow and sour when it blows
And no birds ever sing, excepting old crows
Is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.

(The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss)

Do you personally prefer print books or eBooks?

When e- first started getting going (2008), I read quite a lot on my iPhone (using a variety of different apps). I would I say 50% of all my reading over the next two + years was on the iPhone.

But over the last 18 months, I’ve migrated back entirely to print. I’m not sure I can explain why, other than I think I suffer from screen fatigue. While I know that e-ink devices are supposed to be the antidote, they still haven’t really replicated the visual experience of ink on paper. Printed books are just easier on the eyes. That said, I have nothing against e-, and wouldn’t be surprised if I wind up reading e- and p more interchangeably in the future.

Please share your #1 tip for balancing work and family life:


Please share your #1 tip for publishers and writers to keep up with the ever-evolving book publishing industry:

The transformation that has engulfed the book industry is not about technology; it’s about human behavior. People want to access content in myriad ways, and want to consume and share it in ways not previously imagined. Our industry should be focused on the customer and her needs and desires, and shouldn’t obsess over the technology. And don’t be afraid to fail. (That might be more than one tip.)

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Website | Twitter

Email: lenATlenvlahosDOTcom

(Man, that’s a lot of “Len Vlahos” for one paragraph.)

Much thanks to the gracious and very cool Len Vlahos for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

Check out his bio at GoodReads, along with his bio at Book Industry Study Group (BISG).

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