Friday, May 04, 2007

CEO Interview: Tracy Grand on JacketFlap.com

"JacketFlap has become the world's largest and most comprehensive resource for information on the children's book industry. Writers, illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, and publishers visit JacketFlap every day." --quoting site.

Tracy Grand, CEO of JacketFlap.com, on Tracy Grand: "Believe it or not, there are actual natives to Los Angeles. I'm a third generation LA girl, and I grew up in the 70's watching "H.R. Pufnstuf" and reading Judy Blume (author interview). My friends always said my mom was like Carol Brady, as there were always warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for me when I got home from school. I grew up with lemonade stands, tree houses, and in general had a sweet-as-apple pie childhood. After college, I worked at Los Angeles Magazine as an Editorial Assistant, and then I started an Internet PR company in 1994, which was later acquired. I'm married, have two daughters and another daughter due in May (we're stocking up on conditioner). My fourth child, JacketFlap, was conceived in 2005 and born in 2006."

For those new to JacketFlap, could you briefly explain what it is?

JacketFlap is a comprehensive resource of information on the people and companies in the children's book industry. It also provides community features that our members often refer to as the "MySpace of Children's Literature." Thousands of writers, illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, and publishers visit JacketFlap every day.

What are its features?

JacketFlap has what we believe is the world's largest database of information on children's book publishers. At last count, there are more than 10,000 publishers in the JacketFlap.com database. We also offer a Children's Publishing Blog Reader. Similar in many ways to news aggregators like Bloglines, Google Reader or Live Journal's friends, JacketFlap's Blog Reader lets readers view posts from many blogs on a single page, without having to visit all of the different blog sites individually to check for updates. We also include a blog's comments, and we notify users when there are new posts and comments on the blogs that interest them. Our newest addition is our People feature that brings people together from the children's literature industry in a MySpace-type of environment. This has created a sense of community by connecting people who are spread throughout the world and often feel disconnected from their peers in children's publishing.

What was the initial inspiration for launching JacketFlap?

Like many new moms, when reading books to my kids, I thought, "I've got a great idea for a children's book," as so many great ideas come from being a parent. When I began going through the process of looking for publishers, I realized that there was a great need for an up-to-date searchable resource for researching publishers. With my Internet know-how, I decided to build that resource in the hopes that if I build it, they will come.

How has it changed and grown over the years?

JacketFlap launched a year ago in March of 2006. At that time, we were focused on building a resource for writers and the site's main feature was the children's publishing database. As time went on, we found ourselves visiting dozens of blog web sites and reading hundreds of blog posts daily to keep up on the business. It became clear that there was a need for a focused place to read and search blogs related to children's publishing.

We introduced our Children's Publishing Blog Reader in August of 2006, and that introduced us to hundreds of illustrators, editors, agents, publishers, librarians, and many others in the business. Interacting with these amazingly talented people allowed us to see the need for a place in addition to blogs, where these people could meet and interact in a more visual way. This led us to create our People feature in March of 2007, which provides profile pages for our members that include the ability to see pictures of their JacketFlap Friends (or JFF's), meet new people in the industry, have conversations, feature their artwork and display their books.

What are the unique challenges associated with running the site?

As our database of publishers grew into the thousands, we realized we needed help in keeping the information up-to-date. To address this, we offer Amazon gift certificates as rewards to our members for assisting us in keeping our information current.

How can it be useful to beginning writers?

The searchable database helps writers research publishers that might be interested in their work. If you are an unpublished writer and have written a book about horses, a publisher of religious books may not be for you. JacketFlap lets you research the types of titles a publisher has published and the number of new authors they publish each year. And, with hundreds of daily posts by writers, illustrators, agents, editors, librarians and more, the Blog Reader can provide an incredible amount of insight into the minds of the various people in the industry.

How about to published authors?

Published authors take advantage of our publishing database, they keep up with various blogs, and they participate in our People community. Many published authors and illustrators have told us that they start their morning each day with a cup of coffee and read JacketFlap like their morning paper.

And how about publishers?

For publishers, JacketFlap should help reduce the volume of inappropriately targeted unsolicited manuscripts and letters. Publishers are able to directly edit their contact information and submissions policies. If a publisher is not accepting unsolicited manuscripts or unpublished authors, JacketFlap is a perfect way to let writers know their policies. We also provide a Featured Book section where publishers can advertise their books to our 90,000+ monthly unique visitors.

What's new and exciting at JacketFlap?

Last week we launched an entirely new site design, which we have been told is much easier to navigate and easier on the eyes. We were also just included in Writer's Digest Magazine's 101 Best Web Sites for Writers in 2007.

What are your plans for the future of JacketFlap?

Our plan is to listen to the needs of our growing community and incorporate them into JacketFlap. We will begin publishing a regular newsletter soon featuring content from our website and original articles from some well-known children's literature bloggers.

How about you? What do you do outside of your efforts on the site?

Carpool.

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